Cheesecake is my all-time favourite dessert. Honestly, if I had to choose just one dessert to have for the rest of my life, it would be cheesecake, no doubt! So as you can imagine, I make quite a lot of them. For years, though, I struggled with cracks in my cheesecake and always had to think of inventive ways to cover the top of the cheesecake. Not any more! I think I’ve cracked it and I no longer have the cracks in my cheesecake! Today I am sharing my best tips to get your cheesecake out of the oven with a surface as smooth as you’d like and with no cracks whatsoever.
Here are my NINE tips that I picked up over the years to help you prevent your cheesecake from cracking:
TIP 1: Room temperature ingredients: similarly to butter, cold cream cheese is very resistant to mixing with other ingredients, so you may end up having lumps, especially if you’re mixing with a hand whisk (as opposed to an electric whisk). I tend to take all of my ingredients out of the fridge at least 1.5 hours before I start cooking.
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TIP 2: Use Springform Cake Tin: it certainly comes in handy when you’re trying to release your cheesecake out of the tin. The springform cake ensures minimal handling of the baked cheesecake, hence minimising the chance of you not being gentle enough with it. We love our 18cm (7in) springform cake tin.
TIP 3: Mix cream cheese & sour cream very well: The trick is to mix the cream cheese, sour cream (or heavy cream, or creme fraiche) very well before adding the eggs. I typically use an electric mixer (we love Kenwood) to make sure the mixture is smooth and have no lumps. I beat the cream cheese, cream and sugar first. It seems to become thinner first and then starts to thicken again. Overall, I tend to beat my cream cheese mixture for about 3-4 minutes before adding the eggs.
TIP 4: Don’t Overwhip the Eggs: The reason I add the eggs last is because I don’t want to overwhip them. When beaten, eggs trap in the air (that’s why the eggs double or even triple in volume when beaten). The trick is to mix the eggs in well, but slowly, avoiding getting any air bubbles into the mixture. If you have lots of trapped air bubbles in the mixture, as the cheesecake bakes, the air bubbles expand and the cheesecake surface may crack.
TIP 5: No higher than the middle of the oven: When it comes to the position in the oven to cook your cheesecake in, I find that the slightly lower than the centre works best. Placing your cheesecake nearer to the top may mean that the top cooks quicker than the rest of the cheesecake. As cheesecake cooks, it dries so if the surface dries out quicker than the rest of the cheesecake, it may crack.
TIP 6: Waterbath: water bath is sometimes considered to be a myth in cheesecake baking. Well, I may not understand the science behind it and know if it supports the idea that a water bath helps prevent the cheesecake from cracking, but for me, it works. Ever since I started using water baths, my success rate doubled! Cheesecakes seem to like humidity. Not only does the cheesecake not crack on the surface, but steam in the oven also helps the cheesecake rise and not sink down when cooling. Make sure to wrap your cake tin in a strong foil – we highly recommend Kirkland Signature Foil.
TIP 7: Don’t overcook: Overbaking your cheesecake will certainly result in a cracked surface. It seems almost counterintuitive but I turn my oven off when my cheesecake looks far from being done. Since I leave it to cool in the oven, I rely on the residual heat to finish cooking it. Turn your oven off when the middle of your cheesecake is still wobbly and only the sides are fully set. When I bake my cheesecake in 18cm (7in) springform tin, I turn the oven off whilst the middle 5 cm are still wobbling like a panna cotta.
TIP 8: Avoid Opening the Oven: Temperature changes won’t help our cheesecake to stay smooth, so try and avoid opening the oven as much as you can (certainly a challenge for me!!).
TIP 9: Cooling slowly: If you take one thing away from this list, it is that cheesecakes are best cooled slowly. I personally, turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in a CLOSED oven for at least half an hour (another reason why I make sure I underbake it in the first place). After half an hour, open the oven a crack and let it cool for at least another hour. Then take it out of the oven and leave to cool completely at room temperature. Only then do I cover it well and transfer it to chill overnight (or at least 6 hours) in the fridge. I only remove it from the tin when it’s time to serve!
Now, for inspiration on what flavour cheesecake to bake first, here are some of my favourites: