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Posted on Thu, May 17, 2012 : 1 p.m.

Embrace your inner Olympic athlete with a slice of cheesecake

By Jessica Webster


Not too sweet: this cheesecake will appease your sweet tooth without overwhelming it.

Jessica Webster |

For most of my life, I have shied away from cheesecakes. Heavy as bricks, and often sickly sweet, I usually regret my order after the first bite.

Of course there are delicious cheesecakes, and I’ve had a few of those as well. And it turns out they’ve been enjoyed by dessert lovers for a very, very long time.

When researching this article, I expected to find that cheesecake rose to prominence with the development of cream cheese in the late 1800s. But while it is true that the modern era of cheesecakes (especially New York-style cheesecakes) can be traced back to the 1880s, cheesecake have been around a whole lot longer than that.

This summer, as we sit on our couches and tune in to watch the world’s finest athletes run, swim, jump and play their way to gold medals, we might consider having a slice of cheesecake. Historians tell us that mini cheesecakes were served to athletes at the first Olympic games in 776 BC.

The first written recipe for cheesecake comes to us just about a thousand years later. Here’s Greek rhetorician and grammarian Athenaeus on the proper way to make a cheesecake, back in 230 AD:

“Take cheese and pound it till smooth and pasty; put cheese in a brazen sieve; add honey and spring wheat flour. Heat in one mass, cool, and serve.”

With this kind of history and pedigree, I felt like I owed it to the dessert to give it another chance. After hours of recipe research, I settled on this recipe from a 1999 Gourmet magazine. Yes, it’s rich. Very rich. But it’s not overwhelmingly sweet, and the notes of chocolate and caramel shine through nicely.

I might become a cheesecake fan yet.

Crumb Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups (5 ounces) finely ground chocolate graham crackers or chocolate wafers

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  • 1/3 cup sugar

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Stir together crust ingredients and press onto bottom and 1 inch up side of a buttered 24-centimeter springform pan. Fill right away or chill for up to 2 hours.

Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake from Gourmet Magazine

  • 1 crumb-crust recipe , made with finely ground chocolate wafer cookies
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Make crumb crust as directed in separate recipe, using chocolate wafer cookies or chocolate graham crackers. Set it to chill in the fridge while you make the filling.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook sugar in a dry heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring slowly with a fork, until melted and pale golden. This takes a little time — don’t rush it. Cook caramel without stirring, swirling pan, until deep golden. Remove from heat and carefully add heavy cream (mixture will vigorously steam and caramel will harden). Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until caramel is dissolved. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until smooth.

Stir in sour cream.

Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy, then beat in chocolate mixture on low speed. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated and scraping down bowl between additions.

Put springform pan with crust in a shallow baking pan. Pour filling into crust and bake in baking pan (to catch drips) in middle of oven 55 minutes, or until cake is set 3 inches from edge but center is still slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken.

Run a knife around top edge of cake to loosen and cool completely in springform pan on a rack. (Cake will continue to set as it cools.) Chill cake, loosely covered, at least 6 hours. Remove side of pan and transfer cake to a plate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Serve the cheesecake as is, or drizzle with caramel or chocolate sauce. Or both. Yum!

Cheesecake keeps, covered and chilled, 1 week.

Serves 12-15.

Jessica Webster leads the Food & Grocery section for You can reach her at



Fri, May 18, 2012 : 10:59 p.m.

Not to belabor the point, but there is no source cited for the quotation attributed to Athenaeus or for any other information offered here. What is the basis for this article, other than the hasty cutting-and-pasting from other websites--whether Ferguson Plarre, ("Historians believe that cheesecake was served to the athletes during the first Olympic Games held in 776 B.C. "), Wikipedia, or any other--and changing a few words here and there? Where did Ms. Webster find this quotation? This is a trivial instance, perhaps, but it shows a sloppy disregard for responsible handling of content and a readiness to accept anything found and repeated online as true. Where do the unattributed borrowing of language and facts begin and end? What, then, distinguishes, supposedly a reliable source of news and information, from the thousands of blogs and other websites that merely "borrow" from one another? The principle is straightforward: track down your sources, attribute them properly, and write in your own words. Anything else is fast and loose. And smells like plagiarism.

Linda Diane Feldt

Fri, May 18, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

When the text is attributed, as it is above, that isn't plagiarism. I don't see any other match as far as identical text. Plagiarism is a serious charge, you single sentence example would be hard to write many other ways - the cheesecakes were small and the date is set. It is certainly legitimate to ask for more research and deeper history (although I think the point of the article is to provide a cheesecake recipe) but casual accusations of plagiarism are a whole other matter. I've taught classes from high school to graduate school and caught plagiarism at all levels - with the results including redoing the work, failing the class, required to do community service to stay in school, and being kicked out of the graduate school program. I've never given anyone a pass on this. Jessica is a professional, she deserves more than a vague accusation. I see a properly attributed quote, and no other copying.

Jessica Webster

Fri, May 18, 2012 : 12:16 p.m.

Glacialerratic: if you do a Google search on the Atheneus recipe, you will see that hundreds of sites cite it. It's part of cheesecake lore. The same with the fact about the Olympics.


Fri, May 18, 2012 : 3:31 a.m.

From Ferguson Plarre's webpage: "Small cheesecakes were served to athletes during the first Olympic games held in 776 B.C. on the Isle of Delos." This post: "Historians tell us that mini cheesecakes were served to athletes at the first Olympic games in 776 BC." Ferguson Plarre webpage: "The basic recipe and ingredients for the first cheesecake were recorded by Athenaeus, a Greek writer, in about A.D. 230: Take cheese and pound it till smooth and pasty; put cheese in a brazen sieve; add honey and spring wheat flour. Heat in one mass, cool, and serve." This post: "Here's Greek rhetorician and grammarian Athenaeus on the proper way to make a cheesecake, back in 230 AD: "Take cheese and pound it till smooth and pasty; put cheese in a brazen sieve; add honey and spring wheat flour. Heat in one mass, cool, and serve." Some of the "research" in this article is lifted nearly verbatim from the Ferguson Plarre webpage, which itself is unsourced. At best, this is careless.

Jessica Webster

Fri, May 18, 2012 : 2:26 a.m.

Glacialerratic - you had me scratching my head with this comment. I did not plagiarize anything for this article, which is drastically different from the one you linked to. The only sentence that is similar is the one discussing the cheesecakes that were given to Olympic athletes, which is a well-known historical fact.


Fri, May 18, 2012 : 12:06 a.m.

Ms. Webster's "research" for the introduction to this recipe includes cut-and-paste lifting of text, with only negligible changes, from the website of the Ferguson Plarre Bakehouse: This sloppy internet-based "research" smells like plagiarism.