On a sunny, February afternoon, we headed to SOHO for a real treat. On the corner of Cleveland Pl. and Kenmare St, we met with Holly, daughter of Eileen Avezzano, founder of Eileen’s Special Cheesecake. For the next few hours, Holly shared her time with us, walking us through the amazing history of their cheesecake and the family behind the famous recipe.
‘Eileen’s Special Cheesecake’ refers to special occasions, since the amount of love (read: hard work) that goes into baking each cheesecake is no small feat. Even before she had a storefront, Eileen made sure that each cake that came out of her kitchen oven was without a crack or imperfection. Holly laughed with us, recalling when her mother would kick everyone out of the kitchen until the cake cooled down enough to where any misstep wouldn’t cause the cake to form a fault line.
Her family’s humble beginnings came with financial hardship and Eileen, a frequent patron at her neighborhood deli in Elmhurst, Queens, was given a golden chance to sell her cake by the slice. It didn’t take long for the proprietor to sell out and plead Eileen to make more cakes. And of course, she conceded. At which point, Eileen had to ask her neighbors to borrow use their ovens while they were at work in order to keep up with demand!
Fast forward to December 1975 and Eileen’s Special Cheesecake’s first and only storefront (aside from a kiosk which was destroyed in 9/11) was born on 17 Cleveland Place. Originally home to a pizzeria, Eileen kept the pizza ovens in place and (fun fact) they still operate in the original kitchen of their red sauce predecessor! If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it! However, the ovens aren’t the only thing that have endured over the decades. Eileen’s magical cheesecake recipe has remained the same since Eileen’s first cheesecake.
The fluffy texture of their cakes can be attributed to the beaten eggs while the graham cracker crust is formed into the mold by means of a bent fork – a secret they lent to Bobby Flay after one of many TV appearances.
We were lucky to watch the batter cascade into each mold carefully by the legendary bakers, all who have been there from the beginning since 1975. Pure magic!
In fact, the bakery makes use of a water bath in each baking sheet in order to cook the cheesecakes to perfection. This method ensures that the cake bakes very gently, so it won’t darken, curdle, or crack.
We tried a few of Holly’s favorites which included the Crème Brulee, Raspberry, and Marble cheese cakes (our new favorites, too), which go for $4.95 each!
Rest assured, however, all of the cakes that reside behind the bakery glass deliver a slice of unadulterated heaven. Every product, is made with the finest ingredients, with recipes carried out by actual cheesecake veterans who deserve their own acclaim.
Although we were able to have a sneak peek into the inner workings of a basilica to cheesecake, we could have recommended this diamond from our first bite long ago- this trip only cemented our original findings.
If you’re based in NYC, you’ve got to check out Eileen’s! Alternatively, order a 10” cake to anywhere in the USA – woot woot! Thanks again to Holly for the visit. We can’t recommend this spot enough!!!