Is Cheesecake A Pie Or A Cake?

There is an ongoing debate about whether cheesecake is actually a cake or more likely to be a pie. So which is it? 

Is Cheesecake A Pie Or A Cake

We’re going to take a look at what a cheesecake is, how it fits into the description of pie or cake and ask ‘is cheesecake a pie or a cake?’

What Is A Cheesecake?

A cheesecake is a rich, sweet dessert that is made with one or more layers. The main layer is a combination of cream cheese, eggs and sugar. Underneath this layer is a crumb base that can be made from crushed cookies. 

Variations of cheesecake have pastry bases, some have sides that enclose the filling and others just have the base. Many flavors of cheesecake have fruit topping such as raspberries, strawberries or lemon. 

But debates have been raging for decades about whether cheesecake is a pie or a cake. One would assume that as it has ‘cake’ in the name it is classified as cake, but this is not necessarily true. After all you can have crab cakes, but you wouldn’t eat them for dessert. 

So is cheesecake a pie? Perhaps but most pies have an upper crust of pastry that covers the filling. This is clearly not what a cheesecake looks like despite sometimes having a pastry base. 

We need to take a look at what the definition of a pie and a cake are to decide just where a cheesecake fits in. 

Definition Of A Pie

According to our good friend Merriam-Webster, the definition of a pie is a ‘dessert consisting of a filling in a pastry shell, or topped with pastry, or both’. The definition also says that the filling can be either fruit or custard. 

Now the filling we can get on board with because the cheesecake filling is a type of custard in that it is made with eggs, cheese and cream. But it’s definitely not topped with pastry. It may have a pastry base and sometimes pastry sides but not a pastry top. 

So, does this mean that cheesecake is not a pie? Well, yes and no. The fact is that some cheesecakes have pastry bases and sides and some have no pastry whatsoever like the Basque Burnt Cheesecake. 

Definition Of A Cake

Perhaps given that cake is part of the name of this dessert we should consider it a cake. But it’s not, when you think of a cake, cheesecake is not what immediately comes to mind. 

Rather you think of a sponge cake or a chocolate cake, neither of which resemble a cheesecake. Again Merriam-Webster defines it as a ‘sweet baked food made from dough or batter, containing flour, eggs, sugar, shortening and a raising agent’. 

Sounds about right, but there are unbaked cheesecakes so that doesn’t quite fit either. The word cake seems to be quite misleading in a lot of respects, so we may need to accept that cheesecake is not strictly a cake. 

So with pie discounted and cake an unlikely candidate just which category does cheesecake belong to? 

Is Cheesecake A Pie Or A Cake?

In the debate of cake versus pie as it relates to cheesecake the jury is well and truly divided. There has been no clear-cut winner in this case. 

Cheesecake potentially is neither. Not in the truest sense of the words anyway. There are many variations of cheesecake, those which have pastry crusts and those made with crumb. Some cheesecakes are baked, made with eggs and some are unbaked, made with gelatin. 

As a type of dessert it is not definitely a cake nor definitely a pie. So what else could a cheesecake be?

What Else Could Cheesecake Be?

What Else Could Cheesecake Be

If cheesecake isn’t a cake, and it isn’t a pie what else can it be classified as? Some people consider cheesecake to be a tart while others think it more closely resembles a flan. 

Let’s take a look at both, so you can decide for yourself. 


A tart closely resembles a pie in that it consists of a pastry crust. But unlike a pie a tart does not have a pastry top and the filling is not enclosed inside. Rather a tart has a pastry base and side, but the top is open with the filling exposed or with a lattice of pastry strips. 

While both pies and tarts are the vessel for their filling the tart shows off its filling more openly. This sounds more like what a cheesecake does, presenting the delicious filling without covering, on a delicious base. 

Perhaps cheesecake is a tart. That would seem to fit more with how a cheesecake is made. But then we have another contender, the flan. 


A flan, according to the dictionary, is ‘an open pie containing any of various sweet or savory fillings’. This may be the closest we have gotten to what a cheesecake actually is. It seems to tick all the boxes. 

It’s open, it contains sweet fillings, and it can be classified as a pie keeping those who insist cheesecake is a pie, happy. 

Where Does Cheesecake Belong?

This may be one of those interminable dilemmas that never truly gets resolved. There will always be the pie camp and the cake camp neither ever conceding defeat and clinging to their classification of cheesecake. 

But if we had to make a decision about whether cheesecake is a pie or a cake, our loyalty would definitely lie with the pie contingent. There is more compelling evidence that this is where cheesecake belongs. 

It just doesn’t meet any of the criteria for a cake, other than what it has been called all these years. Sorry cake fans, but cheesecake is a cake in name only. 

In Conclusion

People have debated whether cheesecake should be called a pie or a cake with no clear winner emerging from either side. 

However, that will not stop us from enjoying cheesecake for what it really is, a rich, delicious and sweet dessert.

Mark Williams