As perfectionist we still strive for the perfect cheesecake. Cheesecake was already a popular dish in ancient Greece. With the Roman conquest of Greece, the secret fell into Roman hands. The Roman changed the name for this type of cake, “placenta.” Placenta was more like a cheesecake, baked on a pastry base, or sometimes inside a pastry case. They were also called “libum” by the Romans, and were often used as an offering at their temples to their gods.
1st Century A.D. Marcus Porcius Cato (234-149 B.C.) was a Roman politican. His treatise on agriculture, De Agricultura or De Re Rustica, is the only work by him that has been preserved. He wrote about farming, wine making, and cooking among other things.
This is his recipe for libum, the small sweet cake often given as a temple offering:
Libum to be made as follows: 2 pounds cheese well crushed in a mortar; when it is well crushed, add in 1 pound bread-wheat flour or, if you want it to be lighter, just 1/2 a pound, to be mixed with the cheese. Add one egg and mix all together well. Make a loaf of this, with the leaves under it, and cook slowly in a hot fire under a brick.
Small cheesecakes were served to athletes during the first Olympic Games held in 776 B.C. on the Isle of Delos.
230 A.D. – According to John J. Sergreto, author of Cheesecake Madness, The basic recipe and ingredients for the first cheesecake were recorded by Athenaeus, a Greek writer, in about A.D. 230:
1000 A.D. – Cheesecake were introduced to Great Britain and Western Europe by the Roman conquering armies. By 1000 A.D., cheesecakes were flourishing throughout Scandinavia, England, and northwestern Europe.
1545 – A cookbook from the mid 16th century that also includes some accounts of domestic life, cookery and feasts in Tudor days, called A Proper newe Booke of Cokerye, declarynge what maner of meates be beste in season, for al times in the yere, and how they ought to be dressed, and serued at the table, bothe for fleshe dayes, and fyshe dayes, has a recipe for a cheesecake.
New York Cheesecake:
New York cheesecake is the pure, unadulterated cheesecake with no fancy ingredients added either to the cheesecake or placed on top of it. It is made with pure cream cheese, cream, eggs, and sugar. Everybody has a certain image of New York Style Cheesecake. According to New Yorkers, great cheesecake makers are located in New York, and the great cheesecake connoisseurs are also in New York.
1929 – Arnold Reuben, owner of the legendary Turf Restaurant at 49th and Broadway in New York City, claimed that his family developed the first cream-cheese cake recipe. Other bakeries relied on cottage cheese. According to legend, he was served a cheese pie in a private home, and he fell in love with the dessert. Using his hostess recipe and a pie she made with ingredients he provided, he then began to develop his own recipe for the perfect cheesecake. Reuben soon began to serve his new recipe in his Turf Restaurant, and the cheesecake quickly became very popular with the people who frequented Reubens Broadway restaurant.
Alternative recipe via Blueberry Muffins