All About Cheesecake!

Baking By doctorwhobaker Updated 12 Jan 2017 , 8:33pm by siftandwhisk

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doctorwhobaker Posted 10 Jan 2017 , 1:35pm
post #1 of 17

I am finally getting the hang of cheesecake! However I am still having a few problems like browning at the top of a vanilla cheesecake, cracking sometimes, sinking, etc. . Could all of you cheesecake pros give me your secrets to a perfect cheesecake?? Any information/tips/tricks is welcome and most appreciated :)

16 replies
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JodieF Posted 10 Jan 2017 , 3:34pm
post #2 of 17

A cheesecake is basically like a souffle, except you don't want to beat in air.  You want it to rise as little as possible.  So, you'll beat your cream cheese and sugar very well, but when you incorporate your eggs you want to just mix them in.  I also tap the mixing bowl on the counter to help remove air bubbles and also tap the pan once the batter is added to the pan. Once the cheesecake is baked I let it sit on the counter for 10 or 15 minutes and then gently release the side of the springform pan.  Because if the crust is sticking to the side at all as the cheesecake cools and shrinks it will pull and create cracks.

However, and it's a big however, sometimes they just crack!  I have literally made hundreds and hundreds of New York cheesecakes. I used to sell them to restaurants.  Despite all my tricks and know how, some still crack.  That's what ganache is for, I've always said.

As to browning, sounds like your oven is too high.  I bake mine at 475 for 10 minutes and then turn the oven down to 275 for the remainder of the baking time.  If it's sinking it sounds like the center may be underbaked.  I test mine for doneness with a instant read thermometer.  The center should be 155 degrees when done. Be gentle when doing it.  You don't want to cause a crack that way.

There are some that will say you should bake cheesecake in a waterbath to prevent cracking.  However, keep in mind that it will totally change the texture of the cheesecake.  I bake a dense New York cheesecake and a waterbath is a bad idea!

There...all my hard won 35 years of cheesecake know how!

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siftandwhisk Posted 10 Jan 2017 , 4:47pm
post #3 of 17

Causes of cheesecake cracking: 

1. over-baked: baking happens from outside edge into the center.  The filling should have a slight jiggle in the center when done  

2. cooling too fast:  cheesecake should be cooled very slowly.  After I turn off the oven, I leave it inside. After an hour,  crack the oven door and leave 30 more minutes.

3. oven temperature too high: I bake at 275 degrees 

I learned the cooling technique from an 2005 article in the Washington Post.  Below is a link to the recipe that accompanied the article.  Not sure if the article is in their archives, but the recipe explains the technical aspects.  I've never had a cracked cheesecake since using this method.

cause of over-browning: oven-temp too high and over-baking

Causes of cheesecake to sunk in middle:

1. too much egg.  If you are using large eggs, try medium eggs

2. Over mixing

3. Ingredients not properly emulsified due to ingredients being too cold.  Leave ingredients out for at least 2 hours.  Some chefs will leave them out overnight.  Too cold ingredients will also lead to over-mixing since cold ingredients take a lot longer to emulsify.

DISCLAIMER: I've never tried this next tip, so I cannot vouch for it:

mix filling in food processor to ensure its properly emulsified.   Emulsification is key for that perfectly smooth, sheer texture.  But, again, I've never made a cheesecake filling in a food processor, but some swear by it.

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vlasko Posted 10 Jan 2017 , 7:20pm
post #4 of 17

Don't overbake the cheesecake.  The best way is to use an instant thermometer and remove it once the center is at 150 degrees.  If you have to poke more than once, use the same hole.   If baking using dark nonstick pan, lower oven temperature by 25 degrees.  After pulling it out of the oven, use a thin knife and gently free the cheesecake from the side of the pan.  This is because the cheesecake wants to contract when it's removed from the heat, but if the side of the cheesecake is stuck to the pan, it creates tension and lead to cracking.

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vlasko Posted 10 Jan 2017 , 7:32pm
post #5 of 17

I second what someone else wrote about making sure your ingredients are close to room temperature.  Also, use Kraft or another good brand name cream cheese.  Don't use cheap store brand.  Store brand may be just fine for other things, but not cheesecake. 

