Cheesecake tips: smooth sailing

You decide to make cheesecake. You’ve got the 2 pounds of cream cheese, the eggs, the sugar, vanilla, cookies for a crust…

Stop right there! For best results – and surely you don’t want any result but the very best – read these cheesecake tips before you even start preheating the oven.

Trust me, your inner cheesecake goddess will thank you.

Cheesecake Tips via @kingarthurflour

Cheesecake tip #1: Choose your favorite crust.

Graham cracker crusts, while typical, aren’t the only way to go. Try using other cookies – vanilla wafers, gingersnaps, even chocolate sandwich cookies – in place of the graham crackers called for in your recipe. Or go with a cake crust, as they do in Brooklyn.

Cheesecake Tips via @kingarthurflour

Cheesecake tip #2: To prevent lumps, have everything at room temperature.

A lumpy batter going into the oven won’t magically transform itself into lump-free cheesecake as it bakes. Having all of your ingredients at room temperature makes it much easier to combine everything thoroughly into smooooooth, lump-free batter.

Cheesecake Tips via @kingarthurflour

Cheesecake tip #3: For best texture, mix the batter at low speed.

For quintessential cheesecake texture – dense without being heavy – beat filling ingredients at low or medium-low speed. Beating at high speed adds air to the batter; longer, slower beating yields a pleasantly dense cake.

Cheesecake Tips via @kingarthurflour

Cheesecake tip #4: How to prevent the deadly cracked top.

Cheesecakes sometimes develop a cracked top. Here are some tips for “crackless” cheesecake:

  • Make sure your oven is at the correct temperature. Use an independent oven thermometer to confirm. Cheesecake baked at too high a temperature (and/or for too long) will crack.
  • Wrap your pan in cake strips, to even out baking from edge to center. Alternatively, bake it in a water bath.
  • Use lighter rather than darker pans. Dark pans absorb heat more quickly, leading to uneven baking.
  • Make sure your cake cools slowly. Cold can “shock” cheesecake into cracking. When your cake tests done, turn the oven off, prop the door open a couple of inches, and leave the cake inside to cool completely in the cooling oven.
  • If your cake cracks while baking, spread the top with sour cream 10 minutes before turning the oven off; and/or top with fruit before serving.

Cheesecake Tips via @kingarthurflour

Cheesecake tip #5: To test for doneness, take the cake’s temperature.

To ensure your cake is baked all the way through but not over-baked, take its temperature. The perfectly baked cake will register 175°F about 1″ from the edge of the pan. Its center will still appear soft; that’s OK. Turn off the oven, it’s done.

Cheesecake Tips via @kingarthurflour

Cheesecake tip #6: For best shape, loosen the cake’s edges.

To help prevent a slumped center, run a thin spatula or table knife all around the edge of the cake as soon as you remove it from the oven, and prior to returning it to the oven to cool.

Cheesecake Tips via @kingarthurflour

Cheesecake tip #7: The final step –

Well, that’s easy: enjoy!

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Gary D

    Spritz cookie dough makes a great cheesecake crust
    I didn’t like graham cracker crusts on cakes and pies my mother baked 65+ ears ago and nothing has changed for me to even consider making one today

    Most of the time my cheesecakes do not crack. If one occasionally does, so what? It is no big deal as taste and eatability are the unaffected

    Reply
    1. Linda

      Thanks for the idea for a crust other than graham cracker. I don’t like them either. I have been making mine with grouns almonds and butter; it’s good to have another idea.

    2. Marie Szlachtianshyn

      I love making cheesecakes and love a water bath. However I have had my water bath leak into the crust 😩 So I use a pan of hot water on a bottom oven shelf. Seems to work just as well

    3. Dawn

      My family don’t like graham cracker crust..I make a brownie bottom & when the cheesecake is cool I add a can of cherry topping..it’s so yummy♡♡♡..my family loves it

  2. Kay

    Another tip is that no one really cares if the top gets a few cracks. Dinner guests and recipients of the cheesecake will be so amazed that you made it from scratch that they’ll never even notice the imperfections.

    Unless you’re going for a blue ribbon, don’t sweat it too much!

    Reply
  3. Lorraine Fina Stevenski

    Great tips for a perfect cheesecake PJ. I make my cheesecakes in the food processor. No air and perfectly smooth batter. Also for best taste use the best ingredients. Supermarket cream cheese and butter just don’t compare in taste. And of course good vanilla extract for flavoring. For easy release from the pan, I cut a parchment round for the bottom of the pan so the cheesecake slides out. I also lightly spray the pan sides and bottom for easy release too.

    Reply
    1. PuaM

      Great idea! We love Biscoff cookies and the taste is reminiscent of graham crackers, isn’t it?

