Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cheesecakes and Baking Tips

When it comes to cakes, Cheesecakes belong to a league of their own. There are mainly two types of cheesecakes: baked and unbaked (also known as chilled cheesecakes). Cheesecakes are often flourless. However, some baked cheesecake recipes do call for small amounts of plain flour or corn starch to hold the cheesecake together and give it a more cake-like texture.

A water bath is sometimes used for baked cheesecakes. This involves the cheesecake tin submerged in a larger pan filled with hot water. Using a water bath promotes a moist environment and encourages even heat distribution, resulting in cheesecakes with creamier texture. Compared to the conventional butter cake, baked cheesecakes are actually baked custards, albeit creamier and denser. On the other hand, chilled cheesecakes often calls for whipped cream and gelatin powder to hold the structure. In fact, the texture of unbaked cheesecakes very much resembles that of a firm gelatinous cheesy mousse.

The main ingredients used in cheesecakes are cream cheese, eggs and sugar. The choice of cheese may differ slightly with some recipes suggesting ricotta, cottage or mascarporne cheese. Sometimes, it is a mixture of two types of cheese. Most people may be more familiar with the American style cheesecake which usually calls for sour cream or whipping cream as the liquid ingredient. American style cheesecakes are rich and dense whereas the Japanese cheesecake (also known as cotton cheesecake or souffle cheesecake) is light, velvety and cake-like.  

Cheesecakes may or may not come with a base. The base may be made from digestive biscuits, graham crackers, ground nuts, brownies, pastry or sponge cake.

I am a self-confessed cheesecake lover who loves to bake and eat cheesecakes. Having baked quite a couple of cheesecakes, the following are my observations and tips on baking/making cheesecakes. Hope they are useful to you: 

1) When cheesecakes are baked and come into contact with cold air suddenly, they may be subjected to cracks on the surface. This happens when the oven door is fully opened after the cheesecake is baked. To prevent cracks from surfacing, the baked cheesecake should be cooled in the switched off oven gradually for sometime before being removed to cool on a wire rack.

2) Cheesecakes baked in a water bath are less likely to experience cracks on the surface. The entire cheesecake would have a more uniform density and texture as opposed to cheesecakes baked without a water bath. Cheesecakes baked without a water bath would have tough and dry edges. Nowadays, I bake all my cheesecakes in a water bath.

3) When using a water bath, be sure to wrap 2 or more layers of aluminuim foil around the bottom and sides of the pan to prevent water leaking into the pan.

4) When a cheesecake recipe calls for whipping cream, do not overbeat the mixture when the cream is added. The cream may separate and result in an undesirable grainy texture.

5) When beating in eggs or liquid ingredients into cheesecake mixture, beat on low speed and mix until combined. Do not overbeat as air will be incoporated into the batter, resulting in a sunken cheesecake when cooled. Run a spatula through the cheesecake mixture in a zig zag manner to eliminate some of the air bubbles or rap the cheesecake tin on a solid surface and allow air bubbles to rise to the surface.  

6) Cheesecakes are done when they appear to be softly set and will jiggle slightly (centre is less set and  more wobbly compared to edges) when the pan is moved. The baked cheesecake will continue to firm up as it cools down after baking and when it is being chilled in the refrigerator. Personally, I like my cheesecakes to be softly set throughout the surface without the centre being more wobbly (when using a water bath).  

7) Baking times will affect the density of the baked cheesecake. Cheesecakes that are baked longer will be denser and dryer. Vary the baking time (shorten or lengthen)to get your desired texture. Cheesecakes that are overbaked will turn out dry and tough whereas cheesecakes that are underbaked may not hold their shape well (very watery in texture) when sliced. It will be easier to vary baking times using a water bath without drying out the cheesecake.

8) When using a water bath while the recipe does not call for one, the baking time will be longer.

9) When buying cream cheese, select the ones in rectangular blocks rather than those in tubs (more for cheese spread). The composition of the cream cheese in these packagings are different.

10) A good brand of cream cheese to use would be Philadelphia cream cheese.

11) Cheesecakes store for up to 7 days in the refrigerator. Cheesecakes can be frozen to last longer.

12) Always keep cheesecakes in the refrigerator and serve them chilled. According to some sources, the flavour of cheesecakes mature as the number of days pass.

13) When using vanilla, use the best quality vanilla to give the cheesecake a full bodied aroma. The difference in quality of vanilla used in cheesecakes is noticeable.

14) For unbaked (chilled) cheesecakes, the quantity of gelatin used is often crucial in ensuring that the cheesecake sets well. Ensure that gelatine is well dissolved using a bain marie/ double boiler but do not over heat the gelatine mixture.

15) To cut cheesecakes into neat slices, wipe the knife with a kitchen towel after every slice.

16) To give the cheesecake a smooth finishing around the perimeter, dip a knife in hot water. Dry the knife with a kitchen towel and run around the sides of the cheesecake. Repeat the step if necessary.

Baking cheesecakes is an uncomplicated affair. There are hardly any major disasters to send you on a panic. Whether you are a seasoned baker anot, it will be a good idea to include them on your baking list. So, why not get some cream cheese and start baking one right away?

The above are based on my observations and experience. The tips provided, while they work well for me, may not be suitable for everyone. Feel free to provide suggestions, opinions or comments on this article.

Useful References:


  1. I have baked cheesecake only once, and it cracked during baking even though I didn't open the oven door to check. I didn't bake with a water bath, since the recipe didn't call for it. Your post has given me the confidence that I should give baked cheesecake a try again. Thanks for sharing your knowledge :)

  2. Wow! You should consider writing a book on cheesecakes. Or start another blog just dedicated to cheesecakes. I'll be the first to follow!

