How Cheesecake was Introduced to India

Cheesecake has had a surprisingly long history in India, according to a cookbook from 1904. We look into its history.

Mistanna Pak was aimed at the new-age Bengali woman

Cheesecake is one of the most popular desserts and its history in India is seemingly over 100 years old.

This dessert is typically made with cream cheese, eggs, sugar and a biscuit base. Other ingredients can be added.

Cheesecake is believed to have originated in ancient Greece and was later spread by the Romans.

During their extensive trade routes and conquests, the Romans might have introduced cheesecake to different parts of their empire, including regions near India.

Moreover, the British colonial rule in India had a significant impact on the country’s cuisine, and it appears as though cheesecake was introduced or popularised during that time.

This is highlighted in a cookbook from 1904.

We explore this cookbook as well as the cheesecake secrets that were found inside it.

Mistanna Pak

How Cheesecake was Introduced to India - mistanna

In 1904, Bipradas Mukhopadhyay published a book titled Mistanna Pak, which was dedicated entirely to sweets.

Although it is written in Bengali, the book features sweets from all over the world.

In Bengal, sweets have historically been of two kinds – those made at home by the women, typically with easily available ingredients like coconut, jaggery, rice, lentils and milk solids, and those made by professional confectioners that focused on cottage cheese.

Mistanna Pak was aimed at the new-age Bengali woman and it suggested that their repertoire of homemade creations now included a range of cakes, puddings, flavoured cream and cheesecake.

The book reflects this spirit of a time in colonial Bengal when food came to be defined in more complex terms and played a crucial role in the construction of the Bengali middle-class identity and self-fashioning of the modern Bengali gentleman.

The Bengali gentlewoman was placed at the centre of this change, made responsible for shaping a new cuisine and culinary culture that remained rooted in tradition while embracing the new.

In an 1874 magazine article, Bamabodhini Patrika stated that a gentlewoman should be able to cook everything from native Brahmin dishes of rice and curry, meat in the Mughal style, traditional Bengali sweets and Western-style jams, cakes, biscuits, puddings and bread with equal ease.

Cheesecake Recipes in the Book

How Cheesecake was Introduced to India - rec

In Mistanna Pak, the cheesecakes are a far cry from the desserts of today, which are made with soft dollops of cream cheese.

In actual fact, Mukhopadhyay’s cheesecake contains no cheese.

One recipe features chunks of bread added to a pot of buttermilk, followed by eggs, sweetened with sugar and flavoured with lime zest.

The mixture is then cooked on a stove until the ingredients are reduced to a thick consistency and allowed to set.

In the second recipe, butter, sugar and lime are simmered together, whipped until fluffy and left to harden.

History tells us that not all cheesecakes are made of cheese, least of all cream cheese.

Cream cheese came to be incorporated in cheesecakes only in the 1920s and 30s. But cheesecakes have been around at least since 2BC, in various forms.

Throughout the 18th Century, cheesecake recipes were often in cookbooks published internationally as also those written by European expats living in India.

The Indian Cookery Book (1880) featured a recipe for “Excellent Cheesecakes”.

It combined whey-free curd with butter, egg yolks, sugar and nutmeg shavings baked in a quick oven or patty pans lined with puff pastry.

In American journalist Margaret Dod’s 1826 The Cook and Housewife’s Manual, there is a cheesecake where sponge biscuits soaked in cream are steeped in lime juice and beaten with fresh butter, sugar and eggs.

Seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg, the batter is poured into small pans lined with a light paste and baked. It is garnished with candied lemon peel.

Mukhopadhyay’s recipes seemingly combine elements from various recipes to adapt them to indigenous kitchens, following the trend at the time.

Recipe writers and compilers like Pragyasundari Devi and Mukhopadhyay innovated, improvised and modified recipes of non-indigenous food to suit Indian, particularly Bengali, pantry and culinary culture.

Desi Cheesecake Recipes

Over time, the cheesecake has continued to adapt.

This allows you to experiment with various flavours. In particular, the fusion of Desi flavours with western style food is on the rise.

People are more open to trying new combinations and the Desi way is the best option.

Here are a few Desi cheesecake recipes to try.

Gulab Jamun

How Cheesecake was Introduced to India - recipe

East meets West with this delicious fusion dessert. The light cream cheese mixed with the sweet flavour of the gulab jamun is heavenly.

Keeping in line with the traditional biscuit base, this cheesecake is given a Desi twist.


