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Is cheesecake technically a pie or a cake?

I'm curious as to why. Are there solid definitions of what makes a dessert a cake or a pie?

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This is one of those endless debates that will never be solved. The only definitive answers can be found in pie- or cake-baking competitions. I have voted to close this as way too subjective and argumentative. –  daniel Oct 20 '10 at 21:55
@daniel: Interesting, I never would have thought this would be subjective. –  Paul Biggar Oct 20 '10 at 23:54
It is, unfortunately. Is a pie covered with pastry or not? Does a pie need to have a pastry crust or a crumb? I personally would consider cheesecake to be a form of tart, but you could make equally compelling arguments that it is either a cake or a pie. These sorts of canonical "Is this X? Is this the right way to make X?" questions are inherently subjective. –  daniel Oct 21 '10 at 0:23
@daniel: Really interesting, thanks. –  Paul Biggar Oct 21 '10 at 11:25
I like pie better than cake, and I like cheesecake, so that must mean cheesecake is a pie. –  Bob Oct 21 '10 at 21:22

8 Answers 8

Alton Brown and an Elvis impersonator called it a custard pie.

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+1 for the Alton reference –  Dan Esparza Oct 21 '10 at 21:54
Bump also for the Alton reference, but ya gotta help folks out who haven't seen that show: youtube.com/watch?v=ycxKlc4aYy0 –  Bruce Goldstein Dec 9 '11 at 21:07

In my opinion, cakes rise, pies have crusts that are filled (and do not rise).

By those loose definitions, I would consider it a pie.

edit: Wikipedia says it's neither.

Many types of cheesecake are essentially custards, which can lead a novice baker to overcook them, expecting them to behave like true cakes.

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@stephenmcdonald - I've seen an NY-style cheesecake rise more than some white cakes in my own oven. –  justkt Oct 20 '10 at 16:47
@justkt - interesting...I must be making some other style of cheesecake then :) Did it taste lighter and fluffier than a regular dense cheesecake? –  stephennmcdonald Oct 20 '10 at 16:50
@stephenmcdonald - it was pretty light and fluffy - first time I've had a recipe that was explicitly NY-style. And definitely yes to the wikipedia quote about overbaking! –  justkt Oct 20 '10 at 17:08
@justkt what is the [rising/leavening] agent? Does it just rise from the heat? –  mfg Oct 20 '10 at 17:18
@mfg - for this cheesecake, the sugar was beat into cream cheese, providing an air bubble structure (this is a best guess). –  justkt Oct 20 '10 at 17:20


  • Straight sides
  • No fruit (except as an optional topping)
  • Holds its shape when sliced


  • Separate crust
  • Not frosted
  • Doesn't rise (except temporarily while baking)
  • No crumbs


Who cares, let's just have some cheesecake. :-)

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plenty of "rustic" cakes (ex: buckle) contain fruit. –  justkt Oct 22 '10 at 12:32

While it has texture and body of cake, I would argue that cheesecake has more pie-like qualities.

  1. It has a discrete crust.
  2. It is more a filling than a batter.
  3. It does not need to be frosted.

My vote is "pie."

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Cheesecake is a filling and flavor, like chocolate. You can make it into a pie with crust, you can add it as a filling between layers of cake, or even have an entire cheesecake round as a layer of the cake. Cheesecake does not require a crust for proper preparation.

In the US Cheesecake is most often served as a pie with a crust on the bottom, so many will claim it is a pie, but there is nothing about cheesecake itself that makes it a pie, any more than pudding or mouse is a pie merely because they can be served as pies.

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It is neither; it is a unique dessert category, the cheesecake.

It has structural similarities with pies (a custard based body, a mechanically separate crust).

However, in the US for whatever reason, it is referred to as a cheesecake (you will note that rarely will someone say, for example "I will bring a cake" and show up with a cheesecake).

The unique label doesn't mean that it is a cake in the same way that a pound cake or an angel food cake are, but we have lots of inconsistent labels.

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Cake in its origin is a form of bread, or break like food, so it must be a pie despite its name!

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I think cheese CAKE means that it has to be cake... look at the name for goodness sake.

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This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post - you can always comment on your own posts, and once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post. –  KatieK Oct 5 '12 at 16:34

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