Few desserts are more satisfying than a rich, sweet, and creamy slice of cheesecake. It’s comfort food at its best. There are countless variations of this delicacy across the world, from Scottish smoked salmon cheesecake to matcha-flavored cheesecake in Japan. Conny Suhr is a Berlin-based PR specialist who had a dream about cheesecake. It began in the late 1990s, when she worked at a Los Angeles film and entertainment communications agency. There, she discovered The Cheesecake Factory, a popular US restaurant that sells dozens of different kinds of cheesecake.
Until then, Suhr had been familiar only with the German variety. She promised herself one day that she would bring classic American cheesecake and its many flavorsomewohlschmeckendflavorsome offspringSprösslinge; hier: Variantenoffspring to Germany. Five years ago, she opened Princess Cheesecake, an upscale (N. Am.)vornehm, gehobenupscale cafe right at the heart of the German capital, at Tucholskystraße 37 in Berlin Mitte.
At Princess Cheesecake, there are more than 50 different types of cheesecake, depending on the season. They have enticingverlockend, verführerischenticing names, such as “When I was just a Pina, I asked my Colada,” which was inspired by a Doris Day song, or “Schoko-Loco-Darling,” a duet of white and dark chocolate.
“We look to many different countries for inspiration. We combine their tastes and traditions to create cheesecake as homageHuldigung, Hommagehomage to their own heritageErbeheritage,” says Suhr, who spends most afternoons at the cafe working closely with her staff to make sure the highest level of quality is maintained.
There’s no doubt that Germans and Americans love their cheesecake. Each nation, though, has its own interpretation of what to constituteausmachenconstitutes a good recipe. While the main ingredient in a German cheesecake is curdQuarkcurd and its crust plays only a minor supporting role, a US cheesecake stars different ingredients.
Peter Rigney, who is an editorial consultant to Princess Cheesecake, has developed “Peter’s pumpkin pie” for the cafe and knows very well that there is a difference.
“American cheesecake uses lots of creamRahm-cream cheese,” he says. “It’s sweeter. Then there will be variations, where even candiedkandiertcandied raisinSultanine, Rosineraisins are put in. For the crust, you can use graham crackers. Americans get a little more creative with it. And, as I say, it’s definitely a sweeter affair.”
American cheesecake uses lots of cream cheese. It’s sweeter
Food historians have discovered that various incarnationInkarnation, Verkörperungincarnations of cheesecake have been around for centuries. According to cheesecake.com, anthropologists discovered cheese moldGussformmolds on the Greek island of Samos that date back to around 2000 BC. And we know that the ancient Greeks thought of this as an energy-giving dish — one that was served to Olympic athletes to increase their staminaAusdauer, Durchhaltevermögenstamina.
Later, the Romans adopted and adapted the recipe after they conquered the Greeks. In the cheese section of The Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson writes, “There is a vague description of what appears to be a Roman cheesecake in Cato’s De Re Rustica of the 2nd century BC.”
Davidson goes on to say that the earliest complete cheesecake recipe was found in The Forme of Cury. This 14th-century cookbook — actually a scrollSchriftrollescroll — is one of England’s oldest collections of recipes. Curd cheese, eggs, and flavoringGeschmack, Aroma(stoff)flavorings including lemon peelSchalepeel or rosewater are mentioned, which comes very close to today’s recipes.
The beginning of mass production of cream cheese in the 1870s in the US seems to have inspired American-style cheesecake as we know it today. Lindy’s, a legendary Manhattan restaurant that was in business from 1921 until 1957, served the version that the cheesecake cognoscentiKenner, Expertencognoscenti agreed was the best. After World War II, Americans developed a taste for an uncooked cake, with a biscuit crumbBiskuitbrösel-biscuit crumb base. The filling also included gelatin and was lighter than a baked cheesecake.
Nowadays, we demand more variety — not least because of our understanding today of food allergies. It took Suhr nearly two years to come up with an acceptable recipe for a vegan cheesecake. One of the staplehier: Grundzutatstaples she uses is groundgemahlenground cashew nuts. They guarantee the “cheese” is creamy and substantialreichhaltig, nahrhaftsubstantial at the same time.
A customer favorite at the cafe is Rigney’s pumpkin pie. In Germany, this type of cake isn’t very well known. The cafe’s bakers perfected the recipe with Peter, and added roasted pumpkin seeds to give it more finesse.
“My creation was a takehier: Versiontake of a pumpkin pie that a teacher friend of mine showed me years ago,” he says. “Her name was Melody. It was originally Melody’s pumpkin pie. Now it’s Peter’s pumpkin pie and, Melody, I hope you forgive me. But I think if you come here, you’ll see I’ve done your pumpkin pie right.”
Suhr tries to limit the cafe’s carbonCO2carbon footprint, so Peter’s pumpkin pie is available only in the fall. Most of the ingredients used in the cakes are locally sourcedlokal produziertlocally sourced and Suhr sticks to what’s in season. That’s something Rigney appreciates:
“You come in here and you think it just has the right feeling. You can tell that the right ingredients are being used and there is respect for where the things come from. You’re not questioning the products. You know you can trust the things you’re eating here.”
The cafe has become a destination for Americans and other international travelers. They come here to enjoy a dessert that is comfortingly familiar, and that’s something Suhr tries to keep in mind when thinking of new recipes.
We came up with a cheesecake called ‘Swinging ginger’ because working with the ingredient gave us so much energy
“We get so many Asian and Australian visitors that we wanted to offer them something that gives them a sense of home,” she says. “However, working with matcha was a real challenge for us. Finally, we added sesame, which gave the cake just the right taste. We also worked with gingerIngwerginger. We came up with a cheesecake called ‘Swinging ginger’ because working with the ingredient gave us so much energy. And our Asian customers love it.”
Another popular offeringAngebotoffering is “A little sunshine in my heart,” which is a cheesecake with cream, fresh oranges, and a light almondMandel-almond meringue crust. It isn’t very sweet, but is extremely light, its textureBeschaffenheit, Konsistenztexture almost airy. The orange doesn’t overpower the overall taste.
At the cafe, visitors have a clear favorite — and so does Peter Rigney: “I have to admit, I am a fan of the classic New York cheesecake. It must be the American in me that still has that biasVorliebebias, I think.”
Cheesecake is a dessert that’s never fallen out of fashion. A cool slice on a warm summer day is just as satisfying as a wedgeKuchenstückwedge on a cold wintery afternoon. All you need is a steaming cup of tea or coffee and a fork to dive into it — and, if only for a little while, all your troubles will fade awayverblassen, zerrinnenfade away.