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The History of Cheesecake

This beloved dessert is much older than you might think! Anthropological evidence indicates that early versions of cheesecake were baked on the Greek island of Samos circa 2,000 B.C. They were likely around for many years before this, but since writing wasn’t invented during these earlier times, we may never know for sure. In ancient Greece, cheesecake was made from just four simple ingredients: flour, wheat, honey, and cheese. These early cheesecakes were considered a good source of energy and were served to Olympic athletes during the first Olympic games in 776 B.C. Cheesecake was also frequently used as a wedding cake in ancient Greece. The earliest recipe for cheesecake dates back to 230 A.D. and comes to us from the Greek writer Athenaeus. Later, the Romans modified the Greek recipe by including crushed cheese and eggs. As the Roman Empire grew, cheesecake was introduced to the rest of Europe, and each region put their own unique spin on the recipe. However, cheesecake didn’t truly resemble the dessert we would recognize today until the 18th century, when Europeans began to use beaten eggs instead of yeast to make breads and cakes rise – the removal of the strong yeast flavor made cheesecake taste more like a dessert. When they came to America, Europeans brought their cheesecake recipes with them. Cream cheese was an American addition to the cheesecake recipe, and it yielded the version of cheesecake that we would recognize today. Credit for the famous New York-style cheesecake is generally given to Arnold Ruben (also known for his signature sandwiches). Today, many different countries including Japan, Italy, Greece, Germany, and America still enjoy cheesecake and have each put their own spin on this surprisingly ancient dessert.

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