Classic German Cheesecake vs. American Cheesecake—What's the Difference?
Plus, our 20 favorite cheesecake recipes of all time
Enjoying a delicious piece of cake on a Sunday afternoon with friends is no longer limited to the older generations, it's most certainly experiencing a revival. A treat of something sweet with a cup of tea or coffee is one of my favorite things to do on the weekend—whether I grab a friend or head alone to visit one of my favorite cafés.
Although people might be swapping out the rich cream cakes of old—like the German crown cake—for small but sweet cupcakes and tartlets, it's often hard to go wrong with a classic like cheesecake! Have a preference for American- or German-style cheesecakes? Is there actually a difference? Yes, there is—and we're here to tell you what, exactly, that is.
The cheesecake phenomenon
Cheesecake has a long tradition and is one of the world's most famous (and popular) baking creations. The first recipe was published in a French cookbook in 1395. Over the years, countless delicious regional variations, each with its own unique ingredient that sets it apart, have evolved: In Italy, creamy ricotta and honey make the filling, while the Japanese version is reminiscent of a puffy, jiggly soufflé. The American cheesecake consists of a huge quantity of cream cheese and the German classic is known for its dense quark filling.
And that brings us to the biggest difference between American and German style cheesecake. The basic ingredient for the classic German cheesecake is quark flavored with vanilla extract and lemon juice. The cheesecake owes its loose, juicy consistency to beaten egg whites, which are carefully lifted into the quark mixture before baking.
Now all you have to do is prepare the springform pan and scrape the batter into the pan. The crispy shortcrust pastry is another detail that distinguishes the German one from the American—typically made with buttery, graham cracker crust. Once the quark filling is in the pan, the cake is ready to bake and should be left to cool down in the just barely ajar oven, before slicing, to achieve the perfect creamy consistency.
More recipes that belong on your baking bucket-list
Find classic cheesecake too boring or traditional? Replace part of the quark with cream cheese or mascarpone to make a creamier filling, try a zebra-look with a vanilla-chocolate mix, or layer in a raspberry or blackberry sauce as a fruity counterweight to the rich filling. A Russian cheesecake is also a delicious variation: The filling is the same, but the base and additional sprinkles on top consist of a chocolate shortcrust pastry.
New York vs. Classic American cheesecake
The most famous representative of American cheesecake culture might just be a restaurant chain called none other than The Cheesecake Factory. In its more than 200 restaurants around the world, infinitely long displays present various cheesecake options which are just waiting to be tasted—from caramel cheesecake to pistachio and green tea cheesecake.
To make your decision even more complicated, you can choose between American-style and New York-style cheesecakes. Both have rich cream cheese as their base ingredient for the filling, but they differ mainly in their base and taste.
New York-style cheesecake
The New York-style cheesecake consists of a thin sponge cake base and a particularly creamy and fluffy mass of cream cheese, heavy cream, and eggs. The cake is then (typically) baked in a water bath. The springform pan is placed in a deep baking tray filled with hot water. After baking, carefully remove the cake edge from the pan and leave the cheesecake to cool completely, preferably overnight.
For the American-style cheesecake, finely crushed graham crackers are processed with melted butter and pressed into the prepared pan before being covered with a rich heavy cream and cream cheese mixture. The cake is then also (typically) baked in a water bath. It is best to cover it overnight with plastic film and then cut into pieces. Don't be shy about the salt—its very important for the original taste and is a great counterpart for the sweet creamy filling.
1 base, 100 variations
If you don't feel like baking, no-bake cheesecakes are the answer to your prayers. The filling of a no-bake cheesecake is prepared without eggs, but with a fresh cream cheese mixture usually set with gelatin to create stability and texture.
If you want to do without eggs, cream cheese, and butter completely, you can also create a vegan alternative from cashew nuts, blueberries, and coconut milk—in this recipe you simply replace the honey with agave syrup.
Almost every cheesecake recipe is the basis for more delicious desserts. Especially in combination with various fruits, cakes turn into small tartlets, mini cheesecakes, layer desserts in a glass, or cheesecake cups. Due to their handy shape, the following desserts are perfect for brunch, buffets, or as dessert for dinner with friends.
Do you have a favorite cheesecake recipe or tips on how to make the perfect cake? Tell us in the comments and send us photos of your favorite variations!
Published on May 18, 2019