    Thanks for sharing :) You must have baked a whole lot of cheesecakes to gain all this wisdom.
    I like the colour scheme of your new blog template.

  3. Thanks for sharing these tips, they are very helpful.

  4. Great tips! Generous of you to share! Thank you! :)

  5. Great write-up on this. Very informative!

  6. I skimmed through the write-up. Will take note of them. Gotta agree though bain-marie gives cheesecake a whole new depth of life. Thank you for taking the time for such detailed write-up. =)

    Hey, so you baked Japanese souffle cheesecake before!? Liked it? Actually, this is by far my family's fave. I like it also lar ... I thought you wouldn't like it since you're more dense, creamy American type cheesecake person. LOL! Mine is still in the pile of backlogs ... When the mood strikes me, I'll blog about it. =P

  7. Hi HHB,

    My first baked cheesecake also cracked. Cant remember if I used a water bath then. Subsequently, my cheesecakes were free from cracks.

    Thanks and do give it a try again. I'm sure it will turn out fine =]


    Hi NEL,

    Haha, I dont know what to write for a cheesecake book or cheesecake blog. There are still several dozen cheesecake recipes waiting for me to try out.

    Thanks! I've maked more cheesecakes than my fingers can count. probably somewhere between 10-20.Lost count of it.

    This is one colour scheme that I am most satisfied with. I actually like the colour green better but it doesnt match as a whole on my blog. Always seem a little dull and weary.


    Hi Yummy Koh, Busygran and DG,

    Thanks alot! You all have been really supportive =] Glad that these info can be of use to everyone.


    Hey Pei-Lin,

    Haha, Maybe my write-up is too lengthy for you to read? Bain Marie is such a smart technique that is especially useful in cheesecake baking. Thanks!

    I quite like the Japanese souffle cheesecake. If I have pictures, I would have blogged about it. Back then I was on a hiatus and did not have the momentum to blog. Mine turn out quite well but the base was a little soggy cos I din cool it on a wire rack. Its like a spongy cheesey chiffon cake. Its more cake than cheesecake like, hence I dont mind it being light =]. Hope to see yours blogged soon.

  8. No, no ... Not lengthy. You should say it's terse. You wanna beat me in terms of long-windedness? My posts are long, my comments are long. So far, I haven't found anyone else around who has defeated my records. LOL! Except though, from a writer's standpoint, it'd be great if there are pictures to go along with the words. In journalism/psychology, there's a term called "blocks of gray." That's why albeit exhausted, I make sure there are at least three to four pics to go along with mine. Just my two cents. However, I know I'm a bad writer/journalist lar ... LOL! I skimmed thru because I wanted to get an idea of what you're trying to convey here and simultaneously, getting ready for bed. Will take these pointers as reference. Should the need arise, I'll go back and refer to them. You've just published a one-page reference book!

    What do you mean by not cooling the cheesecake on rack? I didn't cool mine on wire rack either. The recipe author also recommended there isn't a need to do so. I just placed the whole cake, in its pan, on the wire rack and let it cool away. Once cooled, let it chill overnight to firm it up before slicing. For me, it tasted like featherlight cheesecake, literally melted in my mouth. How soggy was it? I think a little wet is OK due to the nature of this type of cheesecake. Did yours turn out to be something like mine?

  9. Hey Pei-Lin,

    thanks for the writing tips. yup, I surely cant beat you in terms of long windednes. I would like to add in pictures here but I dont have relevant pictures to add in. Will take note of this and probably add in pictures in time to come. Hey be confident in your writing ya. afterall, you write for a living. lol, maybe I just written a short journal.

    Usually cakey cakes are supposed to be cooled on a wire rack after removing from the pan. If not the water vapour will be trapped and cause the cake to be soggy. This happened to my cotton cheesecake. The top and middle was featherlight creamy, whereas the base was like moist and eggy. Not too good. next time I will probably bake slightly longer and make sure to cool it on a wire rack to avoid this.

    based on the picture, I can if its alike. wait till I bake mine again.

  10. Justin

    Hey really useful! Thanks for the tips and information on cheesecake. Im a pretty good cook (not to float my own boat) but baking is really out of my league so hopefully this will help get me on the road to great baking!

    Thanks again!!!!

  11. if the recipe calls to bake for 1 hour and use the waterbath instead how much longer should i add to the baking time? thanks

  12. Hi,

    It really depends on the recipe and your oven.

    Bake for 1 hour in the waterbath at 160 degrees first. Make sure you wrap the exterior of your tin well with foil to prevent water from seeping in. When 1 hour is up, shake the pan a little and see if the filling is set. If it jiggles throughout, it means it is not ready. Bake until the cheesecake is fully set and does not jiggle at all.

    For denser cheesecakes, add a further 20 minutes to the baking time, after the cheesecake has fully set.


  13. Hello, I would like to bake mini cheesecake with oreo cookie(minus the cream),
    on the bottom of my cupcake tins. I was told the oreo cookie may become hard not after the baking but after it is refrigerated. Do you think that is true?
    Also, may I use oreo crumbs on the bottom of the cupcake tins and would I have to mix it with butter?
    Thank you,


Dear readers, thanks for visiting my humble little blog. Feel free to leave a message so that I can learn and be a better baker. Its a great feeling to share our culinary experience and adventures in the kitchen.

Thank you and have a nice day! Cheers =]

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