May 7, 2014 in Food

Champion cheesecake: Tips for a decadent dessert that’s both light and creamy

By The Spokesman-Review

The secret to making cheesecake that’s light and airy, with a rich and creamy yet feathery texture, is simple and twofold.

Low and slow.

That’s according to Thomas Speight, who owns Spokane Cheesecakes with his wife, Gillian. The bakeshop, which opened in December and celebrated its grand opening at the end of April, specializes in small, individual-sized cheesecakes.

The couple have developed more than 30 flavors of crust and cake combinations – from their signature Mayan chocolate cheesecake with chocolate ganache, Saigon cinnamon, a hint of chile, and dark-chocolate- and-orange-scented crust, to their limón cheesecake with a vanilla-lemon crust …


Thomas Speight, who co-owns Spokane Cheesecakes with his wife, Gillian, makes a batch of ginger cheesecakes.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

If you go

Spokane CheesecakesWhen: Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: 1420 E. Sprague Ave., Suite 104B

On the Web:

Call: (509) 570-0658

The secret to making cheesecake that’s light and airy, with a rich and creamy yet feathery texture, is simple and twofold.

Low and slow.

That’s according to Thomas Speight, who owns Spokane Cheesecakes with his wife, Gillian. The bakeshop, which opened in December and celebrated its grand opening at the end of April, specializes in small, individual-sized cheesecakes.

The couple have developed more than 30 flavors of crust and cake combinations – from their signature Mayan chocolate cheesecake with chocolate ganache, Saigon cinnamon, a hint of chile, and dark-chocolate- and-orange-scented crust, to their limón cheesecake with a vanilla-lemon crust.

While the Speights specialize in mini-cheesecakes, they take custom orders for the full-size variety.

There are no graham crackers at the Speights’ mom-and-pop cheesecake shop. They only do from-scratch crusts, often perfuming them with spices such as nutmeg.

Customers don’t take any lumps, either. In addition to being patient – baking their cheesecakes upward of an hour at a relatively low temperature – the Speights insist upon using cream cheese at room temperature.

“It’s easier to work with and it makes the cheesecakes smoother, without any lumps,” said Gillian Speight, demonstrating the technique in the kitchen of their shop just east of downtown Spokane.

If the cream cheese is cold and hard, lumps are pretty much guaranteed, and who wants a lumpy cheesecake?

Another trick of the trade: Gillian Speight beats cream cheese with her stand mixer until all ingredients are well blended and the consistency is silky before pouring the batter into paper panettone cups.

“We try to stick to the European standard where there’s enough sugar to satisfy your craving but not enough to drown out other flavors,” she said.

Gillian Speight and her husband started Spokane Cheesecakes in September 2011. The couple rented a commercial kitchen in Spokane Valley, selling their cheesecakes from a spot in the Spokane Public Market until mid-2012 when Gillian became pregnant. After the birth of their daughter, they began looking to resume their cheesecake business.

They bake together evenings and Mondays, when the shop is closed. He staffs the shop during the day.

Thomas Speight loves cheesecake.

Twenty years ago, while serving in the Peace Corps in his wife’s native Jamaica, he introduced her to the decadent dessert.

“It’s not a big part of our culture,” Gillian Speight said, noting cream cheese is expensive in Jamaica.

When she moved to Spokane and they married, she began experimenting with different recipes. The ginger cheesecake, for example, is flecked with pieces of crystallized ginger and sits atop a moist gingersnap cookie crust.

Today, ginger – along with limón and classic New York cheesecake – make up their year-round staples.

Nine varieties of individual-sized, 3-inch cheesecakes are typically available at a time, selling for $5 to $5.50.

“We rotate them, depending on the season,” Gillian Speight said.

Autumn favorites are pecan praline, apple caramel, pumpkin and pumpkin spice rum. Come summer, there’s rum raisin, huckleberry and blueberry swirl.

Gillian Speight prefers the huckleberry and raspberry white chocolate. Her husband’s two favorites are limón and ginger. (He also likes the honey vanilla.)

He tries, he said, to only eat two per week.

