In this baking tips post, I will teach you 10 Tips for Baking Perfect Cheesecake! Follow these tips and I guarantee you will make the most amazing cheesecake! A great recipe to try these tips on is my Vanilla Cheesecake recipe! It is easy to make and super delicious!
Is there a more beloved dessert than cheesecake? I think not. Who can say no to a delicious, creamy piece of cheesecake? Obviously those with lactose intolerance, but aside from that, you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t love cheesecake.
Many people feel intimidated about making homemade cheesecake. I feel you, it can feel overwhelming. But believe it or not, cheesecake is actually pretty simple to make. However, there are a several key tips and tricks that can help ensure you make a perfect cheesecake everytime!
What is a perfect cheesecake you ask? Here are my criteria for what makes a cheesecake the best:
- Not too dense – must be light and fluffy
- Smooth and creamy filling with no chunks of cream cheese
- Crispy crust that holds together when sliced
- No cracks in the top when baked
- Pale, cream-colored top
This blog post highlights 10 Tips for Baking the Perfect Cheesecake. You will learn ten simple tricks to make your cheesecakes turn out unbelievably delicious and beautiful
1. Use a springform pan or cheesecake pan
A springform pan or cheesecake pan is very helpful for making perfect cheesecake. Springform and cheesecake pans have two pieces – a flat circular bottom piece and cylindrical sides. In a springform pan, the sides open and expand with a latch, while in a cheesecake pan, the bottom is pushed up through the top of the pan.
These pans are incredibly helpful because they keep the sides and bottom of the cheesecake in one piece. Rather than trying to remove the cheesecake from a regular pan using a knife or spatula, using these pans makes it easy for the cheesecake to be lifted out of the pan without damage!
Springform pans work incredibly well, but I recently bought a cheesecake pan and I am in love! My favorite is the Fat Daddio’s brand which comes in different sizes! For all of the cheesecake recipes on my blog, I use an 8 inch cheesecake pan, but a 9 inch pan could also be used without a problem.
2. Prebake the crust
Prebaking the crust is a helpful way to create a crisp crust that maintains shape when removed from the pan. Typically, cheesecake recipes call for some sort of cookie crumbs, sugar, salt, and melted butter. In my Vanilla Cheesecake recipe, I use graham cracker crumbs.
The ingredients are combined and then firmly pressed into the bottom and sides of the cheesecake pan. I recommend using a flat-bottomed measuring cup to press the crumbs to create the crust because it is a versatile tool!
After the crust is formed, prebake the crust for about 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Prebaking the crust does a couple things:
- Helps the ingredients to firm up to create a solid crust as opposed to loose crumbs
- Imparts a slightly toasted flavor to the crust rather than just raw cookie crumbs
- Creates a base for the cheesecake that is crispy to add another level of texture to the finished cheesecake
Some cheesecake recipes may have a base that is a cookie or a brownie, in which case, you would have to bake the crust for longer. Be sure to read the instructions in your recipe in order to get the best result.
3. Use room temperature ingredients
When making cheesecake, it is important to use room temperature cream cheese, eggs, sour cream, and heavy cream. If the ingredients are at room temperature, then they will combine easily to create a smooth, lump-free cheesecake filling.
The goal by using room temperature ingredients is to create a cheesecake filling that is homogenized and smooth. We don’t want any lumps of cream cheese as we bite into our cheesecake!
Here are a couple tricks if you forget to take your chilled ingredients out of the refrigerator ahead of time which is something I am guilty of literally 100% of the time.
- Cream cheese – Unwrap blocks of cream cheese and place on microwave-safe plate in a single layer. Microwave for 10 second bursts until cream cheese is softened and at room temperature.
- Eggs – Place your eggs in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes in order to bring them to room temperature.
- Sour cream – Measure out your sour cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 5 second bursts, mixing in between each interval. Don’t overdo this one! Usually less than 30 seconds does the trick.
- Heavy cream – Pour heavy cream into a glass liquid measuring cup. Microwave in 10 second intervals until it is at room temperature.
4. Use high-quality vanilla extract (or other flavorings)
A flavorless cheesecake is disappointing because it tastes like a brick of sweetened cream cheese. To make your cheesecakes flavorful, you will want to use high-quality flavorings.
Now in many recipes, I feel it is okay to cut corners and save some money by adding in imitation vanilla extract, such as when you are adding it to chocolate recipes. But if you are making a vanilla cheesecake, you are definitely going to want to have really intense vanilla flavor.
I recommend using pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste. Vanilla tends to be a bit on the expensive side, but for some recipes, such as my Vanilla Cheesecake or Vanilla Crème Brûlée, it is totally worth it.
If you are making a flavored cheesecake, focus on the quality of the flavoring, whether it is a good quality chocolate or fresh citrus juice and zest.
5. Don’t incorporate too much air in the cheesecake filling
It is important not to incorporate too much air into the cheesecake filling. Incorporating too much air can create pockets in your cheesecake and that is not cute.
