Learn 10 secrets to achieving a perfect cheesecake every time!
The perfect cheesecake should be:
- melt in your mouth with every bite
- with no crack
- with no crumbling crust.
It has to look fabulous and taste absolutely amazing.
It took me few years and many, many cheesecakes to finally learn all the secrets to creating the perfect one each and every time. Mind you, even if there is a crack or crumbling crust – your cheesecake will still be delicious. But if you are committing your time and money to such a time consuming and decadent dessert – might as well make it perfect.
Have you ever had a pleasure of baking a cheesecake and pulling out a no-crack-top beauty out of the oven? It’s like angels sing and confetti is flying around you! Definitely a baking success worth bragging about and showing off!!
Because cheesecake is made for a show. You can hear the flutter of hearts, the oooh’s and ahhh’s when presenting a perfectly baked cheesecake. And what happens after a first bite is a pure bliss! It should make you weak in your knees! It should be smooth and creamy and literally melt on your tongue.
NOTE: I am using photos of my chocolate cheesecake as an example. You can make a vanilla cheesecake by simply skipping the chocolate in the recipe on the bottom of the post.
So what are the secrets to a perfect cheesecake? Well, let’s go through all 10 of them. I promise, it’s easier than you may think!
1. Baking the cheesecake in a water bath. This is the secret to a no-crack top! It will require you to add about 5 minutes to a preparation time but it is so so worth it. Line the springform pan with two sheets of aluminum foil and place the pan in a roasting pan. Boil 2 cups of water and when the cheesecake is ready for baking, pour enough water into the roasting pan to come up at least an inch up the sides but not too high so it won’t go over the foil and flood your cheesecake. You can refill the water after first 40 minutes of baking.
2. Always use a springform pan. I can’t imagine trying to get the cheesecake out from a regular cake pan or a pie pan. It would be a mess! A springform sides help you release the cake from the pan so you can show off the cake and also perfectly slice it. I like to bake cheesecakes in my 9″ pan. In my opinion, the 8″ pan is great for no-bake cheesecakes and desserts (like this Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake) when you want a tall showstopper. The 9″ pan decreases the chances for under-baked cheesecake and cracked top.
3. Preparing the crust and cream cheese filling in the food processor. This is your secret for a perfect flat crust and smooth filling. Preparing the cookie crust in a food processor prevents from big chunks of cookie in it. It will make it harder to make a uniform and flat crust that comes of easily of the pan with a slice and not brake.
The food processor is absolutely crucial in making the creamy and smooth filling for the cheesecake. It will mix all the ingredients perfectly without any chunks of cheese or unmixed eggs. If you are making a chocolate cheesecake, it will help you to mix in the chocolate evenly so there are no streaks in the batter.
I used my new KitchenAid 13-cup Food Processor in making the crust and filling shown above. You can check out my post and the review of the machine, here.
4. Cream cheese to eggs ratio. If you look at all the great cheesecake recipes, you will notice that the cream cheese to eggs ratio is 1:1. Which means that if you are using 3 8oz. packages of cream cheese – you should use 3 eggs. This is your secret to a perfectly rich, dense and creamy cheesecake!
5. Perfect cookie crumbs to melted butter ratio and pre-baking the crust. This is your secret to a perfect flat crust that will come of in one piece when slicing the cheesecake. You do not want half the crust from your piece to be stuck to the pan. You want the crust to be perfectly flat (no hills) to make an ideal base for the filling. For every 1 and 1/2 cups of cookie crumbs (traditionally graham cracker crumbs, but also gingersnaps, Oreo’s, even Ritz crackers!), you should use 1/2 cup of butter, melted. I highly recommend this ratio for 9″ cheesecakes. In years of experimenting, I find it to be perfect. It’s not too much to be stuck in the corners and enough to make a sturdy base for your filling. Pre-baking the crust for 7 to 8 minutes, will harden it enough which prevents it from crumbling while slicing the cake.
