Cheesecakes are one of the most technical cakes you can make, but they are so worth the effort! The good news is that there are different ways to make them, and you can always choose the cheesecake recipe that matches your preference, skill level, and kitchen equipment.
Yes, we meant to say preference first! This is because the way they’re baked (or not baked) gives cheesecakes fundamentally different tastes and textures. For example, baked cheesecakes tend to be tangier than Japanese cheesecakes, and no-bake cheesecakes are best served cold while burnt Basque cheesecakes are best consumed warm.
Here’s how each kind of cheesecake is different from the others:
1 Baked cheesecakes are creamy and velvety smooth, while Japanese cheesecakes are pillowy soft. No-bake cheesecakes are creamy but firmer.
Cheesecakes can have different tastes and textures because of how their ingredients behave during their baking (or non-baking process). For example, baked cheesecakes (which include burnt Basque cheesecakes) are baked in an oven, which allows the eggs beaten into their batters to rise and create the small air pockets that give them a creamy and velvety mouthfeel.
On the other hand, Japanese cheesecake batters require folding in a meringue, which is why they are more like cream cheese-flavored soufflés: they’re light and pillowy to the bite! Meanwhile, no-bake cheesecakes are set with gelatin and whipped cream, making them firmer than the rest due to the gelatin, but still light and creamy from the air in the whipped cream.
2 Baked and no-bake cheesecakes usually have a crushed biscuit crust while Japanese and burnt Basque cheesecakes don’t.
Even though the first cheesecakes that the Greeks created didn’t have crusts, modern baked cheesecakes are usually baked with them. The crusts are made with crushed biscuits or graham crackers, butter, and sugar, and are usually baked first to make them firm. No-bake cheesecakes are the same, except that the crust is refrigerated or frozen before the batter is added.
Japanese cheesecakes and burnt Basque cheesecakes are baked without crusts, and as such are a little easier to tease out of baking pans.
3 Only no-bake cheesecakes are made with gelatin and set as it chills. The baked cheesecakes are all made with eggs and baked in the oven.
No-bake cheesecakes are easy to make because they don’t require an oven: they firm up because gelatin and whipped cream are two of the key ingredients. However, don’t go thinking they take less time to make! No-bake cheesecakes need about the same time as baked, Japanese, and burnt Basque cheesecakes to set in the refrigerator. Without this time to set, you’ll end up with melty (although delicious) goop of a cake.
Meanwhile, recipes of baked, Japanese, and burnt Basque cheesecakes are all made with eggs and thus need to be baked in the oven to set. While recipes may differ on the use of a water bath, but one thing stays the same: you’ll need an oven to bake them. These baked cheesecakes all emerge from the oven soft because we still want to preserve their velvety smooth custard centers. Chilling them will make them easier to slice and serve.
4 Baked cheesecakes and Japanese cheesecakes are baked low and slow. Burnt Basque cheesecakes are baked at a high temperature to get that signature crust.
The key to getting perfectly smooth baked and Japanese cheesecakes that don’t fall when they come out of the oven is by baking them gently at a low, low temperature (about 150-160 degrees C or 300-325 degrees F). This allows the eggs in the batter to do their thing: rise slowly but surely, giving the cheesecakes a stable but soft structure.
Burnt Basque cheesecakes are the only ones baked at a higher temperature (around 200-220 degrees C or 400-425 degrees F). This allows two things to happen: first, the cake rises faster and forms a crust; second, baking it at a sustained high temperature caramelizes the crust up top but continues to bake the insides steadily. The result is a cheesecake with a golden brown top that gives way to a silky-smooth, custard-like bite.
5 No-bake cheesecakes are best served chilled while burnt Basque cheesecakes are best served warm.
Since gelatin needs colder temperatures to set and whipped cream holds better at colder temperatures too, it just makes sense for no-bake cheesecakes to be served chilled. They’re firmer coming from the refrigerator, which makes for creamy, airy bites.
Burnt Basque cheesecakes, on the other hand, come out slightly jiggly from the oven, and you only need to wait until they’re just warm to the touch before you can enjoy a slice. Because they’re baked at a higher temperature for a long time, they set up faster than baked cheesecakes, and have a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth quality when they’re still warm. These are meant to be served warm and for best results, soon after it comes out of the oven so the centers are still velvety smooth and creamy.
While baked cheesecakes are usually chilled overnight, too, there is no reason why you cannot slice a room-temperature baked cheesecake and still enjoy it, too, since these are fairly set once cooled down.
6 You can store baked cheesecakes in the refrigerator, but Japanese cheesecakes are best eaten fresh.
Baked cheesecakes are the happy medium among all the different cheesecakes when it comes to storing: they will keep well in the refrigerator for a few days and can be frozen for longer storage (depending on the toppings, of course: fresh fruits and whipped cream should be consumed within 3 days).
For Japanese cheesecakes, however, storing them might not be the best idea. Because they are baked like soufflés, they rely on the air pockets created by the meringue mixed in their batter for their structure. And just like soufflés, which tend to fall after a while, Japanese cheesecakes might keep their pillowy texture when they’re left out or stored for too long.