Let them eat (cheese) cake

Perhaps somewhat unfairly, every bite I tasted on my journey to uncover the city’s best (and worst) cheesecake was compared to the most delicious I’ve ever tasted: mine.

Roladin (photo credit: Amy Spiro)
(photo credit: Amy Spiro)
Perhaps somewhat unfairly, every bite I tasted on my journey to uncover the city’s best (and worst) cheesecake was compared to the most delicious I’ve ever tasted: mine.
It’s not just that I’m an excellent pastry chef (hey, I do have a degree), but I also bake the kind I want: New York style, baked, with four ingredients (cream cheese, eggs, sugar and vanilla), on top of a solid cookie crust and adorned as I see fit.
In Israel, cheesecake is very often a different affair, with two main types on offer: mousse-type cheesecakes, which are unbaked with a light, creamy texture; and baked, which seem to be more cake than cheese, many tasting like they have an unwelcome addition of flour.
Still, as your brave taste tester, I soldiered on, sampling cheesecakes of all types at locations across Jerusalem, uncovering the good, the bad and the confusing. Here are some solid options – though, of course, not a comprehensive list – of places to sit down and linger with a friend over a piece of this decadent dessert. All prices are per slice unless otherwise indicated. All establishments mentioned are kosher.
Once again, this hidden-from-view cafe takes the top spot on my list (previously for soup). Its cheesecake was exceptionally creamy, with the best texture of any I tested, a base somewhere between cake and cookie that somehow worked, and just the right amount and consistency of crumb topping. And in the true test of tastiness, though this was the last cheesecake I tried (don’t worry, I had help tasting), the plate was totally clean within five minutes. It is the most expensive on the list, though (and even more pricy than the online menu indicates). NIS 33 5 Yoel Salomon Street
This health-oriented vegetarian restaurant isn’t exactly the most obvious place to stop in for cheesecake, but on several occasions when I’d been there eating the more traditional tofu and lentils, I noticed some delicious-looking cakes.
Plus, I figured, they’re much less likely to add any untoward cheesecake ingredients. Their offering was a pretty solid choice, with a nicely airy cake with a good balance of density and lightness that one looks for in a cheesecake. The crumb topping was a nice addition, but the base of the cheesecake was uninteresting and had an almost soggy consistency. The “small” portion was fairly enormous, so I can’t imagine ever having the need to order the large.
NIS 19/NIS 31 for a small/large portion of plain or mocha cheesecake
33 Jaffa Road and 5 Rahel Imeinu Street.
I was happy to see on this menu a pairing that I consider a classic but have rarely encountered on my tasting travels: cheesecake and chocolate. This cake had a very thick layer of chocolate ganache atop a nice, dense, cheesy filling, though it was a touch on the crumbly side.
The cookie base had a nice flavor but was slightly too soft.
NIS 25 for baked cheesecake with chocolate or sour cream. NIS 27 for mousse cheesecake with crumble, cherries or cranberries
6 Shlomzion Hamalka Street
This ubiquitous bakery provided a pleasantly tasty cheesecake offering, with a smooth, creamy and dense filling and a variety of tasty toppings. The base wasn’t particularly exciting, but it also wasn’t detrimental. A variety of whole cheesecakes are for sale, plus strips that are plain, with caramel or blueberries, sold by the kilogram.
NIS 25 per kilogram.
More than a dozen locations in Jerusalem
This cake falls more into the mousse category, and it was nice and creamy, with one of the best bases that I tasted. The topping on the cheesecake was a bit too crumbly, but I kept sneaking my fork underneath for more bites of the center. There is also a cappuccino version available. NIS 28
34 Jaffa Road
The only cheesecake this upscale downtown bakery offers is a mousse-like version, with a nicely flavored cinnamon crumb topping and a light, airy, extra-creamy texture. Unfortunately, the whole thing sat on a sponge-cake base, which seemed fairly incongruous with the rest of the slice. NIS 32
2 Luntz Street
While I would happily stop by this Hungarian bakery several times a week to eat its namesake cylindrical pastry, I won’t be ordering cheesecake there again anytime soon. I was eager to try its white chocolate version – the only kind available for purchase by the piece. While I enjoyed the flavor combination of cheese and white chocolate, the texture just wasn’t right: It was too cakelike and crumbly, and it had no real base at all, which I suppose is better than a bad one.
NIS 47 to NIS 59 for a variety of whole cheesecakes, NIS 15 for a slice of baked cheesecake with white chocolate
3 Luntz Street
While I was a big fan of this bakery chain’s doughnuts on Hanukka, its cheesecake needs a little work. The filling was creamy in texture and had a well-balanced flavor, but it had a slight taste of freezer burn, and the topping was way too crumbly and too much. But the worst part was the sauce that accompanied the cheesecake on the plate – it looked like caramel, but instead it was unpleasantly sour.
NIS 26 for baked cheesecake with crumble. NIS 29 for mouse cheesecake with crumble. Whole cheesecakes, sold in strips, are available in flavors like Oreo cookie, tiramisu or mascarpone with cherries for NIS 60.
12 Hillel Street and the Mamilla Mall
For some reason, I seem to trust the French when it comes to all things pastry. So I was eager to try the offerings from Gagou de Paris, also known as Yehuda Bakery, in the center of town. But I was seriously disappointed, mostly because of temperature.
I was served a huge piece of cheesecake, with a sour cream topping that I experienced in many places (probably to cover cracks when it baked). It was dense and creamy, though it was a fairly one-note flavor. But unfortunately, it was room temperature, and that just made the whole experience unpleasant.
I can tell you that this bakery serves some very tasty goods, but cheesecake just isn’t one of them.
NIS 18
14 King George Avenue