Perfect on its own or adorned with fruit, cheesecake is always a crowd-pleaser | Photo by Sebastian Coman Photography on Pexels

To Bake or Not to Bake: Differences Between the Two Cheesecake Preparations

There are sweet pros and bitter cons to each style

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, it makes just about any sweet tooth smile and dance.

And you’re probably salivating just at the thought of the deliciously, 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 variation 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 North American sense, importantly, starts with a toasty graham cracker crust or a perfect buttery biscuit base. At about 95% of the completed dessert, a thick, creamy, and sweet cheese mixture then forms the remainder of the iconic classic.

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, which helps to point out the role of the oven.

On the other hand, with no heat at all involved, eggs need not be a part of the overall equation of the no-bake cheesecake. And since eggs are absent from such recipes, these versions don’t otherwise come equipped with as much structure and sturdiness as their baked counterparts.

In an egg nutshell — I just had to, sorry !— 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 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 crowd, the fridge rather works alone in setting the cake. Yet on the flip side, since you can’t truly overbake in this way, not a whole lot can actually go wrong. And so, this makes the no-bake much more forgiving, beginner-friendly, and hands-off.

Towards a Vegan-Friendly Dessert: The No-Bake

What’s more, not only is the no-bake route friendly to traverse for novice cooks but also vegan bakers. 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.

But you’re perhaps wondering how the no-bake 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, it helps tie together the rest of the ingredients as it solidifies.

And because butter’s banned from the premises, a vegan cheesecake base — typically raw without being baked — would also typically 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, 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 it to preheat, and then the actual bake itself. It’s stress-free.

And 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,” fragile, and technical soufflé bakes can be, baked cheesecakes work in a similar capacity with the chemistry of eggs at stake, plus the other variables of time, heat, and moisture.

Immediately, a no-bake cheesecake does away with most of those areas of concern. Overall, with only needing to sit in the fridge for a minimum of 8 hours, unbaked cheesecakes take less time to firm up.

Either way, to bake or not to bake, the delightful indulgence of cheesecake is without question. And there are a plethora of wonderful recipes out there.

Related: Flavourful Plant-Based Beginnings: The 3 Essential Seasonings To Always Have on Hand

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