Published January 13, 2012 - Last Updated January 22, 2021
I love “The Golden Girls.” Who doesn’t? It’s one of the greatest sitcoms in the history of television, right up there with “I Love Lucy” and “All in the Family.” “The Golden Girls” has a magical quality about it that just makes you feel good. No matter how tough my week has been, or how tired or stressed or bummed I might feel, I can always count on “The Golden Girls” to lift me out of my funk. The characters feel like old friends… Bea Arthur as Dorothy, with her sharp wit and deadpan humor… Rue McClanahan as Blanche, flouncing around with her Southern charm and sassy sexuality… Estelle Getty as Sophia, with her uncensored one liners and tall Sicilian tales…and Betty White as Rose, my favorite character of all. Rose’s wide-eyed innocence, her gullible nature, and her wild St. Olaf stories never fail to make me smile. People like to say Rose is dumb, but I actually think she’s the smartest of the bunch. Her eternal optimism is contagious.
It’s Betty White’s 90th birthday on January 17. I wanted to celebrate this fabulous lady, and one of my favorite shows in the history of TV, by baking a dessert that came up over 100 times throughout the course of the series– cheesecake. But not just any cheesecake. I wanted to bake the ultimate Golden Girls Cheesecake, a delicious confection that would be worthy of the Golden Girls name. I wanted a cake that reflects the series on a symbolic level, a cake that tastes as good as the Golden Girls makes me feel. And I had no idea where to start.
The Golden Girls team. From left: Paul Junger Witt, Susan Harris, Estelle Getty, Rue McClanahan, Bea Arthur, Betty White, Tony Thomas
I was fortunate to get an interview with the show’s creator, Susan Harris. Susan produced and wrote many classic sitcoms in the late 70’s and 80’s including Benson, Empty Nest, Nurses, and Soap. She created “The Golden Girls” and wrote most of their early episodes. Susan liked the idea of recreating the cheesecake, though she admitted that she didn’t remember exactly why the dessert became a recurring plot point on the series.
“I do remember that when we did Soap, when the sisters would have their talks, it was always around the kitchen table with food. When you sit down with friends, what better place to gather than in the kitchen? So we probably thought about what we’d done on Soap and decided to make it a running thing on The Golden Girls.”
I asked Susan if she remembered where the cheesecakes on set came from, but she wasn’t sure. That meant I could get creative with my recipe, letting the story and characters influence it. I asked Susan if she imagined that the character of Sophia, who was born in Sicily, might have baked the cheesecakes. “That would be a good assumption,” she said. “And it would most definitely have a New York influence.”In their backstory, Sophia and Dorothy lived in Brooklyn, New York before moving to Miami.
The girls enjoying cheesecake. There were many flavors of cheesecake used in the series. This appears to be a lemon cheesecake with a vanilla ganache.
At the end of the interview, Susan gave me her blessing to create a Golden Girls cheesecake. “You can play. Get creative with the cheesecake, feel free!”
After the interview, my mom bought me the entire Golden Girls series on DVD for my birthday. My sister and I began watching Season 1 from the very beginning, waiting for the first mention of cheesecake to come up.
Side Note: Did you know the girls had a gay chef named Coco in the pilot episode?? Yeah, me neither.
Cheesecake didn’t come up until Episode 25, The Way We Met. Here’s the clip where the cake is first mentioned.
Rose describes this first cheesecake as a Double Fudge Chocolate Cheesecake. The girls ate cheesecake over a hundred times during the series, but this is the very first episode where the dessert is mentioned. Then I saw Season 4, Episode 23: The Rites of Spring. In this episode, Sophia finds out that she’s lost weight, dropping from 99 pounds to 98. She tries desperately to put that pound back on, downing copious amounts of pasta and baking her Petrillo family recipe for cheesecake:
My ears perked up. Double Fudge Amaretto Ricotta Cheesecake, a Petrillo family delicacy. Now that sounded amazing, and totally Golden Girls worthy!
I began to experiment in the kitchen. I started with a family friend’s collection of Italian recipes– Dr. Tedone and his late wife, Grace. The Tedones descend from Italian cheesemakers, and their family cookbook has a couple of different recipes for Ricotta Cheesecake. Italian and Sicilian cheesecake is very different from New York cheesecake; the Italian versions are more dry and cake-like. Taking Susan Harris’ advice to include a New York influence, I decided to add some cream cheese to the ricotta batter for a creamier texture. I added amaretto as a nod to Sophia’s Sicilian heritage, which gave the cake a wonderful depth of flavor. And because it’s a “Double Fudge” cheesecake, I created a rich layer of chocolate fudge on the bottom of the cake before topping it with the chocolate ricotta cream cheese batter.
The result? Holy moly. Amazing! A Double Fudge Amaretto Ricotta Cheesecake for the record books. This is the best cheesecake I’ve ever tasted. Seriously. The ultimate! Sophia would be proud.
Side Note: Did you know Bea Arthur hated cheesecake, and would fake eating it on camera because she couldn’t stand the taste? It’s amazing, the things you learn when writing a Golden Girls Cheesecake blog. 🙂
Bake this cake in honor of Betty White, or the Golden Girls, or just because it makes you smile. Happy birthday Betty White! Thank you for being a friend. 🙂
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
Thanks for stopping by! I am fascinated by the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the foods of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s food can inspire us in the kitchen today. Read more...