Photographs by John Bruno Turiano
By Samantha Garbarini
Having missed out on National Cheesecake Day this year (it was July 30), we decided to make up for the lost opportunity by tasting eight of The Cheesecake Factory’s most popular varieties. We also commissioned Tracy Kamperdyk Assue, proprietor of Food Bar at South Salem Winery (and former pastry chef for frequent Best of Westchester winner City Limits Diner) to join cheesecake-mad Westchester Senior Editor John Bruno Turiano in our test kitchen and rate slices on a scale of 0 to 5. Leftovers, predictably, lasted about two minutes. Sometimes, our jobs are so hard….
The famous original creamy cheesecake with a graham cracker crust and sour cream topping
John: It’s not as ridiculously sweet as I thought it would be. That’s decent. It’s not excellent, but it’s pretty good.
Tracy: Right off the bat, I feel like I’m looking at a lot of corn syrup on the top. The sugar balance is excellent, really. I would love to see vanilla bean or something in there. The sour cream is okay; it could be more pronounced.
The original topped with glazed, fresh strawberries, a popular favorite.
John: This red is scary. That’s like red number 6 or whatever it’s called. The glaze tastes like artificial-candy strawberry. The strawberry, if you can forget about the nuclear red coloring, is okay. The texture on this one is much better.
Score: 3.5 (0 for the strawberry glaze)
Tracy: The texture is better. It’s more light and eggy. It’s risen. The glaze is totally artificial. It doesn’t even taste like strawberry purée.
Creamy cheesecake layered with Oreo cookies, topped with Oreo cookie mousse and chocolate icing.
John: This is just like sugar and sugar. The cheesecake gets lost in all this stuff. I don’t taste chocolate in the frosting. It’s just a big poof of sugar. You can barely call that cheesecake.
Tracy: Wow, that’s a lot of sugar. It’s very artificial tasting.
Flourless Godiva chocolate cake, topped with Godiva chocolate cheesecake and chocolate mousse.
John: At least you’ve got a little chocolate flavor. It isn’t as sweet as the last one. This isn’t bad. It’s the best one so far, then the strawberry if you get rid of that damn glaze.
Tracy: I’m not a Godiva fan, but, if a person were looking for chocolate, I think they would be satisfied.
Creamy cheesecake swirled with caramel, peanut butter, Butterfinger, and Reese’s peanut butter cups.
John: That’s a lot. It’s basically two candy bars and cheesecake. Oh, and caramel. Just to throw in some more sugar. For all those things, I taste a hint of peanut butter and not much else.
Tracy: This one’s not tasting so fresh. It’s way too sweet. Once you get past the sugar, there is a lingering peanut flavor, but it’s just sugar. Pure sugar.
Hershey’s cheesecake between moist chocolate cake with creamy chocolate frosting and chocolate chips.
John: God, look at this thing. This is a slab. The sheer size is intimidating. It’s like a cheesecake mountain. It’s better than I thought it would be. I wouldn’t eat the chips, but that’s not bad. You know why? It’s so much less sweet [than the others], so you’re getting the chocolate flavor.
Tracy: My son gets this actually. That’s like a classic Devil’s Food cake, and it’s not horrible. I mean, the cocoa could be better, but considering it’s Cheesecake Factory… If you put that on top of the [strawberry one] without the strawberries, I’d be happy. If you’re looking for a chocolate cheesecake, I’d say [the Godiva] is better. This one is a decent layer cake. I wouldn’t say they achieved a cheesecake.
Key lime pie in a cheesecake on a vanilla crumb crust.
John: The texture is off. Yeah, that’s not very good. The crust is useless. It’s like, why is it even there?
Tracy: This looks undercooke. It tastes kind of gelatinous. I don’t like it. I’m tasting citric acid, like when they make Sour Patch. The crust is bad too.
Pecan brownie and caramel-fudge swirl cheesecake, topped with caramel turtle pecans and chocolate.
John: Visually, it looks kind of waxy. What the hell?! That was bad. I don’t know how they [said], “Okay, let’s serve this.”
Tracy: Oh, that’s awful. What is that?! That tastes so artificial. I have no idea what’s in that. I don’t even know what they would use to get that flavor. I would be pissed about spending my money on that.