Bethany Clough

Eating Out: Rich and creamy cheesecake for the holidays

Tis the season for cheesecake? While Christmas cookies and pumpkin pies get all the attention this time of year, rich cheesecake topped with all kinds of goodies also is a popular option.

Fresno has a new cheesecake store and local bakeries are bustling with cheesecake orders.

Needa Cheesecake opened last month at 1041 E. Shaw Ave., just across First Street from Fashion Fair mall.

On a recent afternoon, the display case was stocked with 15 kinds of cheesecake, including pumpkin, German chocolate, a peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake drizzled with chocolate and the owner’s favorite, pineapple and toasted coconut.

The shop sells cheesecake by the slice for $6.50 and whole cheesecakes for $45. Needa Cheesecake is conveniently right next door to a Starbucks (just ignore the weight loss sign in the window of the business on the other side of Needa Cheesecake).

“A lot of people just get a cup of a coffee and get a dessert,” says Nita Watson, who owns the business with her son Bryan Petta.

Cheesecake is a popular dessert to bring to holiday dinners and get-togethers. But it can be a tad challenging to make: You need a springform pan, some recipes call for baking the cheesecake in a pan of water, the top will crack if it’s not baked perfectly and you need to wait for the cake to set up several hours after baking before eating.

Watson gives each cake about 24 hours from start to finish before serving.

“They’re very time consuming,” says Watson. “A lot of people don’t like to make it ... so if they can buy it, they will.”

It’s a rich dessert — too rich for some people — though Watson uses a recipe that is lighter than many others. It’s a recipe that is more than 30 years old and was handed down from her mother.

For more information about Needa Cheesecake, visit www.fresnocheesecake.com or call (559) 241-0552.

The richness that some people don’t care for is what others love about it, says Natalee Callow of Eddie’s Bakery Cafe at Cedar and Herndon avenues.

“I think the appeal is that it is so rich and creamy,” she says. “It’s kinda hard to get that in a cake.”

Eddie’s is taking plenty of cheesecake orders lately, especially the traditional New York cheesecake topped with strawberries, raspberries and boysenberries, and a chocolate kahlua cheesecake.

“That one is pretty popular. The whole cake is a pretty dark chocolate” with Kahlua mixed into the cake and chocolate drizzled over everything, she says.

Their cakes cost $29.99 for an 8-inch cake and $3.50 per slice. Orders should be made at least a day in advance.

And, of course, Cheesecake Factory restaurant is selling all kinds of cheesecake, including pumpkin pecan, dulce de leche caramel and the popular “Ultimate Red Velvet.” The restaurant recently started offering its seasonal peppermint bark cheesecake, with chunks of bark mixed into the cake, which is topped with a white chocolate mouse and peppermint candy.

Customers who buy gift cards for at least $25 through Dec. 31 also get a free slice of cheesecake. Whole cheesecakes start at $16.95 for a 6-inch and at $42.95 for a 10-inch cheesecake.

The Cheesecake Factory also partners with Harry & David to ship their cheesecakes. Visit www.harryanddavid.com/h/bakery/.

Most local bakeries make cheesecakes, too, including the newly opened Baked Sunnyside ( www.bakedsunnyside.com/) and Peasant Gourmet in Clovis, which you can find online at www.facebook.com/pretentiouspeasant.

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