How many times have you baked a cheesecake following the recipe to a “T” only to have it drop or crack in the center? How many other times have you ended up with a gooey overly sweet fat-laden unattractive mess that you wouldn’t feed to your pets let alone put on the table as a grand finale to a meal where you want to impress?
Guilty as charged.
If you follow my 12 step-by-step must have tips for baking the perfect cheese-cake, I promise you cheesecake success every single time. I can not account for flavor because I am not furnishing a specific cheesecake recipe in this article. But I can guarantee that any delicious recipe will turn out perfectly if you follow these tips.
1. Preheat the oven and make sure the temperature is accurate.
2. Invest in an inexpensive oven thermometer. Regardless of whether your oven is electric or gas, the actual temperature in the oven may be off by as much as +/-10⁰. A $5.00 – $10.00 one-time investment is a small price to pay for you to know exactly what the temperature in your oven is especially considering the price of ingredients and the fact that your time extremely valuable. Nothing can be more costly and frustrating than having nothing to show for hard work but a trashcan full of expensive food that nobody will eat.
3. Place the thermometer on the rack where you will be baking your cheesecake. The temperature can vary depending on where you bake in the oven.
4. Be sure that you have the right size pan/ramekin required by the recipe. Measure the pan/ramekin. Do not guess. Even a 1″ difference will yield a negative end product if you do not increase/decrease the oven temperature and/or baking time to accommodate the difference in the size of the pan/ramekin. If you do not have the size required by the recipe then you must change the oven temperature (+/-) and may also have to adjust the baking time to insure a desirable end product. Unless you are a very skilled baker I wouldn’t suggest fudging oven temperatures/baking times. In the long run it will be far less expensive to just break down and buy the size pan/ramekin required by the recipe.
5. Be sure that all of your ingredients are room temperature before attempting to mix the batter.
6. Take care not to over mix the ingredients. Most recipes begin with combining cream cheese with sugar and then gradually adding additional ingredients, eggs, milk, etc. Using an electric mixer to initially combine the cream cheese with sugar is fine but after that mix the remaining ingredients by hand. I personally prefer to use a whisk.
7. Grease the sides of the pans/ramekins in addition to the bottoms. This will help the cheesecake pull away from the sides of the pans/ramekins as it cools eliminating cracking.
8. Regardless of what type/size of pan/ramekin you are using opt to use a bath for baking. Once you have filled your pan/ramekins with the cheesecake ingredients place them in a larger baking pan that is deep enough to fill with water that will come just below the top of your cheesecake. Once that water heats to the desired temperature the cheesecake will be surrounded by a constant temperature. This is highly desirable for both the baking and cooling process. If you are using a spring form pan it is vital that you cover the exterior of your pan with aluminum foil to keep water in the bath from seeping into your cheesecake.
9. Once you place your cheesecake into the oven for baking, set a timer and walk away. Do NOT open the door until the cheesecake is done. Baking cheesecake is not like baking cookies and other types of cakes/pastries. Cheesecakes are very fickle and can drop in the center or crack if temperature during baking isn’t consistent or cooling isn’t very gradual.
10. Once the cheesecake is done baking, turn off the oven and leave the door open a crack with a wooden spoon placed in the door. Cool the cake this way for at least one hour before removing from the oven.
11. Once you remove the cheesecake from the oven place on a cooling rack. Run a very sharp knife around the edge of the cake to help facilitate the cake’s edges ability to pull away during the cooling process.
12. Cool the cheesecake to room temperature (usually another 4 to 5 hours) before placing in the refrigerator to cool. Cheesecake is best served when chilled for a minimum of 5 to 6 hours (overnight) before serving.