  • 10 digestive biscuits
  • 3 tbsp melted butter

For the Filling

  • 15 gulab jamun
  • 2 pouches gelatine
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 2 cups Greek yoghurt
  • 3 cups grated paneer
  • ½ cup condensed milk
  • Rose petals and pistachios for decoration (optional)


  1. In a food processor or with a rolling pin crush the digestive biscuits and add in the melted butter.
  2. In a cake tin spread the biscuit mixture evenly and set aside.
  3. Combine the warm water with the gelatine and let rest for a couple of minutes.
  4. In a blender mix the grated paneer, Greek yoghurt and condensed milk.
  5. Add the gelatine to the mixture.
  6. Lay out the gulab jamun evenly on the biscuit base, pour over the mixture and set in the fridge.
  7. Sprinkle the rose petals and pistachios freehand over the cheesecake once set (optional).

This recipe was inspired by Mix and Stir.

Kashmiri Chai

Kashmiri Chai, known as Pink Tea, is renowned for its alluring pink colour. It is a blend of salty, sweet and creamy flavours.

As a result of the creamy texture of the tea, its combination in a dessert is perfect.

The cream cheese filling contains all the flavours of Kashmiri Chai accompanied with a crunchy base.


  • 1 cup pistachios, removed from the shell
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp butter

For the Filling

  • 1 cup water
  • ½ tsp Kashmiri Chai leaves
  • 2-3 crushed cardamom pods
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup heavy whipped cream
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 4oz cream cheese
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 4 tbsp water
  • ½ tsp cinnamon powder
  • ½ tbsp gelatine


  1. Add the cardamom pods and salt to the water and bring to a boil. Add the tea leaves and baking powder. Continuously whisk the mixture as bubbles are formed.
  2. Boil until the water has been reduced and whisk while the pink hue forms.
  3. After removing from the heat, mix in the heavy whipped cream.
  4. Gradually pour in the sugar and whisk as it dissolves into the tea mixture.
  5. Strain the mixture then in a bowl, combine the cream cheese, almond extract and cinnamon. Whisk until a smooth texture is formed.
  6. In a separate bowl, mix the water and gelatine then set aside.
  7. In a food processor, pulse the pistachios, sugar and butter into a crumbly mixture.
  8. Lay out the crust mixture into a cake tin and press down to form an even base.
  9. Combine the gelatine with the chai and cream mixture. Pour the mix onto the crust.
  10. Place the cheesecake into the fridge for a couple of hours to set or overnight. When ready to serve, optionally garnish with pistachios.

This recipe was inspired by Blend of Spice.

Thandai Cheesecake

Thandai is a mixture of various nuts and seeds such as almonds, fennel seeds and cardamom.

Typically, it is prepared to be used during festivals in a special cold drink.

Combined with a crumbly base and cream cheese filling, this combination creates a divine fusion of flavours.


  • 3 Oreos
  • 2 tbsp almonds
  • 2 waffle cones
  • 1 tbsp melted butter

For the Filling

  • ½ cup softened cream cheese
  • ½ cup cream
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp thandai masala
  • 1 tsp rose water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp hot milk
  • ¼ tsp saffron
  • ½ tsp lemon zest


  1. In a food processor, pulse the Oreos, almonds, waffles cones and butter until it reaches a crumbly consistency.
  2. Press the mixture into a baking tin and place into the fridge to chill.
  3. Immerse the saffron strands in hot milk and let sit for 15 minutes.
  4. Whisk the cream cheese, sugar, rose water, vanilla extract and lemon zest until it forms a stiff peak.
  5. Stir the thandai masala into the saffron mix.
  6. Gradually combine the cream into the cream cheese mixture and fold gently.
  7. Pour the mixture onto the base and spread it evenly.
  8. Decorate as you wish and place the cheesecake into the fridge to set overnight.

This recipe was adapted from Spices n Flavours.

With the globalisation and growth of international cuisine in India, cheesecake has become more popular and accessible, especially in urban areas and larger cities.

But Mukhopadhyay’s book appears to be the first instance of cheesecake being introduced to India.

He wraps up his cheesecake recipe with a note of praise for European food as more nutritious and urging Bengalis to include eggs and meat in their diet.

He also dedicates a section of his book to the right method of toasting bread.

Therefore, it is clear that many of these food items were still new to the book’s middle-class patrons. And this novelty perhaps also left some space for minor manipulations and certain inaccuracies went unchallenged.

But there’s no denying the unmistakable cosmopolitanism of Mistanna Pak and Mukhopadhyay’s efforts towards globalising the Bengali palate long before globalisation became a buzzword.

Dhiren is a journalism graduate with a passion for gaming, watching films and sports. He also enjoys cooking from time to time. His motto is to “Live life one day at a time.”

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