Celebritys turtle cheesecake
Celebritys low-carb Cheesecake Truffles are custom packaged for safe shipping.
Celebrity management (from left) Anita Phillips, John DeMars and Susan Bernstein send formulas to a laboratory for nutrition analysis.
Celebritys cheesecakes are baked for more than three hours at low temperatures and allowed to set overnight.
Long before "low carb" became the buzz of the baking industry, Susan Bernstein, co-owner of Celebrity Cheesecake Desserts & More in south Florida, saw a market niche in the making. Because the company jumped into the early phases of the trend, Celebritys low-carb (reduced-sugar and nosugar-added) cheesecake line today accounts for between 30 percent and 40 percent of the companys total $1.5 million in annual sales.
During the early 90s, few Americans cared much about carbcounting, Bernstein recalls. Even her business partner and mother Anita Phillips warned Bernstein that even if the low-carb craze caught on, it might prove to be a here-todaygone-tomorrow fad like so many other diet plans before it. But, it wasnt the growing popularity of the Atkins Diet that convinced the mother-daughter team to cut the carbs in their cheesecakes. Their reason was more personal.
"My dad had diabetes, so we wanted to create a rich and creamy cheesecake low enough in sugar and carbohydrates that he could enjoy," Bernstein explains. "We were the first company to successfully do that."
Based on the original formulas that had already turned Celebrity Cheesecake from a tiny home kitchen-based bakery into a booming wholesale business serving restaurants, hotels and country clubs in south Florida, Phillips developed several cheesecakes with 93 percent less sugar and 85 percent fewer carbohydrates than traditional versions. The only sugar comes from the natural lactose in the milk used in the production of cream cheese.
Targeting country clubs
After having the formulas analyzed by Miami's Mount Sinai Medical Center, Phillips and Bernstein took their nosugar-added cheesecakes to several local country clubs.
"The country clubs, in particular, were thrilled to be able to serve more than ice cream and Jell-O to their members," Bernstein says.
The cheesecakes, originally developed for diabetics, proved ideal for low-carb dieters as well. Today, Celebrity Cheesecake sells its products to low-carb specialty stores all over the United States. Celebritys top-selling items among the special dieters are its signature hand-dipped, three-carb "Imported White & Dark Chocolate Truffles." The miniature nosugaradded white chocolate-enhanced cheesecakes are enrobed in chocolate ganache.
The truffles also are a favorite of regular Celebrity Cheesecake retail customer Derek Rodriguez. As a fulltime fireman and sometime model, Rodriguez points out that he usually foregoes sweets because, "Im always in training."
"I tasted a truffle, and that was it," he says. "Now I buy them once a week for my family as well as for myself."
Another innovation is Celebrity's line of 3-oz., sugar-free, crustless cheesecakes, which contain four to six carbohydrates.
"Even though the crust adds only another half of a carb, customers requested these," Bernstein explains. "Between 30 to 40 percent of our lowcarb cheesecake sales are crustless."
Both the reduced-sugar and crustless cheesecakes come in at least 10 different flavors, including Classic (vanilla), Fruit-topped Key West Lime, Decaf Cappuccino and Chips & Chocolate. As Celebrity develops new cheesecake varieties, it sends its formulas to Kappa Laboratories of Miami for nutrition and labeling analysis for about $1,000. Set-up and production of labels for all product sizes within the new line costs Celebrity an additional $3,800.
Raspberry and pina colada are among the newest lowcarb selections. Chef/Production Manager John DeMars says he is also working on developing a low-carb brownie.
Combining its low-carb and regular lines, Celebrity produces more than 100 cheesecake flavors at its new 6,000-sq.-ft. wholesale/retail facility in Davie. The facility incorporates little automation to produce its cheesecakes, which are made-to-order for restaurant clients.
"We don't freeze our cheesecakes unless they're going out on a truck for long-distance delivery," Phillips says.
Customers can request nearly any flavor at any time, even if it is out of season. For example, pumpkin, eggnog, Mandarin orange or pistachio are not on the "everyday" list, but are always available upon request. For the sake of efficiency, however, the seven "batch" flavors, such as Strawberry Strawberry, Kahlua & Cream and Crðme Brulee, must be ordered in quantities of six for the 9-in. cake and twelve for the 6-in.
More gourmet cakes
In addition to cheesecakes, which account for 80 percent of total sales, Celebrity also produces "gourmet-style" cakes. Most gourmet cakes, such as Imported Belgium Chocolate Mousse, Classic Carrot and Raspberry Crðme, are available in 6- or 9-in. rounds or by the slice. Pie flavors include Kentucky-style Bourbon Pecan, Deep Dish Key West Key Lime and Southern-style Chocolate Mud Pie.
Wholesale accounts for about 90 percent of total sales. Celebritys 600-sq.-ft. retail shop has only been open since the company moved its production facility to Davie from its original location in Margate, about 16 miles away.
With a staff of 10 (four of whom are dedicated to production), Celebrity turns out an average of 4,000 cheesecakes per week. Production triples during holiday seasons. Competition, especially in the low-carb category, isnt a concern for Bernstein who explains that the time, effort and ingredients involved in baking cheesecakes make the product prohibitive for many in-house bakeries and other facilities to produce.
"Baking a cheesecake is a two-day process because it has to be baked for three-and-a-half hours at a low temperature, then left to set in its pan overnight," she says. "There are also so many nuance variations in the method, times and temperatures required for different batters if they contain chocolate, fruits or other additions."
Phillips points out that the only difference between Celebritys low-carb and regular cheesecakes is the substitution of Splenda or Nutra Sweet for sugar as well as the use of sugar-free chocolate chips and no-sugar-added fruits.
Research and development
Every year, DeMars develops five to ten new desserts. Flavors that work well together are expanded out into cheesecake, mousse cakes and often pie varieties. DeMars also is working on expanding the company's gourmet line to include breakfast items, such as Danish, croissants, muffins, strudels and cookies. "Because were open early and serve coffee, customers have asked for these items," Bernstein says.
The retail shop sells slices of cakes and pies from the twelve-foot-long display cases that stand in front of Celebrity's exhibition kitchen. Whole cakes and pies, which are finished and decorated to order, are pulled from refrigerated units in the back.
Wedge-shaped plastic containers hold single slices, or customers can create their own two-pack. For gift-giving, at-home entertaining or the ultimate in variety, Celebrity produces a "gift cake." The visually intriguing round is made up of two pieces each of seven cheesecake flavors and retails for $42.95.
Bernstein notes that demand is also soaring for the companys recently introduced "desserts for two."
"They're the hottest thing going with our upscale restaurant clients," she says.
Celebrity CHEESECAKE at a glance
Headquarters: Davie, Florida
Celebrity CHEESECAKE... a sampling of prices
Classic cheesecake, 9 ins., 56 ozs........$19
Turtle cheesecake, 9 ins., 64 ozs. ........ $26
Bourbon pecan cheesecake, 9 ins., 64 ozs. .........$26
Reduced-sugar cheesecake, 9 ins., 56 ozs. ...........$20
Kentucky-style bourbon pecan pie, 10 ins. ..............................$12.95
Crustless no-sugar-added cheesecake, 8 ins., 24 ozs. .............$10.50
Imported Belgium white and dark chocolate truffles, pkg. of six 3-oz. pieces .......$8.95
Chocolate mousse cake, 9 ins., 68 ozs. ....................................$28
Carrot cake, 9 ins., 96 ozs. ...................$28
Deep dish Key West lime pie, 10 ins., $14.95