Cheesecake Heaven built its reputation on its decadent and unique cheesecake flavors – red velvet Oreo, Neopolitan cheesecake, coconut meringue cheesecake, Miami vice cheesecake (piña colada and strawberry), unicorn cheesecake, chocolate cheesecake, Paradise Island cheesecake (papaya, coconut and pineapple with coconut cream sauce), butter pecan cheesecake, breakfast of champions (blueberry poptart, Fruity Pebbles and Froot Loops), carrot cake Oreo cheesecake, chocolate hazelnut cheesecake, white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, Hennessy and brownie cheesecake with Hennessy infused chocolate ganache…you get the idea. Their flavor list seems to be unending.
But over the course of the year, Cheesecake Heaven proprietor Jameel Lightbourn has expanded his naughty offerings, tempting patrons with the likes of bread pudding stuffed with cream cheese and topped with a whipped guava duff sauce and his cheesecake-stuffed donuts. And he didn’t stop there with the decadence – fried cheesecake and fried ice cream have also been added to the already indulgent menu.
Knowing that he doesn’t skimp on ingredients for his admittedly full-fat desserts, Lightbourn also opted to temper his menu with the addition of lighter, healthier meal options with salads (salmon, chicken and vegan) as well as sandwiches (oven-roasted ham, oven-roasted turkey breast and salmon).
Essentially, Lightbourn gives you options on any given day to decide whether you want to be naughty or nice, or both.
“The reason we decided to add salads to the menu is because we have full-fat desserts – no skimping on ingredients – so instead of just offering strictly dessert, we wanted to add a light, healthy meal option where someone could not only have dessert, but have lunch too. And that’s when we decided that we would do a full raw salad, along with grilled meat options – chicken and salmon, as well as an in-house-made hummus.”
The seriously generous-portioned raw salad comprises a heaping mound of greens topped with roasted asparagus, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), avocado wedge, spiraled beets and carrots with plum tomatoes. You can top it with a protein of choice – grilled salmon or chicken, which are topped, or a scoop of hummus with micro greens. All of the salads are served with a house-made Vidalia onion and poppy seed vinaigrette and a grilled lemon half, which adds a subtle, smoky flavor when spritzed on food; and they look cool too!
While the salads have been akin to a secret menu item for most of the year, they’ve most recently added their baguette/hoagie sandwiches featuring ham and turkey breast as well as salmon on bread that’s baked in store, as well as ham and turkey breast roasted in-house, which has become a central theme for Lightbourn as he seeks to maintain control on the quality of the foods that he prepares, ensuring quality, consistency and flavor day-to-day.
“The salads went over so well, but you always have some people who, no matter how big or filling a salad is, they still want to have bread or a sandwich item, so we decided on the addition of the sandwiches. But to maintain quality, we roast our ham and turkey breast ourselves; we don’t use any processed meats and make a fresh sandwich that is filling, fresh and unique to us, especially with the sauces.”
The salmon sandwich is served with a tangy caper aioli. The turkey and ham sandwiches are served with a sauce that Lightbourn won’t reveal, but that has a hint of sweet.
Salads and sandwiches are only served on weekdays at Cheesecake Heaven. On the weekend, Lightbourn cuts loose and “knocks it out of the ballpark” with the cheesecake-stuffed items that have been added to his already naughty list.
Bread pudding is a delightful dessert by itself, but Lightbourn stepped up its decadence when he stuffed it with cheesecake, which, when served warm with a dollop of his whipped guava duff sauce, is absolutely sinful.
“Bread pudding is just bread pudding. When you hear bread pudding you know what to expect, but we’re always thinking outside the box, so we took bread pudding, took the guava duff sauce, took the cheesecake and combined it all into one. Each slice of the bread pudding has a cheesecake filling. No matter what slice you get – from corner to corner, you get cheesecake.”
And he’s not sharing the secret to how he gets the cheesecake into his bread pudding either.
Then, there’s the cheesecake-stuffed donuts – a fluffy yeast-raised donut stuffed with cheesecake and dusted in sugar, because who doesn’t like to lick sugar off their fingertips while enjoying a warm, cheesecake-stuffed donut?
The indulgence continues with his fried ice cream and fried cheesecakes – both that have been staples in the dessert world for many years, but which Lightbourn is ensuring continues to get its just due.
Bread pudding is available daily at Cheesecake Heaven.
The stuffed donuts, fried ice cream and fried cheesecakes are only available on weekends.
Buyer beware: just like the salads and sandwich offerings, Lightbourn’s dessert portion sizes are generous, to say the least.
Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.