Mascarpone Is Your Secret Ingredient For Ultra Creamy Cheesecake

Is there anything more decadent and divine than a slice of rich, creamy cheesecake?  Sweet, slightly tangy, and with a diverse array of fruit and non-fruit toppings, cheesecake is a serious crowd-pleaser. But what if there was a secret ingredient that could upgrade the taste of your cheesecake and deliver an ultra-rich, delightfully indulgent dessert you'll want to sing about? There is: mascarpone cheese

Delicate, buttery, and somewhat nutty, the mild cow's milk cheese, also known as "Italian cream cheese," contains roughly 60 to 75% milk fat, and its silky texture is credited to the fact that it's made from heavy cream (unlike its tangier counterpart, cream cheese, which — while also unaged — is made from whole milk). Frankly, mascarpone is cream cheese's velvety, superior cousin — and while the spreadable cheese is frequently featured as the central ingredient in tiramisu, its subtle sweetness, versatility, and luxurious texture make it a perfect base for a variety of cheesecake crusts and mix-ins. And when balanced with cream cheese (or ricotta cheese, for a fluffier texture), it shines as the ultra-creamy cheesecake variation you never knew you needed.

Using mascarpone in your cheesecake

Swapping mascarpone in for a decadent cheesecake is fairly easy — you'll simply want to trade mascarpone cheese for half of the cream cheese your recipe requires. Before you do anything else, you'll want to soften your mascarpone at room temperature, which will allow for a smooth consistency and avoid a lumpy, uneven texture. To do so, microwave your mascarpone in short (a few seconds) intervals, stirring after each time. Just be careful not to heat your cheese since you want it to retain its creamy texture. Instead, soften until it's just pliable. 

Perhaps most important is that, due to mascarpone's high-fat content, it tends to curdle when over-mixed. So, when you're ready to add to your other ingredients, be sure to stir your cheese by hand before mixing it with everything else. Otherwise, the lusciously creamy texture of your cheesecake filling will be altered for the worse, and it could be difficult to recover.

Additionally, mascarpone is versatile enough for adjustments to be made to your cheesecake recipe to suit your tastes. For example, as the cheese is naturally sweet, you might want to adjust the amount of sugar in your recipe so it doesn't become overwhelmingly saccharine. And if mascarpone is a little too rich for you, you can definitely tone it down with a little bit of extra lemon juice for a slightly milder flavor profile. Then, simply follow your favorite recipe for classic cheesecake and chill and/or bake as usual.

Delicious pairings for your mascarpone cheesecake

There are a number of pairings that will complement the delectable flavor and rich mouthfeel of your mascarpone cheesecake. If you're looking for a way to elevate your base, for example, you can create a fun variation on the standard graham cracker crust recipe by grinding some slivered almonds in with your cracker crumbs for a slightly sturdier and nuttier taste and texture. Don't have any slivered almonds on hand? You can capture the same taste by adding in a splash of almond extract, about ¼ teaspoon. The almond notes will add a subtle sweetness and bring out the richness of the mascarpone. If you're a serious fan of nuts, however, feel free to take things a step further with a chocolate hazelnut spread topping. Simply mix with some whipped cream, and you've got a luscious topping that will enhance the dessert's creaminess and boost its flavor to boot. 

If you prefer fruitier sweets, fortunately, most berries will pair well with mascarpone cheese. Try simmering strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries with some cornstarch, water, and sugar to make a delicious berry sauce that will add a burst of brightness to the heavier flavors. Lemon is another fantastic foil for mascarpone and would work beautifully in a sauce or directly added to the filling. Any of these suggestions will be a great upgrade, but no matter how you choose to elevate the taste of your cheesecake, the addition of ultra-creamy mascarpone will undoubtedly leave you and your guests feeling satisfied.