When I walked into Five Elephant the other day and ordered a piece of cheesecake with my morning cappuccino, I was assured that I hadn’t been the first customer that day who asked for it; it appears to be the talk of the town. Bite by bite, sip by sip, I realized why the 15-minute walk from the closest U-Bahn station was worth it; this quiet slice of Kreuzberg sweetness is something to be cherished.
Compared to the delicious cheesecake I once had at New York’s famous Carnegie Deli, this cream filling was still rich, but slightly lighter. The staff told me that was because New York-style is made with sour cream, whereas the Philadelphia-style served at Five Elephant is cream cheese based.
This ingredient was the only one they would reveal to me when I started asking about the story behind what might be Berlin’s best cheesecake; the owner’s grandmother developed and perfected the recipe for years, and Five Elephant‘s staff are keeping quiet about just what makes her cheesecake so damn good. No wonder that customers have already started to make their own assumptions about just what the recipe entails, just what the special ingredient is: some taste a hint of coconut, while others — like me — think that there must be some caramel in it, which would only add to the crust’s crunch, but we’ll never know…
What we do know is that Five Elephant roasts their own coffee in the back of the shop, a proud member of Berlin’s third-wave coffee scene and also sells it to other well-known cafés in the city, such as Aunt Benny.
The smell of freshly roasted beans only adds to the distinctive atmosphere at Five Elephant. The Austro-American team behind it selected a minimal menu with sweets like banana bread and bagels and the international background of the café can be seen with a world map hanging on every wall.
With laptop owners banned from the front room, large groups of friends sit down at the spacious tables over some of the homemade cheesecake and a freshly roasted cup. If you pay attention, you’ll notice after a while that there’s a murmur in the air; they’re actually talking to each other.