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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

To bake or not to bake: Cheesecake dilemma

I love love love love cheesecake.. But when I'm thinking of making one, the first thing that comes to mind is, "Should I bake or should I not?". Before I talk about my dilemma, I shall explain to you that there are two different types of cheesecake: baked and no-bake/ chilled. Within baked cheesecake, there are two different versions, one is the Asian version which involves incorporating whipped egg white into the batter and the other is the American version that you most probably are more familiar with.

So why the dilemma? They're all cheesecake! No no no... Ok, they are all made from cream cheese and have a graham cracker crust, but those are the only things that they have in common. Baked and no-bake cheesecakes have completely different texture. Baked cheesecake is dense and velvety, while no-bake cheesecake is light and airy. Their characteristics are the results of the different techniques used. In baked cheesecake, you mix the cream cheese, egg, sugar, and other ingredients together and usually minimal air incorporation is strongly recommended. In no-bake cheesecake, on the other hand, you mix the cream cheese with other ingredients and then fold in whipped cream at the end. You need the air incorporation in the whipped cream to give no-bake cheesecake its airy texture. In short, baked cheesecake is more like a dense custard, while no-bake cheesecake is more like a mousse.

For me, I prefer baked over no-bake cheesecake, but it doesn't mean that no-bake cheesecake is no good. It's great! You can layer no-bake cheesecake batter with mousse, ganache, jelly, and what not to create a layered dessert, like this
(No-bake cheesecake + vanilla sponge cake + mango jelly + fresh mango and strawberry cubes)
Or divide the batter and color them separately to make this
(Made this for Halloween 2 years ago)

No-bake cheesecake is great for layering and easy to conform to various shapes of mold. On the contrary, it is difficult to bake cheesecake in weird-shaped molds, because the batter can get stuck. It is usually delicious by itself or topped with toppings, such as fruits, like this
Or it can be divided, flavored separately, baked, and covered with buttercream to create a combination cheesecake like this
If you want to play with texture, you can layer baked cheesecake with chocolate cake and ganache to make a chocolate-cake-cheesecake, like this
You've seen the pictures, so are you ready for the recipe? I post one recipe for baked and another one for no-bake cheesecake from Allrecipes.com with slight modification. Now, it's time to think, "To bake or not to bake?"

Baked Cheesecake (original recipe from here)
Yield 1 - 9 inch springform pan

Ingredients for crust:
15 graham crackers, crushed (you can buy crushed graham crackers, use about 1 1/2 cups if you use this)
3 table spoons butter, melted

Ingredients for filling:
4 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese (I use Philadelphia)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup milk
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1. Take out the cream cheese from fridge and let sit at room temperature until soft.
2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 inch springform pan.
3. In a bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Press onto bottom of springform pan and refrigerate while you're making the filling.
4. Starts heating a pot of water (fill the pot about 1/3 full) over medium heat.
5. In a large (preferably metal) bowl, mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth. Blend in milk, put the bowl on top of the heating pot of water, and whisk the mixture gently until you can see no lumps
6. Turn off the heat, remove bowl from the pot, and let the mixture cool for 15 minutes. 
7. Add eggs one at a time, mixing just enough to incorporate. Mix in sour cream and vanilla.
8. In a small bowl, scoop a little bit of the batter and mix in the flour until smooth. Add the flour mixture to the batter and mix well but gently.
9. Pour filling into prepared crust and bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour or less (depends on your oven). Test of doneness: the cheesecake should jiggle slightly in the middle when moved. Turn off the oven and let cake cool in oven with the door closed for 1 to 2 hours to prevent cracking. Chill overnight to let the flavors meld together.

*The double-boiler (putting your bowl on a heating pot of water) method helps with removing lumps and ensures a smooth velvety cheesecake. If you are mixing your batter in a food processor, you can eliminate this step.
*Gentle mixing is advised to minimize incorporation of air which will result in Grand-Canyon-like crack upon baking.
*Cooling the cake in the oven for several hours also prevent cracking.

