But the toasty aroma, with hints of rose, pepper and honey, quickly infuse the cheese. Next up, he squeezes in some fresh vanilla from beans imported from Madagascar. And then he adds the real jaw-dropper: white truffles from Alba, a town in Italy’s Piedmont region.
Truffles are typically more at home on pasta than cheesecakes. And Alba truffles, sniffed out of the Italian countryside by specially trained dogs, are the diamonds of the truffle world. They typically sell for more than $4,000 a pound, but because of bad weather they’re especially expensive this year. A trio of Albas weighing less than 2 pounds sold for $85,000 this month to a Hong Kong buyer.
As he slices into the Alba truffle, I ask the chef if he realizes people will think he’s crazy.
“Of course, white truffle in a cheesecake? I think I’m crazy,” he said.
Ronca then adds a few more flavorings, like citrus, and of course a sprinkling of gold flakes, and sets it aside. The crust forgoes the usual graham crackers in favor of a layer made from homemade Italian biscotti. The chef uses his grandmother’s biscotti recipe to create a much better crust for such a complex filling. He then spreads on a layer of freshly ground hazelnuts and rich melted chocolate, making a kind of millionaire’s Nutella.
On top of the biscotti and hazelnut-chocolate mixture, Ronca pours the cheese mixture. He then bakes it for an hour. After it cools down, he adds a block of fresh honeycomb on the top that serves as a platform for a giant chocolate “RR” logo (for Rafele Ristorante) covered in gold leaf that Ronca adds the top. For the finale, he tops it with lighted sparklers.
The cake officially made the Guinness Book of World Records for the most expensive cheesecake ever made. It takes five days to prepare, since the ingredients need to be flown in fresh from Europe and Africa.
Rafele Ristorante is already famous for its regular cheesecake, which sells for $9 per slice. But the chef decided to take it to another level after sitting down with one of his clients who wanted to do something super special for his mother. Hence, the world’s most expensive cheesecake was born.
“It’s the most expensive, and the best,” he said.
Of course, what matters is taste right?
After lopping off a piece, I took my first forkful of a cake that cost $450 per slice, or around $90 per bite.
I wish I could say it was a waste of money. I wish I could say that all that truffle and cognac and vanilla and gold made for a level of epicurean opulence impossible to actually stomach.
I wish I could say I’d take a $6 slice of Junior’s Classic Cheesecake any day of the week over Ronca’s. But I can’t. Because the world’s most expensive cheesecake is also the best. Or at least the best I’ve had.