For Richer Cheesecake, Try Mascarpone As The Main Ingredient

It's hard to separate the image of New York-style cheesecake from one of its most iconic ingredients — cream cheese. In fact, one wonders if the American classic would have been possible without the decadent ingredient. Still, the cheesecake itself is millennia older than cream cheese. In Greece and ancient Rome, cheesecake was made with an entirely different dairy. As the years have gone by, many creamy ingredients have become the lynchpin, from ricotta to quark. But one option you should be seriously considering is decadent mascarpone.

Significantly less tangy than cream cheese, mascarpone has nearly double the fat content of cream cheese. This makes mascarpone uniquely suited for no-bake cheesecake, where the creamy mixture is frozen rather than baked for it to set up. When cream cheese is frozen, the excess moisture in the mix forms ice crystals which ruin the texture. Mascarpone doesn't have this problem. 

However, even if you don't go down the no-bake road, mascarpone works wonders in a traditional cheesecake. Cream cheese also packs some stabilizers, which makes it denser than mascarpone normally. This means that a cheesecake that uses mascarpone will have a lighter texture and a richer taste, the best of all worlds. 

What you need to know about using mascarpone in cheesecakes

First, let's address a no-bake cheesecake that uses mascarpone. The creamy base of this cheesecake can't rely on mascarpone alone. Instead, it uses a blend of whipped cream folded into the mascarpone to create a smooth filling that'll set up nicely in the freezer. A bit of sugar and vanilla extract are the only other additions to this fairly fuss-free recipe. 

For a baked cheesecake, the mascarpone normally works in concert with a number of other dairy products, including cream cheese, yogurt, or sour cream. The ratios for each of these dairy products vary from recipe to recipe, but the main point of including the mascarpone is to up the richness of the overall filling. Eggs will also factor in, as will flavoring agents like sugar and vanilla.

There are some cheesecake recipes that can rely on mascarpone alone, but the flavor will be noticeably less tangy than the traditional version. Either way, the textural difference between a cheesecake with mascarpone and a cheesecake without is marked. That boost of beautiful fat makes all the difference for that luxurious mouthfeel.