Cheesecake has become one of the most popular desserts in the United States. The texture of any cheesecake can vary greatly--from light and airy to dense and rich to smooth and creamy. All cheesecakes begin with cheese--usually cream cheese, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese or sometimes Swiss or cheddar cheese. A cheesecake may or may not have a crust, which can be made from classic graham cracker, chocolate sandwich cookies, brownies, cake layers, a dusting bread crumbs or pastry crust. The filling is made by creaming the cheese and mixing it with eggs, sugar and other flavorings. The mixture is then poured into a special springform pan and baked. After baking, the cheesecake is thoroughly chilled and generally topped by sour cream, whipped cream, fruit or some other toppings. Regardless of the type of cheesecake, here are a few secrets to baking cheesecake like a pro. Click on a quick link below to advance to that section of this page.
For smooth batter, make sure the cream cheese and eggs are at room temperature.
Cut cream cheese into cubes for faster softening and easier mixing.
To soften cream cheese before mixing, unwrap cream cheese and place in a microwaveable bowl. Microwave on high for 15 seconds per package.
Do not use low-fat or fat-free cream cheese for cheesecake. They tend to make the texture of the cake rubbery or crumbly.
If the recipe calls for eggs, use fresh Grade AA large eggs at room temperature.
Baking cheesecakes in a water bath, also known as bain-marie, produces a texture that is creamy almost custard-like, moist and rich.
Use a springform pan--a pan with removable side and bottom. Placing the pan on a baking sheet or water bath helps to avoid leaks in the oven.
Chill strawberry or chocolate sauce before swirling it through cheesecake so it is thick enough to swirl.
Avoid over-beating the cheesecake filling. Over-beating incorporates additional air and tends to cause cracking on the surface of the cheesecake.
Grease sides of springform pan using Pan Release to avoid sticking and for easy removal of the springform pan sides after cheesecake has cooled.
Before placing the pan in the oven, gently tap the pan on the countertop to remove air bubbles that can cause the cheesecake to crack.
Since air bubbles can cause a cheesecake to crack, after the batter has been mixed well gently but thoroughly add the eggs into the mix.
Cheesecakes with cornstarch or flour added to the batter do not crack as easily from overbaking. If the recipe doesnt contain cornstarch or flour, add 1 tablespoon to 1/4 cup of cornstarch to the batter with the sugar.
Gently stir in flavoring ingredients, such as chocolate, fruit or nuts, at the end of mixing process or as directed in recipe
Always pre-heat the oven to the temperature indicated in the recipe. Cheesecakes are best baked at 325°.
Always bake a cheesecake on the center rack of the oven.
Be careful not to open the oven door during the first 30 minutes of baking. Drafts can form cracks and make the cheesecake fall.
Avoid over-baking which causes the cheesecake to crack. Be aware that baking times are not always exact, due to variations in ovens. Check for doneness at minimum baking time.
Help prevent cheesecake from cracking, by baking it in a moist oven. Place a 13" x 9" baking pan half-filled with hot tap water on the bottom rack of oven while the cheesecake bakes on the center rack.
Cheesecake is done when the edges are puffy and only a small spot in the center (about 1" in diameter) is still soft, moist and jiggles. Only the center should jiggle, if the entire cheesecake jiggles, then it is not done.
Large cheesecakes should always be baked in a water bath since the edges tend to overbake before the center of the cake has reached the temperature necessary to set--coagulate the eggs--to prevent cracking.
Do not insert a knife to check for doneness as this will cause cracking when the cheesecake is cooling.
When removed from the oven the cheesecake may seem soft in the center, but it will become firm as it chills
Unless otherwise directed by your recipe, turn the oven off and allow cheesecake to remain in oven for 30 - 60 minutes or until center is completely set.
Immediately after baking, run a knife or narrow spatula around the edge of the pan so the cheesecake can pull away freely from the pan as it cools.
Do not unlock the springform fastener or remove from the pan immediately after removing from the oven. Wait until the cheesecake cools completely.
Cool cheesecake on a wire rack covering springform pan with a plate or cookie sheet.
After a cheesecake has chilled completely, preferably overnight, gently loosen the entire side of the cheesecake from the pan with the tip of a knife while slowly releasing the springform pan fastener. Carefully remove the side of the pan
To remove the cheesecake from the pan, unlatch fastener and lift straight up, away from the cheesecake
Cheesecakes should be cooled completely on a wire rack away from drafts at least 1 hour before refrigerating.
Cheesecake should be garnished just before serving, but no sooner than 1 to 2 hours before serving.
To ensure nice clean cuts that leave cheesecake filling intact; whip knife blade between each cut with a clean, damp towel. This prevents the creamy filling from building up on the knife blade.
For optimum flavor, allow cheesecake to set at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Store in the refrigerator up to 4 days, loosely covered.
Cheesecakes freeze well for up to 2 months.
Do not freeze cheesecakes with topping. Add the topping after unthawing just before serving.
Cool cheesecake completely. Remove the side of the springform pan and place cheesecake in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove bottom of pan and slide cheesecake on a coated or covered cake board to retain shape. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap then again in heavy-duty foil to prevent the cheesecake from drying out in the freezer.
To unthaw a frozen cheesecake, place the wrapped frozen cheesecake in the refrigerator overnight. Remove wrapping after thawed to prevent water droplets from forming on top of the cheesecake. Remove the cardboard cake board and slide onto a serving plate.
Add or substitute one of the following ingredients to your basic crust recipe for a different flavor:
Add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or ginger
Substitute 1/2 cup ground pecans, almonds, walnuts, peanuts or macadamia nuts for 1/2 cup
graham cracker crumbs
Substitute 1 1/2 cups vanilla, chocolate or ginger wafer crumbs for graham cracker crumbs
See our crust recipe section.
The following ingredients can be added to the batter for a variation:
Semi-sweet, milk and/or white chocolate chips
Chopped candy bars
Chopped chocolate sandwich cookies
Chopped chocolate-covered English Toffee
Enhance your cheesecake by using one or more of the following ingredients as your topping:
Fresh fruit slices
Ice cream topping
Crushed candy bars
Canned pie filling
Drizzled, melted chocolate
Lemon or orange twists
Chopped dried fruit