Story and Photos by Lisa Barker
If you’ve eaten a memorable slice of either cheesecake or carrot cake in Rochester, the odds are extremely good that it originated at Cheesy Eddie’s. This locally beloved bakeshop opened in 1976, selling cheesecake made from a favorite family recipe.
Current owners John and Colleen Baker bought the business in 2004, after a 13-year love affair with the desserts from their favorite bakeshop. Their last name may have made this seem like an obvious move, but as Colleen jokes, the two are not as big on baking as it might suggest.
“Neither of us do a lot of baking or decorating,” says Colleen, who would rather cook main-course type dishes. “But we love the end result from people who do!”
There were not many necessary changes to be made, say the couple. The recipes that came with the bakery were winning and distinct to begin with. As their name indicates, they’ve become the area’s premier cheesecake makers, with a dizzying list of varieties.
Their selections include a basic vanilla, an array of swirled, blended and infused varieties, and, for the adventurous, their “over-the-top” cheesecake line, which offers decadent creations. The key lime infusion is a customer favorite that has also made it into their cupcake lineup. The apple caramel streusel cheesecake, for which apples are dramatically sautéed in brandy over the stove, is another standout. They even have a carrot cake cheesecake, for those looking to get the best of both worlds all in one bite. After all, they are equally known, if not more so, for their carrot cake.
“It’s really interesting—even with the name of the bakery being what it is, people call us and ask if we sell anything other than carrot cake,” says Colleen. So what exactly is it that makes their carrot-infused treats the best in town? For one, they don’t skimp on natural ingredients. For every batch of carrot cake batter, 36 pounds of fresh carrots are peeled and ground. Carrots themselves make up about a third of the recipe, which accounts for the extra moistness of the finished cake.
Cheesy Eddie’s employee Lisa Trybushas has been the primary carrot processor for the last two years, and usually does two batches at once which means that two to three times a week, she peels 72 pounds of carrots, which takes about two hours from start to finish.
“What people like is that they are really just like the carrot cakes you would make at home—from scratch,” says Trybushas. “You only need a third-grade education to read our ingredients list.” They’ve encountered and converted many the customer who’s claimed not to like carrot cake—until they tried a Cheesy Eddie’s slice, that is. Carrot-centric wedding cakes have become popular with their customers as well.
Some of their innovations over the years have included the introduction of both a sugar-free and a gluten-free cheesecake.
Baking cheesecake sans gluten, John notes, is easier than some other recipes—they just leave off the crust. They also began making smaller servings available, such as individual slices and, of course, cupcakes. They also created the Jillian’s Delight—a treat comprised of two oatmeal cookies held together by a thick dollop of cream cheese frosting. Named for the couple’s niece, who requested frosting on her cookies during after-school time at the bakery, they’ve become a renowned sensation.
Cheesy Eddie’s does a booming wholesale business, with desserts carried at locations throughout Rochester, and beyond.
They also offer a cozy café area for in-house dining. “Sometimes we get calls asking if we have carrot cakes in-house or if we just do wholesales. I tell them there would be rioting in the streets if we didn’t have carrot cakes on hand,” Colleen notes.
In a recent citywide carrot cake tasting competition, carried out by a young professional’s organization, the final two contestants turned out to both be Cheesy Eddie’s.
“We won first and second place in that one,” John jokes.
Their baked goods are so widely available that they have sometimes had funny results. When they were first starting out as bakery owners, the Bakers had friends visit from out of town. When the visiting couple arrived, they presented their hosts with a very familiar loaf of pumpkin chocolate-chip bread, raving about the amazing bakery it was sourced from—
which turned out to be, of course, none other than Cheesy Eddie’s.
“We are really a small, family company at heart,” says Colleen, who loves the familiar neighborhood setting that
being located in the eccentric, bustling South Wedge provides.
That hasn’t stopped them from aiming high, though. This year’s food-centric Super Bowl bet caught the company’s attention. Had the New York Giants lost, Governor Cuomo would have sent 46 cheesecakes from famed Brooklyn bakery Junior’s to Massachusetts Governor, Deval Patrick.
Instead, as it played out, Cuomo was the recipient of several dozen cases of clam chowder and pies from The Bay State.
Colleen took the opportunity to call up the Governor herself.
“I just wanted to let him know that you don’t have to live in New York City to get good cheesecake!” Perhaps the bakery can expect such a visitor someday soon.
602 South Avenue, Rochester; 585.473.1300; cheesyeddies.com
900 Jefferson Road, Building 21
Rochester, NY 14623
Lisa Barker is a freelance writer and photographer in Rochester.