  4. Elizabeth Springer

    Use a food processor and the recipe from the Frugal Gourmet. As Alton Brown said, regardless of his personal life, everything he did worked. This is eady– no fuss, no need to test its doneness, and no one cares when the top cracks–it’s always delicious!

    Reply
  5. Susan Lamb

    My cheesecake always cracks. Big deal. Sometimes the crack is where I start cutting it. A great disguise. All I know is that everyone swoons over my cheesecake. That is all that matters I. The end is that it tastes amazing.

    Reply
  6. BonnieD

    Use mascarpone cheese for about 1/4 of the cream cheese called for. It makes an incredibly creamy cheesecake.

    Reply
  7. Troy Tozer

    I’m rather surprised you don’t have the sure fire way to prevent cracks…. wrap the pan in foil and put it in a water bath in the oven. You can mess up all kinds of other things, but a crack will never appear.

    Also, cheesecake should still have a slight jiggle when coming out of the oven. I’m not talking a wet jiggle, but a slight jiggle no less (think firm jello). Otherwise, you’ve over baked it and it will be a dry cheesecake.

    Lastly, I’d never take a cheesecakes temp. You end up with a big ugly hole. Know your oven temp, know your cook time and start with EVERYTHING at room temp, you have no reason to make a big hole taking it’s temp. 🙂

    …. Just my .02.

    Reply
    1. janice scheier

      And Troy Tozer you are absolutely correct…I do mine the same way. never a crack and always excellent !!

    2. Sandy

      I use zeieback baby toast for a different crust. Nabisco stopped making them but I found a company here in CT that sells them through Amazon. The name is Brandt Zwieback toast.
      Recipe: 1 1/2 sleeves of Zwieback
      1/2 C sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon. Pulse in food processor until crumbs. Add 1 stick room temp butter, pinch of salt. When we’ll mixed, Press on bottom & up sides of spring form pan. Your guests will love the crust & will never guess what it is. A delicious alternative to graham cracker or cookie crust.
      🍰

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      I have wonderful memories of stealing my baby brother’s zwieback from his high chair! Love the idea of it for a cheesecake! Laurie@KAF

  8. N J Teter

    When I get readt to take my cakes out of the springform pan I use a kitchen torch to warm the bottom and sides of the pan. Makes it easy to remove from the pan.

    Reply
  9. Paula Bauer

    I do not use a crust of any kind….
    I start the baking process at 500 degrees for ten minutes…..
    then turn down and bake at given time…
    I always use parchment paper…..VERY lightly grease…wipe off excess…
    Always easy pan removal…
    Never open oven till at room temp…
    (Cheesecake best cooked an hour before bed…turn off and let it go overnight)
    p.s., almost everything that goes in the oven goes in on a baking pan (double pan) for more even cooking and less burning of bottom before top is done.

    Reply
    1. Maryann

      Paula and Neil, we are on the same page. Baking a cheesecake using this method is foolproof. (I don’t use the extra baking pan though.) And think of the calories you will save without having a crust!!! Seriously, a crustless cheesecake lets you enjoy the creaminess of the cake without the distraction of gritty graham cracker crumbs.

  10. Katie

    Thanks for the helpful hints for cheesecakes! I especially look forward to using cookies, etc. instead of graham cracker crumbs. I wish I would have thought of that – what a great idea!

    Reply
  11. Robert

    For bottom I use 6 oz ‘Nilla’ vanilla wafers, 1/2 cup almonds in food processor until even sized fine texture then add 6 oz melted unsalted butter then pat on bottom of springform pan lined bottom and sides with parchment paper.

    My go to cake from the old Time-Life cookbook series has beaten eggs whites, and although I don’t sweat the cracking, I will try the bain-marie next time.

    Reply
  12. Joe M

    If you really want to go from scratch, make your own crust for Vanilla Wafers and Graham Crackers from the KA receipies.

    Reply
  13. Nel

    I’m confused. On the one hand, it says that to prevent a cracked top, don’t shock the cake with a sudden change from in the oven to out of the oven: let it cool in the oven with the door propped open.

    But then it says to take the hot cake out of the hot oven, run a knife around the edges, and then put it back into the oven to let it cool.

    Well, wouldn’t the shock of taking it out, setting it down, running a knife around the edges cause it to crack before you get a chance to put it back into the turned-off oven to cool?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The cake is dense and has so much thermal mass that it’s not going to immediately cool and shrink. We’re assuming the whole process of cleaning the edges won’t take more than a minute. Laurie@KAF

  14. Mari1

    To prevent cracking, I don’t think you can emphasize enough not to overbake (need that jiggle!) and not to shock it by pulling it right out of oven i.e. 325* into a 70* room. Also, I beat my eggs lightly and then slowly add to the batter with minimal beating. Excessive air incorporated into the batter is said to case cracking.

