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Jun 20, 2004 11:53 AM

Replacing bourbon in a cheesecake recipe

  • c

I've been making this bourbon butter pecan cheesecake. The base is a mixture of pecans, graham cracker crumbs and butter. The filling is flavored with caramel and three tablespoons of bourbon. Pecans are placed on top of whipped cream rosettes. It's good for bourbon lovers, but would be very good without, since the cheesecake has this nice caramel flavor. I'd like to try it without the bourbon, but don't know what to substitute without changing the flavor of the cake. I don't mean another liquor (since I don't know what would work, and the booze taste is very strong because of the amount used) but anything that would flavor it without changing the nice mellow caramel quality. Leaving it out, I assume, would elimate necessary moisture.

I'm no good at toying with recipes, particularly cake recipes. I assume the easiest cakes to tinker with would be cheesecakes, since they are far more forgiving than cakes with more delicate chemistry. Any suggestions?


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  1. I think you can just leave out the bourbon and not substitute anything. If you are really worried about it, you could use up to 1 tablespoon of vanilla, if you wanted, and/or also increase by 1 or 2 tablespoons the amount of whatever liquid or semi-liquid is in the cheesecake already.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jeremy Newel

      A tablespoon oif vanilla would be too much. 1 Tsp. would be better. Don't worry about replacing the rest of the liquid. You will be fine.

      1. re: Candy

        I agree with Candy. I'd replace the bourbon with 1 to 1-1/2 tsp vanilla.

        Bourbon is 40% alcohol. Does anyone know how alcohol effects the texture of a cheesecake? Most of it probably evaporates. But it's conceivable that it has some effect on the texture of the custard base. If you want to experiment, you could try substituting 3 tablespoons of vodka for the bourbon. Same alcohol content, minimal flavor. Let us know what you find out.


    2. I'd probably try the vanilla suggested (about 1 tsp) and 1-2 tbsp. of heavy cream.

      1. There is one booze that I think would work really well with your recipe, Praline Liquor which is made from pecans.

        I make a really good pecan & praline liquor bread pudding that gets raves because the two forms of pecan compliment each other so well.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Pssst

          Any chance you could post your recipe for that bread pudding? And do you use any special brand of praline liquor? Is it available in small quantities as I don't know what else I would use praline liquor in, except maybe a chocolate-praline sauce for ice cream. Thanks!

          1. re: Dax

            Actually, I recently posted it on the SF board in response to a request for restaurant bread puddings. See link below.

            I read've a lot of BP recipes. I think the ones that we most influential were those from Cook's Illustrated and John Thorne.

            Regarding the Praline liquor - the bottle that I have is just a random bottle I picked up the last time I was in New Orleans. Whenever I'm traveling, I go to grocery stores, drug stores and liquor stores to see what's on the shelves. (You never know when you're going to run into an unknown regional speciality or rare bottle of scotch or tequila! Years ago, I got the coolest eyebrow trimmer EVER in a drug store Germany.) I have no idea if the liquor available in small bottles. I bought it because I thought it would be tasty in coffee - I was wrong. Now I only bake with it. I don't know what N.O. natives do with it.

            FYI - My mother-in-law frequently gives us homemade cinnamon bread. I've found it makes great cinnamon pecan bread pudding but its not very nice to make that part of the official recipe, is it?


        2. I'm not clear why you're replacing the bourbon, since it doesn't sound like you're worried about the alcohol and you don't want the change the flavor.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            The part of the flavor that I didn't want to replace was the caramel/pecan blend. The bourbon is very bourbony, and people who don't like bourbon didn't really enjoy it.

            1. re: Clarissa

              Bourbon flavors vary greatly. What brand have you been using?

              1. re: Clarissa

                Thanks for the clarification. Bourbon can indeed be a little overpowering.

              2. re: Ruth Lafler

                Ruth -

                I think most folks who make foods that contain alcohol would do well to have a 'non-alcoholic' version on hand if it's a favorite recipe.

                I have a friend who is a recovering alcoholic and a bourbon cheesecake would be 100% off limits for him. As are bananas foster and many of my other favorite recipes.

                I always look for ways to doctor recipes I love with non-alc. ingredients.

                That being said, why does it matter WHY the OP wanted to find a substitution? She did indicate that the caramel/pecan flavor was what she was most interested in retaining.

                1. re: Fatemeh

                  I understand about wanting a non-alcoholic version. But since she mentioned using another liquer, I assumed that wasn't the issue here.

                  It makes a difference because knowing the reason affects the suggestions people would make. For example, Pssst recommended a different liquer, which obviously wouldn't be appropriate if the poster were trying to eliminate alcohol. For that matter, vanilla extract is quite high in alcohol, so substituting large amounts of vanilla, as someone else suggested, wouldn't be appropriate either. If she wanted to keep the same flavor but eliminate the alcohol, she could use artifical bourbon flavor. Etc.

              3. Thanks to everyone for your suggestions. I'll definitely try the vanilla-cream combo. I want to check out that praline liquor, as well.