The problem with leaving cheesecake in the oven as some suggest is that it might get above the ideal temperature this way, and also lose some moisture.  Maybe if you leave the oven door wide open.  Evaporation does occur with warm cheesecake.  The longer it takes to cool, the more moisture that escapes.   The cooking process should be stopped once it hits 150 degrees.  And if necessary, it needs to be separated from the side of the pan using a thin knife so it can shrink as needed without being pulled back.  That separation needs to be done before it starts cooling.  

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JustOneMoreCake Posted 12 Jan 2017 , 5:34am
post #6 of 17

First off, I'm new here!  Total hobby baker, I generally lurk for pointers but when I saw this topic it made me think that someone here might know what I"m talking about!

I've made a great cheesecake for years (the CI classic NY cheesecake recipe) and for the past year or so, I haven't been happy with how it comes out (in three different ovens, so it's not just my own oven being weird).  It doesn't rise (since it starts at such a high heat I'm used to it doing an initial "puff" so to speak) and stays white when normally it gets a beautifully browned top.   It's lower than it used to be and is kind of...gummy?

Friends and family swear it's still delicious but I can tell the difference. The last time I made it was about six months ago and I finally happened to glance at the ingredients list on the back of the Philly cream cheese package and saw whey protein concentrate listed!  I actually contacted Kraft and asked when/if the formula had changed and they swore it hadn't but it now has 2 grams of carbs per serving when I know for a fact it used to be listed as less than 1 carb per serving. I used to low carb pretty strictly so I always swore by Philly vs other brands that had 2 or 3 carbs per serving; I can't be certain about when or if the whey protein was in it then but something had to change for those extra carbs, right?

So, long story short, has anyone else noticed anything hinky with Philadelphia cream cheese?  I feel like I need to do an enormous side by side test with other brands but that won't be cheap.  That recipe takes 5 bricks of cream cheese at a time!

Also, just to contribute - I do my cheesecake with a homemade "cold collar."  I soak paper towels and then wrap them in heavy duty foil which I then wrap around the pan.  Get the benefits of a water bath without any leaking and the crust stays relatively crisp.

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siftandwhisk Posted 12 Jan 2017 , 7:05am
post #7 of 17

I think the problems stem from your high oven temperature and the collar you devised to eliminate the Bain Marie.

Cheesecake is a custard. Heat binds egg proteins.  The higher the heat, the faster and rigid the proteins become.  Cheesecake is baked on low temperatures to keep the egg proteins from setting to fast and rigid.

Your homemade aluminum foil collar is acting both as a conductor of heat, and insulation to hold the heat directly against the pan.  The foil is exposed to the oven air temperature rather than the much lower temperature of a Bain Marie. Add higher oven temperature to the equation and you are frying those eggs.  All that heat is causing the egg protein network to seize the filling.  

A Bain Marie isn't just humidity; rather the water functions as a barrier to counter the oven air heat. The water temperature will not rise above boiling (212 degrees at sea level).  That water temperature is well below the oven air temperature of 300, 325, or whatever temperature setting you are baking at.  The effect of a Bain Marie is the water and the pan holding the water absorbs the radiant heat, thereby controlling the heat surrounding the foiled wrapped cake pan.  The lower heat allows the egg protein to bind slowly, and promotes more even baking. 

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JustOneMoreCake Posted 12 Jan 2017 , 7:35am
post #8 of 17

Thank you very much for the thoughtful reply ( I do appreciate it for future use) but I've been using the cold collar and the initial high oven temp all along and it's only in the past year that my results have changed.  My results before this year were always exactly what I wanted so I was happy with my improvised method.  It has to be something else and the cream cheese is my first step in figuring that out.

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doctorwhobaker Posted 12 Jan 2017 , 12:12pm
post #9 of 17

@JustOneMoreCake ‍ You said you used the CI recipe for your cheesecake? I have never heard of it, can you share it with me? I have always used my family's  formula "for every 8 oz of cream cheese, 3 eggs, and 1/4 cup sugar" so I would like to try an actual recipe :) 

Also, just to everyone in general, I want to try making a tall cheese cake like you see at restaurants.  You know, where the slices are 3 - 4 inches high. Do I have to bake it a certain way if its that tall? What about ingredients?

