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Shopped: Cheesecake revisited

Heather Smith savours the sweet flavours of Dafna's, all of them...

Published on September 20th 2010.

Shopped: Cheesecake revisited
Dafna's Cheesecake Factory
240 Smithdown Road
L15 5AH
0151 733 7808

The history: Anne Lev is well known for producing her very own wares of the naughtiest but nicest order at this Victorian-style pudding palace opposite the Brook House pub, and she has been doing so for an impressive 31 years.

Back in the midsts of time (1973), Liverpool schoolteacher Anne found herself tasting a particularly special cheesecake in Chicago. She was travelling with her husband, Yacob, a ship’s captain. Returning to Britain, where Arctic Roll was still the pud du jour, Anne tried to recreate the rare and ritzy, transatlantic taste of baked cheesecake that had so tickled and invaded her buds.

The ancient history: In the days before gold, silver and bronze medals, the Greeks served a cheesecake of sorts to the first Olympians back in 776BC. Ever willing to nick a good idea and bored with popularising pizzas and spa treatments, the Romans went even further and established the dish across Europe. It was the Jewish people, however, who perfected the recipe and introduced it to America over centuries of migration.

Not to be confused with: Unbaked “cheesecake”, which is loosely knocked together with jelly and chilled, and which hasn't been a trendy dessert since Marathon bars, which, in turn, are not to be confused with the drinking places of Ancient Greek athletes.

Oh no, Dafna's efforts stick to the roof of your mouth and are all about sturdy digestive biscuit bases layered with a thick mix of cream cheese, eggs, sugar and a topping and chucked in an oven. No fancy ingredients and no additives, this is cholesterol planet, Chicago (or should that be Philadelphia?) style meets Smithdown.

Then what happened? Anne Lev’s cheesecake for her son’s bar mitzvah was deemed such a success that word got about in south Liverpool circles, with the recipe becoming highly sought after.

Realising that the few places that did sell cheesecake didn’t sell very good ones, Anne began supplying local delis. When she could no longer meet the demand baking at home and delivering 100 cheesecakes a day in her Mini, Dafna's Cheesecake Factory was born. Apart from a considerable front-of-house presence in the tiny emporium, a total of 12 people are involved in the kitchen, Dafna's bakers' dozen.

Who buys it? “I don't advertise. I don't need to, ” says Anne, 75 this year. The delectable word of stuffed mouth and Anne’s own enjoyment of her job have been strong enough to secure Dafna's as one of the region's favourite cakeries for a couple of generations.

Consistent rave reviews have prompted the likes of FACT, Rubato at the Philharmonic, The Quarter, Coffee Union, Rococo, Moose Coffee (the list goes on) to approach Anne, desperate for supplies.

Even though it is situated in the heart of student land, old and young regularly travel far and wide for the magic. Such

is the fabled cheesecake's reach that staff are not unfamiliar with the process of packaging them up for air freight.

Indeed, they are not the only things getting “carried away”. On one US travel website you are urged: “Get great deals on hotels near Dafna's Cheesecake Factory!” Ahem.

What if you don't like cheesecake, or have a phobia or something? Soon after settling in to Smithdown, Anne began experimenting with new cake recipes and local ladies would drop in, offering their suggestions. The shop today boasts riches to leave you open-mouthed upon entry.

Aside from the Liverpool Tart (£1) a Liver bird-embossed recipe dating back to 1897, Heather spotted chocolate fudge layer, moist ginger, pecan and sticky toffee, orange and raspberry cakes, all before Anne had made her way from the back office/baking area to greet her.

The name and quaint appearance of the shop are reminiscent of a Roald Dahl novel although Dafna (a Hebrew name) does not translate as “Cheesecake” but actually means “Laurel tree”.

Beside the cherry, strawberry, lemon, blueberry, sticky toffee, chocolate Bailey's or plain cheesecakes, carrot cake is the best-seller, according to Anne.

Of this, one member of Dafna's Cheesecake Factory Appreciation Society on Facebook remembers “the carroty, nuttiness- Mmmmm- what a cake!” Another excited customer admits she’d “sell her soul” for a slice of the Apple and Prune.

More reasons to shop at....? A handful of home-baked frozen veggie meals, mushroom and onion, spinach, pepper and Gruyère quiches; soups come in green pea and mint, tomato and leek and potato. Beetroot, mango and apple also feature among a wealth of chutneys and sauces.

How much is all this going to cost? Anything from £2,50 for a small cheesecake up to £8.35 for a biggun.

The future: No one is going anywhere, at least not without a cheesecake. “We are bucking the recession,” says Annie who works for Anne. “People want a slice of something nice to cheer them up, to treat themselves.”

Result? Unable to settle on a single cake, Heather's eye caught the immensely popular “Dafna’s Selection Box,” which packs in a variety of six.

“Tucking in to the luxuriously rich chocolate fudge brownie, I was coming to terms with the fact that I’d be hopping on the 86 more often when Dad responded “Wow” to his tangy-but-sweet, moist-yet-light orange and blueberry slab. 'Is there any more of this?' he said.”

Heather's mum, meanwhile, managed an extended 'Mmmmm' while polishing off her particularly zingy iced lemon slice and...”

(Unexpected result:) “...my sister's waters broke while devouring her generous wedge of nutty carrot cake.”

Verdict? Welcome to the pudding club.


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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Tricky WooFebruary 17th 2009.

A Capital of Custard slice?

Professor CheesebuttyFebruary 17th 2009.

I was sitting in the public library on Allerton Road, skimming through Rogue Herries by Hugh Walpole, and I suddenly came over all peckish. And I thought to myself, 'a little fermented curd will do the trick'. So I curtailed my Walpoling activites, sallied forth, to infiltrate this place of purveyance to negotiate the vending of some cheesy comestibles. Unfortunately it was shut so I went to Sayers for a custard slice.

Lorenzo DriveFebruary 17th 2009.

A burlesque dancer's pasty?

MindyFebruary 17th 2009.

I thought this splendid old shop had moved elsewhere because they were getting fed up with buses driving in through the window?

David TasseltoffeeFebruary 17th 2009.

With extra sauce Lorenzo

Pop TartMay 2nd 2011.

My Aunty Tricia did the most beautiful water colour of the front of the shop when it originally opened, I don't know if she knew Anne or not? We have a postcard copy of it somewhere.......

1 Response: Reply To This...
Anne LevDecember 26th 2012.

Just found your posting. Most interesting. We knew nothing about it. Any more information? Might be worth a cheesecake (or two or three...).
Anne Lev (aka Dafna)

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