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
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    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
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    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
  • @Bob - my spouse loves fruit pies and dislikes cheesecake, so there's your counter. – justkt Oct 22 '10 at 12:32

10 Answers 10


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

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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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  • 2
    plenty of "rustic" cakes (ex: buckle) contain fruit. – justkt Oct 22 '10 at 12:32
  • In some parts of the world, the mince pie (ground beef), is "frosted" (iced) with piped mash potato – TFD Jul 7 '15 at 3:47
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    Virtually all bundt cakes lack straight sides. – ESultanik Jul 7 '15 at 13:08

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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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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My mother made several cheesecakes and cheese pies as I was growing up; there is a distinct difference.

A simple cheesecake and a simple cheese pie have, more or less, the same basic filling: everyone knows the flavor/taste. But even these two have a subtle difference (and an obvious one). Obvious: The cheesecake stands taller and is square on the sides (as mentioned elsewhere here).

Subtle: A simple cheese pie has more of a custardy texture, whereas a cheesecake is very rich and thick.

Beyond that, a cheesecake can be made into many more varieties that a cheese pie typically does not: ice cream cheesecakes, mocha swirl cheesecakes... Cheese pies do not have the body to allow for some of the structures that a cheesecake can offer. This is because cheesecakes are best made with a springform pan, which allows for many different varieties.

Please peruse this book if you get the chance. It was my mother's bible as I grew up, and I use it today.

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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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The definition of cake is a sweet dessert made from flour, eggs, sugar and other ingredients that is round or square and that is baked. CHEESECAKE IS A CAKE!

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  • So you're saying that 'no-bake' cheesecakes are pies? – Joe Apr 23 '15 at 16:59
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    Also, it's a massive overstatement to imply that cheesecake is made from flour. Purists don't add any flour, and those who do add it (as "insurance") will use only a tablespoon or two. – Marti Apr 23 '15 at 17:24

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

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