A cracked cheesecake can happen as a result of your mixing, but more often than not it is because of your baking and/or cooling. A baked cheesecake is like my husband in winter… If you suddenly pull the duvet off him in the freezing morning hours, he WILL crack.
Cheesecake has a sensitive soul. Respect that and all will be well. For this reason, it needs to be cooled very gently and gradually.
A perfect cheesecake has to be just set. Not under baked and saggy, or over-baked and slightly coarse. So HOW do you know when it’s done? First of all, bake your cheesecake on the regular bake setting of your oven (solid stripe top and solid stripe bottom). Do NOT use a thermo-fan or convection oven. Now the testing. Some swear by the jiggle or “wibble-wobble” test. Honestly it is a bit vague to me. I can never really tell if it’s done by how much it wobbles. Monique ended up under baking her cheesecake, and so have I, with the jiggle test. The easiest way for me to tell is looking at the surface. The edges should have puffed up a bit and be dull, but the center circle (about 8cm in diameter) should still be shiny. The jiggle test is a handy second option for me. The cheesecake should have a stiff jiggle and move as one unit. If the centre still keeps moving after the outer edges have stopped, then it’s NOT done yet. Wait another 10 minutes and check again. As soon as the outer rim of the cheesecake breaks loose from the side of the tin (or pastry), you’ve gone a bit too far. If the cheesecake browns on top, you have definitely taken it WAY too far. It will still be tasty, but it will be a tiny bit grainy, drier and not as creamy. There are also some fancy thermometer tests you can use if you like.
Low and Slow applies not only to the baking of the cheesecake, but also the MIXING. Especially if you will be making mini cheesecakes. Mini cheesecakes will completely expose your mixing method. Tip number 3 is ALL about the mixing. The KEY thing during the mixing phase is not to whip in ANY air. If you do not have a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, make it by hand – seriously. Do not bring a hand mixer anywhere near your cheesecake batter!
I like to stir in the cream/sour cream by hand because the mixer takes forever to incorporate the liquid.
If you follow the low and slow mixing method, I guarantee that your cheesecake will come out perfect and not sink a bit!
Bain Marie means “Marie’s bath”, but in the baking world it just means “water bath”. A water bath is absolutely essential to baking a perfect cheesecake. It ensures a moist cheesecake and helps it to bake gently and evenly. But the traditional method of bain marie baking is so superlatively tedious… Wrapping 2 layers of foil around the cake tin AND then placing it in a glass dish AND pouring boiling water around it AND burning yourself when trying to turn the cheesecake halfway through baking it AND then it leaks. I mean, there are posts just on managing the leaking. TOO TEDIOUS and hazardous. No thanks. Remember, I am a lazy person who loves to make perfect bakes, so I had to find a simpler way.
Ashlee Marie is the fantastic human who presented an alternative. You seriously get the exact same effect if you just place a separate pan of hot water in the oven with the cheesecake. SO much easier and more practical – thank you Ashlee Marie!
Now that you have this super easy cheat bain marie method for baking perfect cheesecake, don’t let it frighten you off either!