Steamed Cheesecake Recipe

Difficulty: you've got to really want cheesecake and really not have access to an oven

When I was in Switzerland, I wanted to make cheesecake, but I never had access to an oven. I never entirely trusted those no-bake cheesecakes that don't involve cooking, so I had to look at other ways to make cheesecake without baking. I initially tried some microwave cheesecake recipes, but they never worked right. I think microwaves cook the cheese at too high a heat and too quickly, so it's too hard to get a good cheesecake in the microwave.

Inspired by how cheesecakes are often cooked in a water bath, I took some existing cheesecake recipes, adapted the recipes to metric, and tried to cook them through steaming instead, and they came out ok.


It's hard to find pre-made graham crusts in Switzerland (you have to go to the American ethnic grocery store), and they're usually too big to steam on a stove, so it's better to make your own. Unfortunately, I had a hard time finding graham crumbs (or crumbs of any kind for that matter) in Switzerland, so I had to substitute something else. I tried digestive biscuits, and they were easy to crumble, but the resulting crust ended up being very soft. Social tea biscuits ("petit beurre" biscuits in Switzerland), were hard to break up, but gave a pleasing crust with a bit of crunch and graininess to it.

Put the cookies in a resealable plastic bag, and bash them until they break up into crumbs. Melt the butter (to make a chocolatey crust, I tried throwing some ovomaltine into the butter, but that was a disaster. Slowly melting a chocolate bar into the butter seemed to work ok). Dump the crumbs into the butter and mix everything up. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of a container.

When making the cheesecake, I not only didn't have access to an oven, I also didn't have any appropriate pans. Paper containers won't work because they'll deform during the steaming process. In the end, I used some silicon cupcake containers, which have the advantage that you can throw them in the microwave for a few seconds to cook the crusts if you're paranoid. I suppose disposable metal containers would also work, but it's hard to find ones with high sides that are small enough to fit in pots for steaming. (You can't microwave metal containers, obviously.)

In the end, I had about 8 cupcake sized crusts (which is unfortunately since a standard cheesecake produced 12 cupcake sized cheesecakes, but I suppose you might end up with more or less depending on how big your containers are).


I just used a standard Philadelphia 3-step cheesecake recipe.

Mix up the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. Mix in the eggs. Then dump the cheesecake mixture into the crusts.

Get a big pot. Throw some things at the bottom of your pot that your cheesecake containers can sit on while steaming, so that they don't touch the bottom of the pot. I didn't have a proper steaming rack, so I tried some metal cookie cutters, but they ended up rusting a lot afterwards. I later ended up using some cut-up wooden dowel rods, but it was a hassle because they kept floating. Put the cheesecakes into the pot, pour some water down the sides until the bottom of the pot has water in it (my cheesecake containers were water-proof, so I could have the water be high enough to partially cover the bottom parts of the containers). Then stick things on a stove and turn up the heat to start the steaming.

I found that cooking things with the lid of the pot off didn't result in anything getting cooked. With the lid of the pot on, the cheesecakes ended up cooking way too fast and bulged out really quickly. I think you need to position the lid so that the pot is partially covered (i.e. enough steam escapes that it doesn't get too hot inside). I did have a bit of a problem with condensation running off the lid into the cheesecakes, but the cheesecakes still came out ok (albeit with crusts that were a little soggy). If you do it this way, 15-25 minutes seemed to be enough to cook these little cupcake cheesecakes. Be sure to check the pot occasionally to add water so that the pot doesn't run dry. I used the toothpick test to see when the cheesecakes were ready (stick a toothpick or fork into the cake and check whether it comes out clean or with uncooked goop on it).

Afterwards, you need to cool the cheesecakes for three hours or so, but I think if you throw them directly into the freezer, they might come out soggy afterwards (that's what I've read--overcooking them also makes them soggy apparently). So I let them cool out for a few hours in the air first, and then freeze them overnight.

The next day, I tried topping them with canned strawberries (almost impossible to find in Switzerland--I could only find them in the Casino grocery store), but whereas canned strawberries in the US make for a reasonable cheesecake topping, the only ones I could find were embarrassingly limp. Instead, use fresh fruit, and brush some melted jam on them as a glaze.

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