Cheesecake is one of the most well-respected desserts to have ever hit a cake dish and with it, some hefty controversy. There are cheesecake purists who will argue that a good New York Cheesecake, sans toppings or a fancy crust, is the way to go. Then, there are those who will stake their reputation on tuxedo cheesecake with an elaborate swirl of fudge through the center and a decadent chocolate crust. The fruit lovers will also throw their hats into the ring, claiming that there's no better way to eat a cheesecake than with a healthy helping of stewed fruit over the top. Regardless of which camp a person is in, the US is not the only country that has its own form of cheesecake.
When it comes to the best, a (virtual) trip around the world is often required to find out what 'cheesecake' means in other corners of the globe and if they are, indeed, better. You might just be surprised to find out that many of them are.
The US: New York, Chicago, And Philadelphia Style
It's hard to believe there are so many different styles of cheesecake outside of just flavor options. Three states, in particular, have their own takes on what a cheesecake should be and while they're not drastically different, each city's residents would beg to differ. Starting with New York-style cheesecake: its main takeaway is how smooth and creamy its texture is. Many would refer to it as 'velvet-like' with a heaping amount of heavy cream to make that possible. Occasionally, sour cream and/or lemon zest is used in this cheesecake recipe to give it a bit of zing and balance out any additional sweetness.
Chicago-style cheesecake has by far the fluffiest texture of any cheesecake in the US which is also one of its defining features. Another defining feature of this cheesecake is the crust, which many people wouldn't think too much of until they realize it's not made of graham crackers. Rather, a Chicago-style cheesecake makes good use of a shortbread crust which lends ample sweetness and a bit more airiness than the traditional alternative.
Lastly, the Philadelphia-style cheesecake is arguably the most flavorful of the three. This cheesecake actually has roots that date back to ancient Greece and have nothing at all to do with the modern-day Pennsylvania city. The cheesecake got its name from the brand of cream cheese - Philadelphia - that's used in the recipe. This results in a denser, more rich cheesecake that has a flavor that balances both sweet and tangy for the perfect bite.
The cheesecake found in Sweden is quite different from what many consider cheesecake to be. Rather than using a smooth type of dairy for the base of the cake, cottage cheese is often used or, more traditionally, curdled cream.
This adds a hefty texture that makes the cake fairly dense and, as opposed to layered cheesecakes, this cake is uniform throughout, without the traditional cracker or cookie crust. Rennet is also added to the mix after the milk and after the cake is baked, it's usually served warm as opposed to cold.
Also known as 'cotton' cheesecake, Japanese-style cheesecakes are the opposite of those found in Sweden. What accounts for the airiness and lightness in this cheesecake are the egg whites that are used - these are whipped until glossy and are then carefully folded into the batter.
It's these egg whites - which are whipped until they form stiff peaks, similar to a meringue - that cause the texture of the cheesecake to be almost souffle-like and jiggy in nature. Whereas most foods are Americanized, it's believed that cotton cheesecake was a result of American influence in Japan during World War II.
Ricotta cheesecake dates back to Roman times and it's an Italian dessert that's still highly regarded throughout Italy. It's lighter than the American version of cheesecake but not as light as a Japanese cheesecake, falling somewhere in the middle in terms of texture. In order to avoid having a dry cheesecake since ricotta doesn't contain the same moisture as the other dairy bases, milk is often mixed in to account for any additional dryness.
The flavor of this cheesecake is light and delicate and sometimes has hints of citrus, as lemons are often used to boost the flavor. It's also referred to as 'ricotta pie' since the cake resembles more of a pie than an actual cheesecake, with it being less about the cake as a whole and more about staging the ricotta as the star ingredient.