Cheesecake is one of those things that many New Yorkers take for granted and visitors can't get enough of, but is it really cake? No, not really -- it contains no flour and nothing to make it rise. Cakes, by definition, contain flour and one or more leavening agents. In many ways, cheesecake is more like a pie, but most cooks would agree that technically it's baked custard [source: Brown]. Common variations include New York and Italian cheesecakes. New York style cheesecakes are made with cream cheese, and Italian style cheesecakes are made with ricotta and/or mascarpone cheese. Crusts vary as well, ranging from the traditional graham cracker crust to crushed cookies or chopped nuts. Essential ingredients include the cheese (such as cream cheese, mascarpone or ricotta) eggs, cream, vanilla and sugar.
Varying styles aren't the only options -- there are many flavors, too, such as chocolate raspberry, key lime, pumpkin and even banana cream. Or, you can top a plain cheesecake with fresh or cooked berries or some kind of glaze or sauce -- caramel, for example, is a popular choice.