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Sorry, Cheesecake Is Not Cake

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The real question is: Is it a pie or a tart?

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This is a slice of pie. Or maybe a slice of tart. It’s not cake.
Shutterstock

Somehow, even though it is clearly not a cake, there are people in the world who still believe that cheesecake is a cake. It’s not a cake: It is a filling that is either on top of or surrounded on three sides by a crust, which is definitely not a cake.

That issue being settled, a further question remains: Is cheesecake a pie? Or is it a tart? Here to present their arguments are impassioned cheesecake-semantics experts Helen Rosner, executive editor, and Emma Alpern, copy editor, who each take different (and perhaps surprising) sides in this battle:

Cheesecake Is Clearly Pie

Helen Rosner

These are troubling days, and we need to prioritize the truth, even when it’s difficult. Cheesecake is a pie. I’m sorry if this hurts you to hear, but you can’t hide from reality. Let’s tackle some of the rebuttals that I know the anti-pie paid protesters are going to make:

But it’s not baked in a pie pan.

Neither is slab pie, so clearly being baked in a pie pan is not a necessary condition for piehood.

Actually it’s a baked custard.

So are chess pie and lemon meringue pie and also many other pies. A pie is defined by being a filling atop a crust. Also you are a nerd.

So are lemon bars pie?

Sure, I guess so.

But it says “cake” right there in the name.

And yet Boston cream pie has the word “pie” in it, and Boston cream pie is a cake. It turns out language is inconsistent! Cheesecake is pie. Boston cream pie is cake. The universe moves forward, we will all die one day, and when all the people who have ever known us die, we will be forgotten to the dark infinity of time.


Cheesecake Is Clearly a Tart

— Emma Alpern

Close your eyes and picture a row of pies. Picture them sitting on a windowsill. It's a summer day, and there's a breeze, and the red gingham curtains ripple gently. But the main thing is to picture the pies. Now, look a little closer. Is one of them a cheesecake? No. A cheesecake is not a pie, but surprise, it’s also not a cake. I know what you’re thinking, so please do read on:

But it says “cake” right there in the name.

Helen already tackled this part. What I’m going to say next may be shocking, but give it a minute and I think you’ll find it resonates deeply with what you already know. Of course a cheesecake isn’t a cake. A cheesecake is a tart.

Arent tarts small?

Maybe you — without me asking, by the way — pictured a row of tarts on a windowsill and found that you visualized something significantly smaller than a cheesecake. I admit that cheesecakes are large for a tart, but nevertheless, they are a tart.

Who gets to decide?

The academy backs me up on this: Oxford University Press describes cheesecake as "a flan or tart filled with curd or cream cheese." Please ignore the part where they claim that most cheesecakes now sold are uncooked — that isn’t relevant to the discussion at hand. In these unsure times, even as anti-intellectualism takes hold in the Western world, we should look toward our institutions for clarity and guidance. Cheesecake is a tart.

At least we can all agree on one thing: Cheesecake is most definitely anything but cake.


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