Baking a luxurious cheesecake is easier than you think when you’ve got the right tools and tricks in your apron. This cheesecake cheat sheet is a great first step on your way to making a perfectly decadent dessert.
Cheesecakes can be tricky for beginners because the baking process is different from regular cakes. We’ve all been there: You peek into the oven and something’s not quite right. Here’s a quick look at which type of ingredients and bakeware are best for cheesecakes:
Best Cream Cheese for Cheesecakes
When it comes to baking cheesecake, the best type of cream cheese to use is regular cream cheese in a block. The spreads and the whipped varieties in tubs don’t have the right consistency. You can always substitute light or reduced-fat cream cheese blocks, but the texture and flavor aren’t quite the same.
Substituting Mascarpone for Cream Cheese
Mascarpone is a good substitute for cream cheese, but a little bit of a challenge for cheesecake beginners. While the two ingredients have similar qualities, mascarpone has a richer, more velvety texture than the firmer block-style cream cheese we know and love.
When it comes to flavor, mascarpone doesn’t have the signature tangy taste you’d find in cream cheese. Mascarpone also has a higher fat content, so it acts and melts more like butter. Lastly, mascarpone is more expensive and not found in all stores. If you’re just starting your cheesecake journey, we’d recommend sticking with cream cheese until you’re more comfortable with the process!
Springform Pans. Do I Need One?
Most cheesecake recipes call for a springform pan to safely release the cheesecake without flipping it over. If you don’t already have one, no need to run out and buy one just yet. Two 9-inch cake pans or deep-dish pie plates will work fine, but you’ll have to double your crust to spread onto both pans.
Set yourself up for success with these quick cheesecake baking tips. Want to know the biggest cheesecake baking secret? Bake your cheesecake low and slow (and check out the note below about a water bath).
Use Room Temperature Ingredients
Hold on there, chef! Before you get down to cheesecake business, let your cold ingredients (cream cheese, sour cream and eggs) get to room temperature. This small step will make your mix easier to blend and result in smoother slices.
While your ingredients need to be thoroughly combined, overmixing adds excess air, changing the cake’s consistency and increasing the chance for cracks. Put a little elbow grease into using a hand mixer instead of a stand mixer to regulate your mixing time.
Give Your Cheesecake a Bath
Wait, what? This might seem like a wild thing to do, but a water bath bakes your cheesecake more evenly and reduces the risk of cracks and sinkage. A water bath simply means putting your cheesecake pan into a larger pan lined with a layer of water. To prevent leaks, wrap the bottom of your springform pan (if using) with foil. Baking your cheesecake low and slow is the key here, so an alternative is reducing your oven temperature and increasing the cooking time.
Do the Wobble Test
No, this isn’t a new dance move. It’s a surefire way to tell if your cheesecake is ready to exit the oven. Give your pan a little shake, and if the middle jiggles, it’s time. The cheesecake will continue to cook while it cools and will fully solidify in the refrigerator.
The world’s best bakers and pastry chefs started right where you are: an eager amateur with lots of questions. We’ve been there! That’s why we’re dishing out answers to frequently asked baking questions about cheesecakes:
Is Cheesecake Gluten Free?
It can be! Simply substitute regular graham crackers with a gluten-free variety for the crust, and you’re all set.
Why Did My Cheesecake Crack?
This is a super common issue, so don’t worry! You’re likely seeing cracks because you overmixed or overbaked your cheesecake. It’s probably still yummy, so hide those imperfections with delicious toppings like fresh berries, whipped cream or — our personal favorite — a chocolate drizzle.
Cheesecakes have a simple decadence about them. With a little practice and inspiration, you’ll be wowing your guests with rich, smooth slices of homemade cheesecake heaven!