Is it fab or a flop? We tried a cheat’s cheesecake mix from Lancewood
Our sceptical food editor puts the new Piece o’Cake Cheesecake Mix to the taste test and does the sums to find out which is more economical: readymade or homemade
I’m a cheesecake snob and, in my mind, you can measure an eatery by the quality of their cheesecake. A definite “no-no” is the no-bake refrigerator version. When I see a baked cheesecake on a menu, my interest is piqued.
The benchmark is a memorable slice of New York cheesecake I enjoyed in the Big Apple. The hallmarks of excellence are a short pastry case and a voluminous and generous filling, silky smooth and cream-coloured with just a gentle wobble so you know it hasn’t been over-baked. (I can taste if it’s made with full-cream cream cheese, not the low-fat variety.)
I say “no thanks” to a fruity or jammy topping. The cake should be plain and if there aren’t any cracks, I know the baker knows their oats.
Earlier this week, a ready-mix cheesecake making kit was delivered to my home. It comprised a yoghurt-like tub of a new product called Lancewood Piece o’Cake Cheesecake Mix, a cake pan, spatula and packet of biscuits.
The Piece o’Cake Cheesecake mixture looked and smelled good, a bit like a thick creamy yoghurt. The ingredients? Yes, there’s cream cheese and cream so the foundation is right, plus extras like water, sugar, skim milk powder, palm kernel and vegetable oil (not sure why), emulsifier, thickener and a list of E numbers, the preservatives — not what you’d find in a home-baked version.
I turned the biscuits into crumbs, added melted butter and pressed them into the cake tin base to create a crust.
Making the filling was indeed as easy as pie: You scoop it out of the tub and into a mixing bowl, beat it with an electric mixer for a minute, and then pour it over the base.
Of course I couldn’t resist adding my own touch and turned it into a coffee and chocolate cheesecake by mixing 5ml (1 tsp) cocoa powder and 7.5ml (1 1/2 tsp) instant coffee powder with a little hot water to create a paste, which I added to the filling.
The instructions said to bake the cake in a pre-heated oven of 160ºC for 60 minutes - too long because it was ready in 40 minutes.
Then, with oven turned off, the recommendation is to allow the cheesecake to cool in the residual heat for 90 minutes. I suggest leaving the oven door ajar when doing so, and to chill the cake for at least four hours or overnight, as I did, before serving.
Proof of the pudding is in the eating. Yes, the filling was soft and silky, I have to give them that. I enjoyed the coffee flavour, which was my addition. It is not the tall New York cheesecake I love, but for a novice baker or someone needing a cheesecake they can pass off as their own, they could get away with this. I dolled it up with swirls of cream, flakes of chocolate and raspberries.
The cost of a 750g tub of Lancewood Piece o’Cake Cheesecake Mix, which made a 20cm cheesecake approximately 4cm high with the crust, is R99.
I did the maths of making a cheesecake filling from scratch. It’s approximately R120 for two bricks of cream cheese and R22 for a 250ml jar of fresh cream. So that’s R142 before you’ve even added the sugar and eggs.
I have to swallow my pride and say a Lancewood Piece o’Cake Cheesecake is a fair bake for a fair price.