No-Bake Cheesecake (original recipe from here)
Yield 1 - 9 inch springform pan

Ingredients for crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Ingredients for filling:
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
2/3 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice (or more if you like stronger lemon flavor)
1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped
1. Take out the cream cheese from the fridge and let sit at room temperature until soft.
2. In a bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Press on the bottom of springform pan and refrigerate while you're making the filling.
3. Beat cream cheese, sugar, and lemon juice until smooth (no lumps)
4. Whip heavy cream until stiff peak and fold into cream cheese mixture.
5. Pour mixture on top of the prepared crust. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

*Gentle mixing is not required in making no-bake cheesecake, because you want to incorporate air into the batter to create a light and airy texture
*If you have to take this cake out to a hot environment, add 1 packet of powdered gelatin dissolved in 2 Tbsp of water to the batter (add 2 Tbsp water in a bowl, sprinkle gelatin on top, let sit for 3-4 minutes, microwave for about 10 seconds until all granules are dissolved, let cool, and incorporate into batter).


  1. maybe you can help?...
    i just attempted to make a pumpkin cheesecake - which also happens to be my first cheesecake period... and i accidentally turned OFF my oven while setting the timer - and didn't realize this until the timer went off an hour later, went to take it out of the oven, and realized the oven was NOT HOT! ugh! ...
    my question is if it's salvageable if i attempt to bake it again?

  2. So basically your cheesecake wasn't heated at all, right? If that's the case, I don't think there will be any problem if you bake it again. Hope this helps, let me know what happen if you decide to bake it :)

  3. since the oven was at the right temp (350) when i went to set the timer - it was warm enough for the outer rim to get a little stiff ... hence the concern :(
    but i went ahead and tried again -- only, i did 45 min. vs. the entire hour ... my main concern was bacteria, etc. b/c of the eggs ... any thoughts on that??
    will update you as to the taste/texture etc. after the taste test tomorrow.
    thanks for the help!

  4. You don't need to worry about bacteria, because they will be killed when you bake the cake.. I'm more concern about the texture, because baked cheesecake is basically a custard so it's pretty sensitive to heat. Anw, I hope your cheesecake turns out good :)

  5. well - although it wasn't pretty (lots of deep cracks), there were lots of "MMMMM -- so good!" comments ... so it worked out okay in the end.

    thanks for the support! ...and for setting my mind at ease about possible dangers!

    :) happy holiday baking!!!

  6. is there an alternative to a spring form pan to make cheeesecake?

  7. This has really help me on which cheeescake I would make for this Thanksgiving. I was going to do both, baked and no bake but no bake is this taste I am looking for.

    Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!!!

  8. No there is not only American or Asian Cheesecake, in Europe Quark is used instead of Sour Cream for a lighter alternative.

  9. do i have to add in whipped cream when making non baked ones?

  10. Is it okay for no bake cheesecake no to be in the fridge without putting gelatin? Because I sell cheesecake in jars.

  11. Very good recipe. I followed it exactly. But I did do a water bath. I don't have a springform so I just used a 9 in cake pan. I will be making this again, super yummy! :)

  12. Hey..i have made a cheesecake for the first time. I made a no bake one. but now I feel I should have made a baked one. Now what I wanna ask is silly but I will.. can I bake a no bake cheesecake :p sorry for the weird question. But please please reply!!

  13. Please reply. I'll be waiting. I am eager to know.

  14. Replies
    1. I was interested in this answer too. oh well.

    2. Nah you can't. The eggs are why it needs baking. You'd just be heating the no bake up which would make it probably lose it's aeration from the whipped cream and there's nothing in it to set it while cooking, that's the eggs job. It would be a waste of a good cake.

  15. Hi i made cheese cake with bacon eggs and hp sauce and it tasted like poo can someone tell me why.

    1. If you pee on it just a bit, it will reduce the poo taste. Just try not to have it seep down into the crust along the edges because it will saturate it and it could become too salty.

  16. No bake cheesecake is not cheesecake, it's just batter. You wouldn't call a no bake cake cake! I can't stand the taste of no bake. It's like a waste of the cream cheese.

    1. It's definitely still a cheesecake just because it's not baked. Personal preference, you don't like no bake, that's fine. Some people prefer it though, myself included.

    2. Thats because you dont have the skill to make a decent baked cheesecake. Anyone with some cooking skills knows this.

    3. There's always that one condescending asshole..

  17. I'm actually not certain what type I prefer. What's the kind of cheesecake usually served in restaurants?

  18. Can whipped cream be added in baked cheese 🍰..??.. will it make any difference in its taste?