Thanks for  all the feedback, this is helping so much!

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Ninih7 Posted 12 Jan 2017 , 1:29pm
post #10 of 17


This recipe is from Delices and Gourmandises. It is quite easy to make, you can try it

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JustOneMoreCake Posted 12 Jan 2017 , 4:22pm
post #11 of 17

@doctorwhobaker  Wow, that's a lot of eggs for 8 oz cream cheese!  Now, I'm interested in trying that. :-)  I'd be happy to share the CI recipe; can someone tell me if it's allowed?  I don't remember if I saw that in the Guidelines.  It does have five 8 oz bricks of cream cheese and 6 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks. And before this past year, it did make that super tall cheesecake you're talking about.  So you can understand my confusion/frustration!

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doctorwhobaker Posted 12 Jan 2017 , 5:07pm
post #12 of 17

Oh, are we not allowed to share recipes? I didn't know that haha. 

Also Ninih7, the link you gave me is kind of vague when it comes to the pan size, do you know what it is?

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JustOneMoreCake Posted 12 Jan 2017 , 5:13pm
post #13 of 17

I'm not sure!  This is my first ever post here and I just know that there are other sites that are touchy about recipes.  I see Ninih7 shared a link so I could definitely do that, thought it wouldn't be to the Cook's Illustrated site as they're paywalled tight there.  If you google Cook's Illustrated New York cheesecake, you'll find it.

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vlasko Posted 12 Jan 2017 , 5:26pm
post #14 of 17

Recipes can be copyrighted like any other material.   That's why some web forums prefer that you link to an outside source for the full details of a recipe.  

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JustOneMoreCake Posted 12 Jan 2017 , 5:33pm
post #15 of 17

That definitely makes sense.  Is that the case here?  The only links to that recipe would be third parties, too, so I'm not sure how that would work.  As far as I know, it's only Cook's Illustrated that keeps their recipes behind a paywall so for any other one, I'd happily link to the blog/recipe creator.

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vlasko Posted 12 Jan 2017 , 6:28pm
post #16 of 17

I'm not sure what this website's particular rules are.  But as far as the legal aspects, this is my understanding... Copyright protections for recipes aren't as strong as for other material.    And lists of ingredients can't be copyrighted.  So if Ina Garten publishes in a book a new recipe for a pumpkin cake that uses  1 cup of Vernors Gingerale and 1/2 cup of crème fraîche as two of the ingredients, someone might not be in violation by mentioning it.  But when recipes come with original detailed instructions and technique and illustrations, and these are cut and paste from their original source, there may be a problem.  If you take a standard recipe like chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookies, the ingredients and cooking directions are so common there is unlikely to be any copyright issue if posted to a board.  But with that said, it's still a good idea to simply link to an outside source if you want others to know about a full recipe for something.

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siftandwhisk Posted 12 Jan 2017 , 8:33pm
post #17 of 17

I worked in a patent law firm where I completed and filed the applications both in US and internationally for patents and copyrights.  For copyright, work has to be original.  Recipes, formulas, compounds, etc. in of themselves can't be copyrighted because you cannot copyright an idea, process, procedure, or method.  And too, the government views a recipe as simply a list of ingredients; ingredient and material  lists cannot be copyrighted.

However, if the recipe is origins and contains "substantial literary expression"; meaning it needs to include discussion, illustrations, and/or instructions, it can be copyrighted.  If a recipe is included in a cookbook that's been copyrighted, it's falls under the protection of cookbook copyright.

If a recipe is stripped of all original "substantial literary express" and passed along, it doesn't necessarily constitute a copyright violation.  Some chefs believe that's ok; some chefs object. 

Copyright isn't absolute in that the courts long reconized fair use, the use of copyrighted material without expressed permission from the right's holder.  Fair use is pretty complex now that we live in the digital age.  Six or seven years ago, a chef on the food network had her show cancelled after allegations of recipe "plagiarism".  

Given a cake is a cake, and there's a only so many ways to make a cake, 99.9% of cake recipes are going to be suspiciously similar.  

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