When Jay Wilson, a concert promoter with Red Mountain Entertainment, had to cancel the 2020 shows he’d booked, he found himself with a lot of time — and a sweet new purpose.
It all began last March when his wife made him a homemade cheesecake for his birthday. He’d always loved the New York-style cheesecake found at Carnegie Deli in the Big Apple, and wanted to recreate it.
“After eating the cheesecake I had on my birthday, I realized I wanted to learn how to make one,” Wilson says. “After a few days of trial and error, I nailed the process and the idea of Jay’s Cheesecakes was born.”
But Wilson didn’t want to just make cheesecakes for fun. He wanted to do something that would give back to his colleagues in the entertainment industry who had been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The live concert industry shut down March 13, 2020, and there were a lot of support staff that suddenly found themselves out of work,” Wilson says. “We created the CAKES FOR CREW FUND as a way for the sales of Jay’s Cheesecakes to be given to crew folks around the Southeast who were negatively affect by COVID and the concert business grinding to a halt.”
So far, that fund has been able to give about $24,000 to the cause. Although the donations are private, Wilson says they’ve received phone calls and letters from people all over the South who have appreciated the support.
“We have been able to help some people pay their rent, buy groceries,” Wilson says. “During the holidays we even were able to help a few families buy Christmas gifts.”
And it’s not just the cause that’s good.
“From day one, the recurring comment [from customers] has been that it is the best cheesecake they’ve ever had,” Wilson says. “The driving force of what has happened over the last year all comes back to how delicious the cheesecake is. The word of mouth is really unbelievable.”
The light and fluffy cheesecake features a graham cracker crust and can be purchased in 4-inch, 7-inch, and 10-inch options ($12-$50). The cheesecakes are handmade in small batches using real cream cheese, fresh eggs, Madagascar vanilla, sugar, butter and lemon zest.
“Some people say the crust is the best part,” Wilson says.
You can order cheesecakes online for nationwide shipping. If you’re local to the Birmingham area, you can find cheesecake by the slice at Saw’s Juke Joint in Crestline and The Lumbar in Lakeview. At the end of this month, Piggly Wiggly grocery stores in Homewood, Crestline, and River Run will begin carrying the cheesecakes.
“We have been shipping cheesecakes all across the U.S., which really blows our minds,” Wilson says. “We are just taking it week by week.”