I Don't Care What You Call Cheesecake—I Just Want to Eat It

March  9, 2017

Is cheesecake a cake? Is it a pie? Is it a tart?

These are the spellbindingly boring philosophical questions that have preoccupied a few food media publications over the past week. It began with an admittedly funny, self-aware piece from the folks at Eater published last week, prompting a response from TODAY’s Matt Lauer. A poll of the show's viewers overwhelmingly suggested that cheesecake is not cake. Some on the show described it as a cake-pie hybrid. Thrilling. Are you asleep yet?

Semantics, semantics. I’m someone who begs for more precision and care with the language we use to talk about food. But this debate strikes me as one of the more aggressively meaningless I've come across, right up there with “is a cheeseburger a sandwich?”

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Maybe it’s because I have no horse in this race. Keep calling it cake. Call it pie. A tart. A flan. Use your imagination. I honestly do not care. To the question of what we should call cheesecake, I answer: Call it whatever you'd like. It’s good. Just eat it. Here are 18 of our best.

So, what's the verdict? Is cheesecake cake or not, in your eyes? Weigh in on this historic debate in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Puckick
  • Carol Skeer Diamond
    Carol Skeer Diamond
  • JulieQC
  • Whiteantlers
  • E
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.


Puckick March 11, 2017
It's pretty simple: cheesecake is a custard. If you bake it in a pie shell, I suppose it's a custard pie; if you make it in a tart pan with only a bottom crust (my preference), I suppose it's a custard tart. But really, it's the custard part that's important.
Carol S. March 10, 2017
I would call it a torte. Personally, don't care what you call it, just make sure it's made with cream cheese, mascarpone, sour cream, etc. Not too much of the embellishments, please. Let the texture and simplicity shine!
JulieQC March 10, 2017
Love cheesecake ! I happen to see vegan cheesecake in the recipe in your list....not on board to call it cheesecake. Just as much as I hate nut based vegan 'cheese' being called cheese (and cauliflower 'steak'...or any let's pretend it's not vegan vegan denominations). Don't get me wrong, they are perfectly fine, they are just not cheese. So that is were I draw the line.
Whiteantlers March 9, 2017
Never touch the stuff. My mother was a wretched, inept baker who turned out a vile cheesecake topped with canned cherry pie filling every week. You'd have to pay me to eat a slice.
E March 9, 2017
Cheesecake *heart eyes* Can't say it's something I want to make though, having failed spectacularly the one time I tried to make it, but maybe I can persuade the people in my life to use one of these recipes.

Failing that... Two Little Red Hens, Petee's Pie Company, and Mah-Ze-Dahr have some awesome ones in NYC. *more heart eyes*
Megan L. March 9, 2017
Yes to Two Little Red Hens! My favorite!
witloof March 9, 2017
Cheesecake with a lot of other stuff in it seems to me to be beside the point. It's the milky tang of cream cheese and sour cream that is the whole reason to eat it and the other ingredients just cover it up. I like this recipe but make it with digestive biscuits instead of chocolate wafers to let the vanilla and milk fat shine.