Bite of Bliss

Photographs: contributed

It started with baklava. Anthoula Pantoz had been making it for years for her family’s restaurant, but when the restaurant was sold around the same time, The Cheesecake Factory in Westport closed, Pantoz saw an opportunity. What if she married the fun, over-the-top cake decorating style she was seeing on social media, to the best homemade cheesecakes? The Banging Baklava was born.

Today the Westport resident is baking and decorating a growing selection of trendy and traditional cheesecakes out of a professional kitchen in Norwalk (owned by Rebel Daughter Cookies). They are available for pickup and delivery (

Cheesecake is sensitive. To create a light creamy texture, the custard is gently baked in a hot water bath, then cooled in an ice bath. Pantoz and her husband, Chef Hercules of Southport Diner, tested many recipes before discovering the right balance for their New York–style cakes (the secret: a bit of Greek yogurt lightens the cream cheese). The result is a smooth filling that isn’t too dense.

left: Fab Ferrerro, the most popular trendy cake. right: Strawberry Glaze is the most popular traditional cake

Strawberry Glaze is the most popular traditional cake. Fab Ferrerro, a chocolate-hazelnut cheesecake decorated with an explosion of European chocolate-hazelnut confections and crisp chocolate-covered wafers, is the most popular trendy cake.

New on the menu is the Basque Burnt, a crustless (gluten-free) cheesecake cooked at a high temperature just long enough to rise and form caramelized sides and top. After baking, the puffy top sinks invitingly. It needs no decoration.

The ten-inch cakes serve twelve to sixteen people, the eight-inch serve eight to ten—plus, the cakes freeze well. Four-inch mini cakes are also popular for parties. When Pantoz appears at pop-ups, she often sells the cakes by the slice. “I love the interaction with the customers,” she says, “I missed that after my parents sold the restaurant”—Atlantic Pizza in Stamford. She also will bake to order and offers an invaluable tip on how to slice a cheesecake (dip the knife in a glass of hot water before slicing).

Decorating is her other favorite part of The Cheesecake Collection. Her creativity has been unleashed. “My teenage daughters say, ‘Wow, Mom, that looks really great!’ ”


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