Ginger Cheesecake

From Gillian Speight of Spokane Cheesecakes

The Speights plan to keep most of their recipes secret. But they were willing to share this one for ginger cheesecake, one of their shop’s year-round staples.

2 pounds cream cheese at room temperature

1 1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup sour cream

2 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup crystalized ginger, dusted with a pinch corn starch (to prevent pieces from lumping at the bottom of the cheesecake)

Gingersnap Cookie Crust (recipe below)

In a large mixing bowl or bowl of a standing mixer, combine cream cheese and sugar until well blended, pausing occassionally to scrape down the sides. Add cornstarch and continue mixing. Mix in sour cream until mixture is thoroughly blended, continuing to pause to scrape down the sides.

Combine eggs and vanilla in a small mixing bowl, then add egg mixture to cream cheese mixture and beat until well incorporated. Add heavy whipping cream and continue to mix and scrape down the sides until thoroughly mixed. Add crystallized ginger, stirring to distribute evenly in batter.

Pour into prepared crust and bake at 275 degrees for 1 ½ hours. Leave cheesecake in oven, popping door open slightly, until cheesecake is completely cooled. Refrigerate.

Yield: About 18 (3-inch) individual cheesecakes, or 1 (9-inch) cheesecake

Gingersnap Cookie Crust

From Gillian Speight of Spokane Cheesecakes

3/4 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon baking soda

1 large egg

1/3 cup molasses

1 to 2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 1/3 cup flour (unbleached is best)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat together shortening, sugar, salt and baking soda. Beat in the egg, then molasses. Add ginger to flour, then mix it into egg/molasses mixture.

Drop dough using a teaspoon cookie scoop onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for about 8 to 11 minutes.

Cool, then crush into cookie crumbs and form cheesecake crust in a springform pan.



Cake Bosses

Spokane Cheesecakes reopens, this time with its own shop076


Sometimes you stick your fork into a feathery cheesecake and it hits a rock-hard layer of graham cracker crust, bland and chalky.

“We do our own crust,” says Gillian Speight, who owns Spokane Cheesecakes with her husband Thomas. “We don’t believe in graham cracker crust.”

Each of their 26 kinds of cheesecake has a type of crust that complements the cheesecake flavor. The limón has a lemon crust, the pumpkin is paired with a gingersnap crust, and some of the liqueur cheesecakes feature Brazilian coffee crust. Dark chocolate orange crust lines the spicy Mayan chocolate cheesecake (the one we sank our teeth into) crowned with delectable chocolate ganache and sprinkled with Saigon cinnamon.

Gillian and Thomas first started making their cheesecakes in a commercial kitchen and selling them at a spot in the Spokane Public Market in September 2011. Thomas always was a cheesecake lover and Gillian loves baking; they felt like Spokane had scant choices for good cheesecake, so they decided to make their own, Gillian says.

But just a year after starting the business, the couple found out they were having a baby, so they closed down.

“Our long-term goal was to have our own space and our own kitchen,” Gillian says. “When we got pregnant, we pushed it up.”

In December they opened their own Spokane Cheesecakes shop on Sprague Avenue. They have a selection of miniature cheesecakes (3 inches, $5-$5.50) always on hand. Orders can be placed for larger sizes (6-10 inches, $38-$45).

Their many flavors rotate occasionally. For example, they’ll bring out several chocolate flavors for Valentine’s Day, such as raspberry white chocolate and night and day, a blend of white and dark chocolate, says Gillian. Their selection also includes fruit flavors like huckleberry and strawberry, traditional flavors like New York and cherries jubilee, and more creative flavors like a rum and raisin cheesecake with a vanilla crust. ♦

Spokane Cheesecakes • 1420 E. Sprague • Tue-Fri, 10 am-5:30 pm; Sat, 10 am-5 pm • • 570-0658




Cheese Whizzes

We slated four (relative) upstart bakeries against the granddaddy of Spokane cheesecakes — winner take all.


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They mostly looked the same. Their crusts were uniformly brown and flaky. Their fillings were within a shade or two of that iconic, eggy off-white. The pie cherries looked like they might have all come from the same jar.

