Cheesecake overload: Masse’s versus Reuschelle’s

    I wish I could be like Hikaru, eating 20 cakes in 3.5 hours. Then I could go to cake shops like Masse, ask for every beauty of the day and not worry about missing out on any flavor. Wouldn’t life be so sweet then?

    But maybe I don’t have to be like Hikaru. Minus the pastries and the cookies, Masse has only about 10 cakes on display, most of them are available in small size (because they don’t sell by the slices like Crixa Cakes); if I skip dinner and invite a friend, we could easily bring down all of them in one sitting, don’t you think? Danielle and I tried only two this time, though. Five bucks each, round and pretty and screaming “Got your spoon ready?”

    The mocha walnut chocolate cake was a fun little one: I thought about peeling off its white, woody patterned wrapper but it turned out the wrapper was white chocolate. 😀 The caramelized walnut base proved a mild and coarse complement to the thick, creamy layers of dark chocolate cake, chocolate Bavarian cream and espresso mousse. Its richness is complemented by its stark coffee flavor. Just now, I realize the cake looks like a cup of coffee with two stirring straws. 🙂

    But the main reason we came here was the cheesecake. The soft, subtly briny ricotta is wrapped up in a coat of hazelnut shavings and topped with a refreshing guava glaze. The glaze actually tastes too sweet and too fruitily generic to be guava, though. Regardless, when I combined a spoon of cheesecake with a spoon of mocha cake, I saw fireworks just like Remy.

    A few days later…

    I found out about Reuschelle’s. Victor Reuschelle says “[his cheesecake (I think)] is like heaven on a fork!”. I think it’s pretty heavenly that he offers delivery for free within 20 miles of the East Bay (in fact, there’s no physical store to visit).

    Reuschelle’s Cheesecake is a one-man operation: Victor receives order via phone or email, Victor makes the cake, Victor delivers. Victor says ordering 4 days in advance would be best, but he makes exceptions based on what he has and what his schedule looks like. I ordered yesterday afternoon and the cheesecakes arrived this morning. The best deal is the 4-flavor sample of four 3-inch cheesecakes for $20, and unlike sampler plates in restos, you get to pick the flavors from a thousand choices on Reuschelle’s list. Okay, so it’s 57, but Victor says custom made is no problemo.

    Clockwise from top left: Red Velvet, Original, Raspberry Lemonade, and Sweet Potato. I had my reasons for such picks. I wanted the original cheesecake flavor the way I want the original pho brought straight from the kitchen to the table, unadulterated by sauces or herbs. The red velvet is a playing-safe choice because it has chocolate. I haven’t seen sweet potato flavor in desserts. Raspberry and lemonade sound tart enough to temper the cheese.

    Heaven forbids, these cheesecakes are no joke to get tempered by fruits. The Sweet Potato is a twin of the country pumpkin pie. The raspberry hint is stronger than the lemonade hint, but neither can emerge from the dense, creamy grasp of the cheese. The cocoa in the Red Velvet? Got lost. They’re good cheesecakes, but they’re all the same.

    At Masse, North Shattuck, Berkeley. What happened to the boy's pants?

    Thinking back, I’ve come across Reuschelle’s bites at Ghiradelli Square chocolate festival last September. He just started his business a few months before that. I like Victor’s casual friendliness, his delivery option, and his thrive for varieties, but if I must compare Masse’s one cheesecake with Reuschelle’s four, Masse’s wins. The fruit glaze makes the cake more dessert-like and less cheese-tray like, the hazelnut shavings break the textural homogeneity. The prices? Reuschelle’s a bit steeper, but you get the cake at your door.

    And no, I couldn’t finish 4 mini 3″ cheesecakes in one sitting. Ninety percent of them are hanging out with the spinach and the pork chops in my fridge. Would you like some?

    Address: Masse’s Pastries
    1469 Shattuck Avenue (across the street from Safeway)
    Berkeley, CA 94709
    (510) 649-1004

    No-address: Reuschelle’s Cheesecake (aka Victor Reuschelle)
    Telephone: (510) 219-2997

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