6. The addition of flour and Greek yogurt. It may sound strange, but you do want to add a little bit of flour and some Greek yogurt (or sour cream) to your batter. It will help with the smooth texture and perfectly creamy end result. I usually use only 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour in my cheesecakes. When it comes to Greek yogurt, I love baking with and always choose Chobani. I use 2% plain for my cheesecake.
7. The oven temperature. Go low and slow. The cheesecake needs time to bake. Do not hurry it! It’s not cookies. Bake your cheesecake in 325 degrees instead of 350 degrees or 375 degrees. It will prevent it from over-baking and burning the top. You need to adjust time to the size of your pan. I usually bake my cheesecakes in 9″ springform pan for 1 hour and 20 minutes in 325 degrees. In my opinion the 8″ springform pan is better for no-bake cheesecakes. Otherwise, bake the cheesecake until no longer wiggly in the center.
8. Cooling the cheesecake in the oven for 1 hour after baking with door slightly open. After the timer beeped on your stove to inform you that the baking time has ended, turn the oven off, open the door and stick a wooden spoon in it to leave it slightly open. Leave the cheesecake in the oven in this conditions for 1 hour. This is another secret to a no-crack top!
9. Loosening the sides with a knife, yet not taking the ring off. After the cheesecake has cooled in the oven for 1 hour, slide a knife around the sides to loosen them up. Do not take the springform pan ring off. Chill the cake in the pan. This is your secret to no-crack top and sides!
10. Chilling, chilling, chilling! 6 hours to overnight. Chilling the cheesecake is absolutely crucial. This is your secret to a perfectly smooth, dense and creamy texture! I always try to plan ahead while making a cheesecake for any occasion so I can chill it overnight. It makes a huge difference!
Phew! We covered them all. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section. I know many of us bakers have our favorite ways to bake but these are mine. I am not saying that other recipes are wrong, I am just sharing my tips for creating what is a perfect cheesecake in my opinion. I hope my list of secrets will be at least a guide. Hopefully my photos show the perfection of my cheesecake.
The recipe below is for a chocolate cheesecake, also featured topped with raspberry sauce, here. You can easily skip the chocolate to make a vanilla cheesecake. Use other cookies for the crust. Add whatever toppings your heart desires. Have fun!
- 1½ c finely crushed chocolate graham crackers
- 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
- ½ c unsalted butter, melted
- 3 8oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
- 1 c granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- ½ c Greek yogurt (I used 2% Plain Chobani) or sour cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp milk
- 3 well-beaten eggs
- 2 4.25oz. dark or semi-sweet chocolate bars, chopped, melted, cooled to room temperature (I used Hershey's Special Dark) (optional)
- Wrap a 9" springform pan in aluminum foil and set in a roasting pan.
- Boil 2 cups of water. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- Place graham crackers in food processor and process until finely crushed.
- Add sugar and melted butter and process on low until all comes together.
- Press the crust into a 9" springform pan.
- Bake for 7 minutes in preheated oven.
- Set aside.
- Place cream cheese in food processor and process on low. Process for 15 seconds. Increase the speed to high and process for 5 seconds until smooth.
- Add sugar and process on low until combined.
- Add flour, yogurt, vanilla and milk and process on low until smooth.
- Add eggs and process on low until completely incorporated.
- If making a chocolate version: Add cooled, melted chocolate and process on low just until combined and the filling is uniform color. No white streaks should remain.
- Pour the batter over baked crust. Tap the roasting pan on the counter few times (gently) to release any air bubbles from the batter.
- Place the pan with the springform pan in the oven. Pour enough water into the roasting pan to come at least 1 inch up the sides of the springform pan but not over the foil.
- Bake 1 hour and 20 minutes. Replace water after first 50 minutes of baking.
- When the times is up, turn of the oven leaving the cheesecake inside for one hour. Leave the oven door slightly ajar.
- Cool the cheesecake completely on the counter.
- Refrigerate overnight.
- Top with desired toppings (fresh fruit, sauce, ganache, glaze, frosting, chopped candy, etc.)
- Refrigerate any leftovers for up to 5 days in closed container.