But the presentations of the five cheesecakes we tested for this throwdown varied. There were adorably round mini-cheesecakes and squat, pie-looking specimens. There was one wedge that had clearly popped — defying gravity — from a springform pan.

These were academic distinctions, though — shape and not form. To the specimens arrayed before us, our four-judge panel mostly shrugged. Yep, that’s cheesecake, all right.

Once we put the stuff in our mouths, though, well, insert your favorite cliché about judging things by appearance. The flavors were surprisingly varied, from almost sickeningly sweet to tart to almost savory. The textures were equally so — the crusts went from crumbly to grainy to nutty; the cherries mealy to soft to springy on the tooth.


You can’t swing a desert menu or bakery case in this town without finding a slice of turtle or huckleberry in it. We wanted to seek out excellent examples of the stuff to help guide people through this confectionary labyrinth.


The granddaddy of Spokane pie-makers, Cyrus O’Leary’s, makes a cherry cheesecake that has won a couple of national awards in the last decade. We pitted that against a geographically representative slate of four local cheesecakes (also cherry-topped, with one exception, to remain consistent) that came highly recommended by food people and random readers alike. We wanted to crown a new local champion. We succeeded (read on).


Our judging panel consisted of two fervent devotees of cheesecake in any form, one tepid but amiable participant and one person whose love of a classic, unadorned New York cheesecake (he’s from Jersey) is so pure that, he said, “I don’t want it f—ed up with any bullshit like cherries.” A diverse group.


It was a three-quarters-blind test. I knew what we were eating (because I had run around frantically picking them up), but everyone else was clueless. We scored each slice according to its filling, crust and the way everything worked together, a category we fancily called “gestalt.” Filling and crust were awarded a maximum of five points each, with gestalt being worth a maximum of 10 points. When the scoring was done we added up everyone’s points and divided by the total possible — just like your teachers did in grade school — giving nice, round, easy-to-understand percentages.

We would like to reiterate: it’s cheesecake, so there are no losers here. There are, though, a few places that won more than the rest. Here’s the breakdown:

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Cyrus O’Learys

$9/whole pie • Available at most grocery stores

FILLING: Words like “smooth” and “creamy” pervaded the judges’ notes. As did “sweet.”

CRUST: The crust was crumbly yet moist, verging on granular at times. As this is baked in a pie tin, the crust went all the way up the back of our slices — a nice bonus for crustophiles.

GESTALT: The granddaddy performed admirably, but we all seemed to agree that its sweetness overpowered other flavors. The cherries were tart and gummy, but to get to them you had to swim through a lot of sugary red sauce.


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Scrumdiddlyumptious$2.50 • Rocket Market (726 E. 43rd Ave), Huckleberry’s (926 S. Monroe St.)

FILLING: This was the densest cake we tried. Cut into little bars, it held up under fork and wasn’t too sweet.

CRUST: The crust got average marks. People liked the texture, which was flaky and moist, but this was a rare instance where the judges wanted a little more sweetness.

GESTALT: A couple of us thought Scrumdiddlyumptious had the best cherries of the lot.

They were plump. There wasn’t an overabundance of sauce. They added a nice tang. The bars were the cheapest and had the smallest portions, which would be perfect for those looking for just a little bit-o-cheesecake to tame the sweet tooth.

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White Box Pies

$5 • 28 E. Sharp Ave.

FILLING: “Totally different” wrote one judge, and it’s true. The filling almost tasted savory. We thought it might use sour cream or even goat cheese. A White Box rep refused to offer any insight into what accounted for the difference, citing trade secrets, but it left an impression.

CRUST: The only gluten-free cheesecake we tried, this one had a crust made with hazelnuts and rice flour. The judges liked it. We actually would have liked a little more of it.

GESTALT: Solid entry that relies on the flavor of the cheese (whatever cheese that may be) with just a bounce of sweet from the cherries and the whipped cream.

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Spokane Cheesecake

$3.25 • Spokane Public Market (24 W. Second Ave.)

FILLING: Though it was served New-York-style (complete with a slick of sour cream over the top), this cheesecake amazed judges with the airiness of the filling and the fact that it still had big flavors.

CRUST: The crust was nice and flaky and just sweet enough. There wasn’t very much of it, though, which may have been the reason it came in a nail-bitingly close second.

