Secret Recipe: Contra’s Pistachio Cheesecake with Rhubarb

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Even the most avid restaurant-goers stay in to cook every once in a while.

Instead of relying on basic recipes or old standards, wouldn’t you rather make exceptional fare from your favourite restaurants? Dishes you order time and again because they’re that good? Meals you want to replicate at home, but have no idea where to start?

Say hello to new series Secret Recipe, where Toronto’s top chefs reveal their closely guarded, drool-inducing recipes for you to recreate at home.

Before you know it, you’ll have a roster of cult-faves and crowd-pleasing items that can otherwise only be found in our very best restaurants, cafes, bars, and hotels. 

Don’t be surprised if you suddenly want to stay in and cook tonight…


First up: Contra’s Gluten-Free Pistachio Cheesecake with Rhubarb. 

There’s a lot to love about Contra Café in the west-end.  

Both a hidden gem (it’s on a side street in a residential neighbourhood) and favoured spot for local gourmands and celebrities (Rachel McAdams is rumoured to be a fan of the pastries), it’s a must-visit. 

The light-filled minimalist space designed by an award-winning architect is certainly Insta-worthy. While the backdrop is  stunning, customers are here for the coffee (Contra’s own locally-roasted blend) and fresh from-scratch pastries and baked goods. And for prices much lower than those chain coffee shops you’ve been frequenting. 

Pastry chef and manager Zoe Atkinson bakes delectable from-scratch fare, using fresh and local ingredients wherever possible. Some items and ingredients change with the season – freshly picked plums, peaches, rhubarb and apples make frequent appearances – so visit often to try them all.

You’ll find an array of gluten-free selections (Raspberry Friand $3.25) and vegan options (Chocolate Chip Cookie $1.60; Even Healthier Granola Bar $3). For those craving a more indulgent treat, look to her rich, but not too sweet Salted Caramel Brownie ($2.35), and mouth-watering Chocolate Almond Bread Pudding ($3.75).

Want something savoury or more substantial? Choose from an Apple Gruyere Scone ($3.25) and  variety of fresh croissant sandos, including the new Breakfast Cup ($4.10) featuring baked-in egg, smoked ham, cheddar and chives.

Cheesecake - available on weekends -is wildly popular here and changes all the time. Whether it’s a brownie base, shortbread crust, or different fruit toppings, there’s always something exciting to try.

Currently, the creamy, tangy dessert boasts a rich pistachio and almond crust, with fresh, sweet slightly tart rhubarb on top, finished with toasted pistachios. It’s also gluten-free.

Try it at the café, bring it home, or make it in your very own kitchen. Whatever you decide, you’re going to love it. And want another slice ASAP.


Contra’s Gluten-Free Pistachio Cheesecake with Rhubarb

Makes 6 individual cheesecakes

**Recommend using a silicone muffin tin


1 egg white
90g pistachios
20g ground almonds
50g sugar
pinch of salt


Whip egg white until foamy.
Grind pistachios, almonds, sugar and salt in a food processor. 
Fold mixture into egg white.
Divide equally into muffin tin and flatten mixture.
Bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes.


250g cream cheese
75g sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
65g whipping cream
1 lemon, zested


Whip cream cheese with sugar using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer.
Add eggs and egg yolk one at a time.
Add whipping cream and lemon zest.
Pour over base and bake at 350F for 20-25min.


1 cup fresh or frozen rhubarb chopped with 1/3 cup sugar, stewed together
Toasted pistachios to garnish


Contra Café
1028 Shaw St. (Dupont & Shaw)

Mon to Fri  7:30am - 6pm
Sat + Sun  8am - 6pm

p.s. Did you know you can pre-order pastries for your next get-together or weekend brunch? Email and they’ll put together an array of tasty treats for your next fête.