By mixing the filling on low or medium-low speed, we are creaming the ingredients without incorporating too much air. When making cheesecake, I highly recommend using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Using a whisk attachment would incorporate too much air as well.
As long as your ingredients are at room temperature and you are mixing on low/medium-low speed, your cheesecake will come out smooth, creamy, light, and fluffy, at the same time.
Side note: Don’t forget to scrape the sides and the bottom of your bowl occasionally as you are mixing to ensure that all of the ingredients are well combined.
6. Protect your pan
Since we are using a springform pan or cheesecake pan, we must protect our pan! Springform and cheesecake pans are in two separate pieces, so we need to make sure that water does not leak through into the pan. Water? Yep – we will talk about this in tip 7!
The best way to protect your pan is to wrap it in aluminum foil. Unless you have industrial size aluminum foil, you will need to use a few pieces. I learned the hard way that two large pieces in an X shape does not do the trick because water still leaked into my pan at the corners. However, three pieces in the shape of an asterix works out perfectly.
Tear three sheets of aluminum foil that are about double the width of your pan. Lay them on your countertop in the shape of an asterix. Pull the aluminum foil up around the sides of the pan, ensuring that there are no cracks where water could seep in.
This is a crucial step unless you want a soggy cheesecake crust. Been there, done that.
7. Bake your cheesecake in a water bath
As we just discussed in tip 6, we need to protect our pan from water. That is because, it is important to bake cheesecake in a water bath.
A water bath is simply baking the cheesecake in a larger pan containing water. Water baths are beneficial for a few reasons:
- It helps prevent the cheesecake from cracking by keeping the oven environment moist
- It helps with evenly and slowly baking the cheesecake to achieve a smooth and creamy texture
To make a water bath, you will need a pan larger than your springform/cheesecake pan. For my 8 inch cheesecakes, I usually use a 10 inch round cake pan. You can use any pan as long as it is larger than your cheesecake pan.
You will want to fill the pan with about one inch of hot water, usually about halfway up the pan.
Pro-tip! Place your aluminum foil wrapped cheesecake in the larger baking pan. Open the oven and place the pans on a rack that has been pulled out. Pour the water into the larger pan, around the springform/cheesecake pan, halfway up. Be sure not to splash the water onto the cheesecake. Slowly and gently push the rack into the oven so not to splash or spill the water. This method prevents water from spilling everywhere when you are trying to put the pans in the oven.
8. Low and slow bake time
To achieve the perfect cheesecake, you want to bake the cheesecake at a low temperature for a longer period of time. For my Vanilla Cheesecake recipe, the cheesecake is baked for 90 minutes at 300 degrees.
There are several reasons why baking low and slow is the best way to achieve a perfect cheesecake.
- Prevents the cheesecake from drying out
- Reduces browning on the top of the cheesecake
- It prevents the top of the cheesecake from cracking
- Helps create the light, fluffy, and smooth texture of the filling
If you bake at too high of a temperature, your cheesecake may start to crack due to loss of moisture. It may also brown the top, which isn’t the worst thing, but for aesthetics, I prefer to have a pale, cream-colored cheesecake.
So take your time and bake it low and slow!
9. Jiggle test
Words that no woman wants to hear. HA!
To determine when our cheesecake is perfectly baked, a jiggle test is in order. And it is exactly what you are thinking. We give the cheesecake a little shake to see how much it jiggles.
What you will be looking for is a slight jiggle in the center of the cheesecake with no jiggle on the edges of the cheesecake. If this is what you see, the cheesecake is done baking. Do NOT take it out of the oven yet! We will talk about that in tip 10.
Now here’s the deal. Your cheesecake is in a water bath, the water will be hot, we don’t want to splash the water onto the cheesecake or onto ourselves, so here is my trick. I gently shake the handle of my oven and that is usually enough to see if there is jiggle in the cheesecake. I feel this is the safest way to do it.
For my Vanilla Cheesecake recipe, the baking time of 90 minutes on the dot has never let me down, but all ovens can be different. Double check with the jiggle test! If the edges are jiggling as well, it is probably wise to continue baking, checking every 5 minutes or so.
10. Gradual cooling and chilling
Just as we baked the cheesecake low and slow, it is important to gradually cool the cheesecake over time to prevent the top from cracking.
Here is the cooling process that I am currently using that seems to produce perfect, crack-free cheesecakes every time!
- Bake the cheesecake in a 300 degree F oven for 90 minutes
- Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to sit in the closed oven undisturbed for 30 minutes
- Open the oven door and allow the cheesecake to continue to cool for another 30 minutes
- Remove the cheesecake from the oven and water bath and cool to room temperature
- Chill the cheesecake in the refrigerator for approximately 6 hours but ideally overnight
You can’t rush perfection so be patient! Gradual cooling may take a little while, but it will be worth it, I promise!
And there you have it! My 10 Tips for Baking Perfect Cheesecake. If you follow these ten simple steps, you will certainly improve your cheesecaking skills and create the best cheesecake ever! Don’t forget to check out my recipe for The Best Vanilla Cheesecake. I use this recipe as the base for many of my more creative cheesecake flavors. It is a great place to start.