Is Cheesecake Actually A Type Of Cake?

When dessert is served, even after you've just polished off a hearty meal, it's sometimes nearly impossible to resist a generous slice of creamy, luxurious, sweet-tart cheesecake. Whether you prefer the classic New York-style with little or no garnish, or more colorful and creative varieties à la The Cheesecake Factory, it's a decadent treat that's pretty much always worth it. Most traditional cheesecake recipes call for just a handful of simple ingredients that you likely already have in your home kitchen: cream cheese, sugar, flour, vanilla extract, lemon juice and zest, eggs, sour cream, butter, and of course, graham crackers ground into ultra-fine crumbs for a most perfectly chewy, gritty crust. Every bite is dreamier than the next.

But let's break down the etymology of this iconic indulgence's name for a moment. Cheesecake. Sure, it contains a type of cheese: cream cheese. However, is this fourth course treat really a type of cake? Culinary experts and foodies have weighed in, and as it turns out, cheesecake's name is technically inaccurate for a couple of key reasons.

Cheesecake is technically a pie

That's right. By definition, when you're wolfing down those slabs of cheesecake, you're feeding yourself a lovely style of pie, not cake. Wait, what? To prove this point, let's consult the dictionary. Merriam-Webster defines cake as "a breadlike food made from a dough or batter that is usually fried or baked in small flat shapes and is often unleavened." Pie, on the other hand, is defined as "a dessert consisting of a filling (as of fruit or custard) in a pastry shell or topped with pastry or both." The pastry shell in question here is, ladies and gents, the crust. The trusty dictionary further defines cheesecake itself as "a dessert consisting of a creamy filling usually containing cheese baked in a pastry or pressed-crumb shell." 

Dictionary definitions aside, it's safe to assume that cheesecake has been mysteriously misnamed. As Fine Cooking puts it, "[A] cheesecake is a pie. It can also be a cake, but it can't not be a pie."

So, there you have it, dessert lovers! Perhaps the term "cheesepie" just didn't sound as appetizing to its originator. Or, maybe people would have confused it with pizza (which is also a type of pie due to its crusty qualities). Regardless, since cheesecake has a crust, it falls within the pie category. No matter how you'd like to categorize it, though, cheesecake reigns supreme.