This is Matthew Kaplan. A native New Yorker, former aircraft painter and baker supreme, he also goes by the name… The Cheesecake Guy.
And he’s about to start serving up authentic New York-style cheesecakes in the very heart of old York.
Opening in the next few days on Shambles, his shop will dish up cream cheese bagels alongside luscious sweet treats, just like those you’d get in the Big Apple.
Having traded online for several years, his first bricks-and-mortar shop will be based in the former home of Lunch Box on Shambles. As soon as it came available Matthew knew it was perfect, and snapped it up.
So what can customers expect? “We’re going to keep it simple,” he said. “We’re doing American baked cheesecakes.
“And Street Lane Bakery in Leeds are making us fresh bagels. So it’s cheesecakes, fresh bagels, and bagels with cream cheese, plus coffee.”
He is a big fan of the Street Lane bagels. “My wife and I, we always joke that English bagels are just brown bread.
“I went in there, and I was like, wow, these bagels look really authentic – close to what you would find in the States.”
And the cream cheese is Yorkshire too – from Longley Farm, Holmfirth.
‘It’s a massive difference’
Matthew bakes his cheesecakes in the American way. “I’ve converted a lot of people from eating non-baked cheesecake to baked cheesecake,” he says.
“It is a massive difference. Baked cheesecake is much more dense. It’s not as sweet.
“It’s got more tanginess to it, because of the sour cream that you can add to it.”
In the shop, he’ll sell cheesecakes from cupcake size up to nine inches. “Everything is made fresh,” he told YorkMix. “Everything is going to be baked in the shop.”
Popular flavours on his online shop include biscoff, white chocolate raspberry and Crunchie.
He may also open early to serve breakfasts.
Despite opening on Shambles, he has no plans to produce butterbeer cheesecake – or anything else inspired by Harry Potter.
“There’s a place for everything. And it works – that’s what tourists want. I just don’t want Harry Potter to take over.
“I’m proud to maybe diluting it a little bit. Bringing something different – the Americans are moving in!”
Matthew’s grandfather ran a bakery in New York. But his dad didn’t go into the family business, and Matthew went on to do a whole host of other things – from serving in the US military to painting aircrafts.
But perhaps baking was always in his DNA. Because when he baked his first ever cheesecake – as his donation to a ‘pot luck’ feast at work – it was an instant hit.
Suddenly friends and colleagues were asking him to make them cheesecakes – “and it seemed to go from there. It just steamrolled”.
Matthew’s family moved to Miami when he was nine, and he met his wife Elizabeth in Florida. She is from Leeds, and they honeymooned in England, stopping off at York.
They loved it so much, they moved here six years ago. And three years later Matthew started his own online cheesecake business.
“The first lockdown benefited The Cheesecake Guy,” he said. “Because everyone was at home and had nothing to do but eat – order food and takeaways and stuff.
“And it just ballooned. Almost within a week orders just went through the roof.”
Now he’s ready to take the next step and trade from his Shambles shop. He can’t wait: “I’m super excited to be here, and I’m looking forward to having that window open and just shoving samples in people’s faces!”