GESTALT: An absolute hair’s-breadth from the championship, this simple, fluffy, cherryless cheesecake was less than a percentage point from the winner, despite completely lacking cherries and opting to forgo whipped cream. A testament to what is possible with just great filling and good crust.

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Just American Desserts

$4.25 • 213 S. University Rd. • 9323 N. Division St.

FILLING: The cake was fluffy but still had the heft to keep its shape. A couple of judges enjoyed the refreshing notes of citrus.

CRUST: The highest marks for any bakery in any category were scored for Just American’s crumbly, brown-sugary, damn-near religious-experience-triggering crust.

GESTALT: Tall and spring-formed, with a drizzle of cherries over the top, this was a gorgeous cheesecake that won the style contest easily, and it earned high marks for its cherries. The difference-maker, though, was the crust.





From the Inlander


November 22, 2011

Entire Article can be found here

Sweet Cheese

They looked so little and cute and harmless in the pastry case — but don’t be fooled. Spokane Cheesecakes’ miniature creations are highly addictive, and I don’t really even like cheesecake. Or at least I didn’t think I did until I tried the ginger cheesecake, spiked with spicy chunks of candied ginger on a chewy gingersnap crust. It’s incredibly light and airy, devoid of the usual cheesecake heftiness.

“We’ve had a wonderful response to the cheesecakes,” says owner Thomas Speight, who opened his shop in the Spokane Public Market at the end of September. Speight and his wife, Gillian, have been making cheesecakes for years and hope to fill a niche with their individual serving cheesecakes. “When we wanted cheesecakes, we couldn’t find what we wanted, or you have to buy a whole one.”

Each cheesecake is designed to give the customer a great experience, Speight says, starting with the crust. “All of our crusts are made – no graham crackers,” he says. The crusts – like chocolate peppermint – have been so popular that Speight is considering making them into cookies.

Fillings vary in style from traditional New York to light and fluffy Santa Barbara-style. The toppings are the finishing touch. The apple caramel cheesecake is topped with apples and a caramel coating. Raspberry sauce swirled on top of the white-chocolate cheesecake gives it an elegant finish.

By introducing new flavors every week, Speight hopes to keep customers coming back to try the latest creation. “We’re going to try to hit a home run out of Spokane with as many different flavors as possible,” he says. Currently, they have 21 flavors, ranging from $2.75-$3.00.

Watch for the Mayan Spicy Chocolate cheesecake — it starts with a chocolate orange cookie crust, the cheesecake has a hint of spice, and the whole thing is topped with cinnamon chocolate ganache. Speight also promises Kahlua-flavored and eggnog cheesecakes in time for the holidays. And they’ll make full-sized cheesecakes for special orders. (Kirsten Harrington)

Spokane Cheesecakes • Inside Spokane Public Market • 24 W. Second Ave. • Open 10 am-6 pm, Thurs-Sat • 279-1612



Vendors at Spokane Public Market hope holidays draw in crowds

by KREM.comEntire article can be found

Posted on December 17, 2011 at 6:06 PM

SPOKANE– Thanksgiving brought an opportunity for more business for the Spokane Public Market, and staff members are now hoping Christmas will give them that same chance.

People who work at the market say they want the public to know they’re open and they will be available through Christmas Eve to help you celebrate the holidays with local and fresh products.

Saturday was another solid weekend showing for the Spokane Public Market.  Customers kept vendors busy throughout the day, but some wonder whether everyone knows they are open during this time of year.  Staff members say the people who are showing up want something special to include in their Christmas dinner.

Vendors like Thomas Speight remain optimistic about joining the market.  He says he came to the market in September because his cheesecakes are unique to the area and this is the place to sell them.

Speight says 80% of his business is returning customers.  Vendors say they believe they are selling products that build loyalty.  Many say they just need more people to get the word out about the market.

Last month, vendors say they had special hours the day before Thanksgiving and it turned out to be a success.  This month, vendors are turning to Santa and Christmas music to help draw people in.

The Spokane Public Market is located on West 2nd Avenue in downtown Spokane and is open Thursdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m..