I want to try making my first cheesecake. Every recipe calls for a springform pan, but I don’t own one. I’d rather not buy one if this is the only time I make a cheesecake. Do I have to buy a springform pan?
“Every recipe calls for a springform pan,” should be a clue that you need one. I’ve never seen a recipe that didn’t call for one, in fact. Why? Why can’t you just use a regular cake pan?
First, many cheesecakes are taller than a 1½ – 2″ high cake pan will accommodate. Then how about using a taller cake pan? Well, you could use one, but you’d then need to dig your finished cheesecake out with a spoon. A springform pan has removable sides, a necessity when making a delicate or otherwise fragile dessert which won’t support its own weight when first made. Most cheesecakes use a crumb crust, or even just a sprinkling of crumbs to coat the outside, neither of which is structurally sound enough to support the weight of the contents.
A regular cake pan provides that support, too, but then comes the issue of unmolding the cake. A cheesecake is heavy and soft, and if you invert it to remove it from the pan, you’ll mar the top. This is also true of any kind of cake with a top which should remain undisturbed, such as one covered in streusel or which has a layer of fruit arrayed in a decorative pattern.
Springform pans are designed with removable sides, so the cake stays upright when you unlatch the spring and lift the sides off. So there are no worries about ruining the top of the cake. What this also means is that if you like, you can look for a springform pan with multiple bottoms. In addition to a regular flat bottom (which may have indentations – if so, it’s to give added strength and rigidity; some cheesecakes are impressively heavy) some springform pans come with patterned or tube bottoms. This increases the utility of the pan, and saves storage space if you also bake cakes like kugelhopf, angel food, or large pound cakes.
Now, if you’re convinced you want to try a cheesecake without investing in a special pan, even though they can be had relatively inexpensively, there is a way. First determine the volume of batter produced by the recipe you wish to try, and use a square cake pan which will contain that much.
First place two folded rectangles of heavy duty aluminum foil about 3″ wide and long enough to act as handles to remove the cake when it’s done, perpendicular to each other in the bottom of the pan. Then line the pan with parchment paper. Bake as instructed, and allow to cool thoroughly, as much as 8 or 9 hours, refrigerated. The cake should be as solid as possible. Then use the foil strips to unmold the cake from the pan. It will help to have another person on hand for this operation. Slide a suitably shaped plate under the cake (don’t worry about removing the bottom piece of parchment paper.) Voilà! Your cheesecake is unmolded.
Or don’t bother with the foil slings; after chilling, simply cut pieces of the cheesecake into squares like brownies, and serve it that way. It won’t be the classic slice of cheesecake, but you’ll know whether or not you like the recipe.