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Frangelicas takes the cake in heated contest

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“You would get this on an aeroplane.” “This must be served at Diepsloot prison.” “It tastes like Swiss roll.” “This is a mushy pudding.” “It tastes like blintz dough.”

These were some of the judges’ quirkiest and meanest retorts during the SA Jewish Report’s Shavuot Cheesecake Tasting Competition on 30 May.

It’s customary to eat dairy food on the first day of Shavuot because the Torah was given on Shabbat, so no cattle could be slaughtered nor utensils koshered during that time. Cheesecake is one of the favourite delicacies at this time of year.

The cheesecakes in the competition came from six eateries in Johannesburg, and were evaluated by five judges – Howard Sackstein, the chairperson of the SA Jewish Report; SA Jewish Report board member Dina Diamond; Mervyn Aaron, one of the founders of Turn ‘n Tender; Helen Aaron, the owner of a duck product distribution company; renowned baker Heidi Feldman; and Liat Feldman, the owner of Lilicious bakery.

The judges had to be quite tough in choosing their favourites. They weren’t told who had baked which cheesecake until the end of the evening.

“This was the most boring thing I’ve eaten in a while. I nearly fell asleep while eating it,” was another churlish retort, “There’s no way I could get through that piece,” was another.

First up was Frangelicas’ cheesecake, served in the shape of a cupcake. “I love the lemon flavour and the zing,” said Diamond.

The judges enjoyed the cream cheese on top.

“The topping was a bit sour, which is quite original,” said Liat.

Helen, a foodie who loves cheesecake and bakes challah every Friday, liked how Frangelicas used lemon in its cheesecake and put a bit of sour cream on top. “This approach is nice because it takes away the sweetness,” she said.

The judges liked the creamy filling in Michelos’ cheesecake. “The consistency was quite good,” said Mervyn.

Although a few judges concurred that they may have eaten a similar-tasting cheesecake before, Diamond said, “If this was served at a function, I would eat it.”

Tasting similar to Michelos’ but with a firmer base was Feigels’ cheesecake, served on plates.

Sackstein, a foodie, awarded Feigels “an eight or nine” because he thought the plating was “lovely”. “They put in effort, and I appreciate that,” he said. “The texture and consistency were good, but the base I would hope never to meet in a dark alley.”

Sackstein also had positive words for Shulas’ cheesecake. “It has lemon rind, which makes a huge difference. I wish it had a crunchy, crispy base. That would be really nice to break the sweetness, but it’s definitely original.”

Helen said, “You can taste the Tennis Biscuits, which is nice. I liked the little bit of coconut.”

A few judges thought it didn’t look like they expected a cheesecake to look.

“When I first saw it, I thought, ‘Oh, this is exciting,’” said Heidi. “I liked the look of the crumble on the top. It looked like I wanted to taste it.”

Liat agreed, adding that the texture was creamy.

“It looks amazing,” said Diamond. “I would totally take that off the shelves.”

Mervyn replied, “I would take it off the shelf, but I wouldn’t take it off as a cheesecake.”

Diamond also spoke glowingly about Tiberius’ cheesecake. “I like this one,” she said. “The texture is very creamy. I like the overall taste. If it had a topping, it would change the whole cake.”

Tiberius’ cheesecake had a firm filling but the judges didn’t believe it had a unique taste.

Kosher Central’s cheesecake had a lot of vanilla essence. “Quite good,” said Helen. “It’s creamy.”

Mervyn said, “It’s the best base we have had overall. It’s sweet, and has a bit of a crunch.”

Said Sackstein, “This, for me, has been by far the best. I thought it was light, not stodgy or heavy. Maybe a little too much vanilla essence. It had almost a gooey, toffee sort of something which added great flavour to break the cheesecake. That was fantastic. It was original because of this.”

Heidi said, “I like this very much as well. I like the taste, the lightness. It has been beaten well.”

Diamond said, “This is the second-best on my list. I liked the texture and consistency. It’s delicious, the texture is light and fluffy.”

The judges looked at texture and consistency, originality, and overall taste. Each category was given a mark out of 10. Frangelicas won based on general consensus and the fact that it scored slightly higher on overall taste than the runner up, Kosher Central.

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