    I line the bottoms of my pans so I can easily transfer them to cake rounds. In addition, I use 2 1/2 to 3″ strips of parchment paper to line the SIDES of my cheesecake pans. Cut the strips long enough to overlap a couple of inches. As the batter is poured into the pan it pushes the parchment paper up against the sides. I leave the paper on until I am ready to put in on the serving plate. Then I gently put it off and the sides are perfect…no knife gouges!

    One last comment since I have the floor… I use cheesecake, not springform pans. They are aluminum, 3″ high with a lift out bottom. There is no clamp or a bottom to fit into a groove.

    Reply
    1. Rose Barbuto

      I have used parchment strips to line the sides of the pan for a long time. It works great! I make a lot of cheesecakes so I take a new roll of parchment paper and cut the entire roll into strips length wise without opening it. Only wish I could find pre-cut strips to buy since it’s not an easy process.

  15. Neil

    If you have a good oven you can use the following method: Preheat the oven to 500 deg, put the cheesecake in for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, without opening the door, turn the oven off and let it sit for an hour to an hour and a quarter. It should be cooked perfectly.

    Reply
  16. Donna Marie

    I have been baking cheesecakes for decades, nearly always in a water bath. I quickly learned that know matter how many layers of foil I used, a leak could still happen. Then one day, while stacking up pans on the shelf to make room for even more pans, I discovered that my loose-bottomed cheesecake pan fit nearly perfectly into my (almost never used but could not be discarded) silicone pan. Hmmm. With a little coaxing I was able to push the one down into the other and, voila, my perfect cheesecake pan was born. I now bake my cheesecakes in a water bath with absolutely no fear of a soggy bottom. Just pull off the silicone pan, run a knife around the edge of the cake, lift up the pan and the side slides right down. I also place a parchment round in the bottom of the pan then slip my long, off-set frosting spatula under it and slide the whole cake onto a serving platter. Beautiful!

    Reply
  17. Mary Struck

    I have used a couple of different crusts besides graham crackers including shortbread cookie crust, yum! But the best cheese cake I ever made was when I used duck eggs!! It held its shape and the flavors were enhanced much more than with chicken eggs. My husband thinks it rose up higher but I didn’t notice that myself. Will never use chicken eggs again for cheese cake!

    Reply
  18. Alicia

    Use a crushed pecans and butter crust for low-carb/diabetes-friendly cheesecakes and for certain other ones as well.

    Crushed pecans mixed with unsweetened shredded coconut is another good crust, especially for Key Lime Cheesecake. 🙂

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Pat, Line the bottom of the springform pan with parchment. After baking, make sure it is cold before you try to move it. Clean the edges around the pan with a knife. Unclip the pan. Use a knife tip to pry a bit of the cake from the springform bottom. Once you loosen it and break that seal, the whole cake will slide off onto a plate. The best thing about a cheesecake is you really can press parts of it back together if needed. Good luck! Laurie@KAF

  19. Katie

    I never had a cheesecake crack, and I bake cheesecakes all the time. I always bake cheesecakes at 250F and and place a large (14-16 inch) cake pan filled with hot water on the oven rack immediately under the rack with the cheesecake. Water does not touch the bottom of the cheesecake pan (I only use professional cheesecake pans). No alliminum foil, no tricks like partially open oven, changing temperatures, etc. I take cheesecakes out of the oven as soon as they are done, let them sit on the cooling rack for a few hours, then refrigerate for 12-24 hours.

    Reply
  20. Judy Godwin

    I’d like to make another sugggestion for a crust for your cheesecake. Try buying a LARGE (I think mine came from Costco) jar of animal crackers, pulverized of course, with butter, sugar, etc. I really much prefer it to graham cracker crusts, which to me are so strongly-flavored that it detracts from the delicate taste of the cheesecake. I believe I saw the recipe several years ago in an ATK (America’s Test Kitchen) recipe.

    Reply
  21. Jeanette

    Another idea for the crust is a can of Pillsbury Crescent rolls spread out in your pan and brought up the sides a little. Makes a very good crust and is super easy.

    Reply
  22. Christine

    I have a quick question about freezing cheesecakes. I’m using a recipe that uses a cup of sour cream. Will this freeze okay?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If the sour cream is in the cheese-y mixture, then once the cheesecake is baked, you can freeze according to the tips here. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  23. Sheila

    One of the possible crusts you have not mentioned is one based on a coconut macaroon. It is fabulous with citrus flavoured cheesecake. Basically the cheesecake is sitting on a giant coconut macaroon. Yum!

    Reply
    1. Melinda

      Yes a water bath is essential to enhance creaminess, allow for a more evenly baked cake and no cracks.

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