One night, while snuggling with my cat, I watched three consecutive Food Network programs about cheesecake. After learning all about New York cheesecake, Chicago cheesecake, Italian cheesecake, Pennsylvania Dutch cheesecake, and even cheesecake made and sold by the nuns of New Skete, I was left with a very important question…
After deciding that my lack of a Kitchen-Aid mixer prohibited me from making various cheesecakes in order to determine the winner, I turned to the internet and mail-ordered a host of cheesy, cakey treats. Specifically, I ordered one plain New York-style cheesecake (from Junior’s), one plain Chicago-style cheesecake (from Eli’s), and one plain Italian-style cheesecake (from Veniero’s).
The New York cheesecake (made with the traditional combo of cream cheese, heavy cream, eggs, and sugar) was dense, rich, and crumbly. I was expecting either a graham cracker crust or no crust at all, but the cake was actually sitting atop a shortbread crust of which I was not a fan. The flavor of the cream cheese filling was really good, though–not too cheesy, not too eggy, not too sweet. The texture was a little too thick for my liking (it had a tendency to stick to the roof of my mouth), but it wasn’t grainy. Overall, Junior’s represents the cornerstone of classic cheesecake.
The Chicago cheesecake (made with cream cheese, sugar, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, and salt) was absolutely delicious–simultaneously sweet and tangy with a surprisingly smooth, silky texture. This cake sported a shortbread crust as well, but I much prefered it to the New York version. I also liked the fact that the Chicago cake (which reminded me more of a custard pie) didn’t leave any discernable cheesy aftertaste, which I did get a bit of from the previous specimen. Overall, Eli’s was my favorite of the bunch–I’ve never had such a light cheesecake with such impressive, deep flavor.
The Italian cheesecake (made with fresh ricotta and whole eggs, among other things) was, in my opinion, the least impressive of the lot. It looked fantastic, with its wonderfully browned crust and fluffy interior. However, the cake was incredibly dry and tasted way too heavily of eggs. My sister posited that perhaps the bakery wasn’t the best, as she remembered having moist, delicious, Italian-style cheesecake in San Francisco. Whatever the case, Veniero’s was the clear loser in this dessert battle–I don’t think anyone ate more than their first bite or two.
There you have it–at least in my house, the Windy City cheesecake reigned supreme (though the New York cheesecake was a very close second). T-minus five months until I obtain my very own (pink) Kitchen-Aid stand mixer and attempt to replicate these delicious delicacies!