To Bake or Not to Bake: Differences Between the Two Cheesecake Preparations
Cheesecake: It’s the one cake that you can willfully say “cheeeeese” to when it’s your special day — without things getting cheesy. Yet for every other calendar day, the treat makes just about any sweet tooth smile and dance.
And you’re probably salivating just at the thought of the delicious, decadent dessert. But you’ve also got some sticky questions. Namely, how should your cheesecake be prepared in the first place?
Oven versus fridge: There are two schools of thought on whether cheesecake should or should not be baked.
While you may have a stronger preference for one style over the other, or you simply love both, some things never change — and they’re the core components of every exquisite cheesecake.
Ingredient Differences Make a Difference
A cheesecake in the popular North American sense starts with a toasty graham cracker crust or a beautiful, buttery biscuit base. The remaining 95% — or 80% for those who adore a thicker biscuit foundation — of the completed iconic classic consists of a thick, creamy, and sweet cheese mixture.
What exactly goes into the rich filling, however, is what differentiates the two styles of preparation, besides the obvious difference in cooking methods. In particular, baked cheesecake always includes eggs in the filling, hence the role of the oven.
Conversely, with no heat at all involved, eggs need not be a part of the overall equation of the no-bake cheesecake. And since eggs do not feature in such recipes, the resultant structure and density are dialled down compared to their oven-baked counterparts.
In an egg nutshell — pardon the pun — proteins from both the yolk and the white help to provide structure and stability to what you’re baking. In the case of a baked New York-style cheesecake, where the rich density is the attraction, eggs aren’t preoccupied with a leavening job but a structural one.
This chemistry further underscores a textural difference between baked and unbaked cheesecakes. While both are certainly creamy and tasty in their own right, the latter will come out as fluffier and lighter with a mousse-like texture. The former will yet be firmer with the finish of a custard — thanks to the eggs and the heat.
Without any eggs in the picture of the no-bake types, the fridge rather works alone in setting the cheesecake. And since you can’t truly overbake in this way, not a whole lot can actually go wrong. And so, this benefit makes the no-bake cheesecake much more forgiving — beginner-friendly and hands-off, too.
Towards a Vegan-Friendly Dessert Sans Baking
What’s more, not only is the no-bake route friendly to traverse for novice bakers but also vegan ones. Because there aren’t, again, any eggs used, you’re free to explore the alternative likes of tofu, cashews, and even dairy-free cream cheese — perfectly designed for this dessert — to fulfill the filling.
Maybe you’re wondering how the no-bake cheesecake could possibly hold up without any eggs or cream cheese, for that matter. In most situations, coconut oil is often employed for this purpose: As a binding agent, the oil helps tie together the rest of the ingredients as everything solidifies together.
And because butter’s banned from the premises, a vegan cheesecake base — typically raw without being baked — would also call upon coconut oil to help keep the crust from otherwise falling apart. It’s pretty cool, right?
The Unbaked Version Comes with Benefits
On the topic of keeping things cool, a no-bake version is also a perfect solution for when your place already feels like an oven. On a hot summer’s day, you can simply turn to your trusty fridge for the baking magic, instead — a luxury that wasn’t around when the earliest version of the cheesecake was born.
And if you’re looking for a quick and easy dessert to bring over to a last-minute get-together, you won’t even need to worry about turning on the oven, waiting for the appliance to preheat, and then the actual bake itself. You literally do not need to break a sweat.
Plus, you’re free from pacing back and forth in front of the oven with the anticipation of seismic shifts in the surface of your cheesecake — the concern of wide and deep crevices.
Similar to how “temperamental,” delicate, and technical soufflé bakes can be, baked cheesecakes similarly challenge most with the chemistry of eggs at stake, plus the other variables of time, heat, and moisture.
At the end of the day, a no-bake cheesecake does away with most of those areas of concern. Overall, sitting in the fridge for a minimum of 8 hours, unbaked cheesecakes really do not need much time to firm up.
Either way, to bake or not to bake, the delightful indulgence of cheesecake is undeniable. And there are many wonderful recipes out there.