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Here are my tips for baking the perfectly smooth cheesecake. 

whole cheesecake on a pink cake stand

{pictured: Classic Cheesecake}

Cheesecake has always been one of my favorite desserts. My mom made the most incredible amaretto cheesecake every Christmas. Rather than counting down the days until Santa, I would count down the days for that cheesecake!

Cheesecake is always an elegant, indulgent dessert to serve. It sounds and looks overwhelming and complicated, but cheesecake is nothing to fear! Take your time with the recipe and make sure you read through all of the instructions before you begin.

Here are a few simple tips and techniques you can use to avoid lumps and cracks in your next cheesecake.

Preparing Cheesecake

  • Use room temperature cream cheese. Cold cream cheese is more difficult to mix and will typically leave lumps.
  • Be sure to mix the cheesecake ingredients (minus the eggs) very well, eliminating any possible lumps in the cream cheese.
  • Eggs hold air inside the batter, which could rise up and cause cracks. So mix the eggs as little as possible once they’re added.
  • Always use a springform pan. This 9-inch springform pan and 10-inch springform pan are great options.
  • Water bath. This is the best way to avoid cheesecake cracks. Read more details about my easy water bath technique below.

Baking Cheesecake

  • Avoid opening the oven door while the cheesecake is baking inside. Big cracks are often caused by drafts and temperature changes.
  • Avoid overbaking! This is the most common culprit of cracking. When the cheesecake is done, there will still be a 2-inch to 3-inch wobbly spot in the center of the cheesecake. Also, the edges will be slightly puffed.

Cooling Cheesecake

  • Once the cheesecake is done in the oven, simply turn the oven off and crack open the door. Leave the cheesecake inside for about 1 hour. Again, sudden changes in temperature often cause cracking.
  • Once the cheesecake is at room temperature, cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill 4-8 hours or overnight (my preferred length of time).

No-Bake Cheesecake

Slice of no bake cheesecake with a strawberry on top

What is a Cheesecake Water Bath?

Cheesecakes are often baked in water baths. This simply means that the cheesecake is baked in its round springform pan, then the pan is placed into a larger pan with hot water inside. This method is used because cheesecake loves a humid environment!

  • Cheesecakes are egg-heavy. Eggs need a moist and humid environment to properly rise and avoid drying out or burning.
  • The steam from the hot water will lift the cheesecake up slowly and evenly, reducing the risk of cracks on the surface.
  • The slow and even steam baking method helps prevent the cheesecake from sinking back down as it cools.

As you can read, taking a few extra minutes to prepare a water bath for your cheesecake is well worth it. I can’t say enough how valuable it is!

How to Make a Water Bath:

  1. Wrap the springform pan with aluminum foil on the bottom and up the sides.
  2. Place the cheesecake pan in a large roasting pan. Fill the cheesecake pan with filling. Then fill the roasting pan with about 1/2 inch – 1 inch of hot water. I usually fill with water once placed in the oven to bake because it is hard to transfer a water-filled roasting pan with a cheesecake inside of it into the oven and not spill.
blueberry swirl cheesecake in a springform pan in a water bath before baking

Alternate Water Bath Option

If you don’t want to risk water leaking into your springform pan, I have an alternate water bath method that works wonderfully. In fact, it’s what I instruct with my key lime cheesecake recipe. You still need a large roasting pan, but it will go on a bottom rack of the oven beneath the baking cheesecake.

  • Boil a pot of water. You need 1 inch of water in your roasting pan for the water bath, so make sure you boil enough. Place a large metal baking or roasting pan (I usually use a 9×13 inch baking pan– do not use glass) on the bottom oven rack of the preheated oven. Pour boiling water into pan, about 1 inch deep. Immediately place the cheesecake on the center rack. Close oven to trap the steam inside.

This unique water bath adds steam to the oven without having the cheesecake sit inside the water itself.

If your cheesecake is still showing a few cracks, no worries there. Covering with fruity sauce or whipped cream hides everything. 😉 Now go bake some cheesecake!

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Hi Sally! Where do we get the recipe for the Oreo Cheesecake you have pictured?

    1. Can a pan with hot water be place in the bottom section an allow the steam rise in the oven instead ?

      1. Yes, that method seems to work! Other readers have reported back on a couple of my cheesecake recipes saying they put a roasting pan in the bottom of the oven, like you’re describing, and it’s worked for them too.

  2. Hi Sally! In stead of using a water bath would cooking with steam do the same job (my gas oven has a steam funtion)? Or could I put the pan of water in the oven on the bottom rack instead of placing the cheesecake in the water bath? I use cake rings instead of pans. Thanks for your help!!

    1. Hi Angela! This is a great question. I haven’t personally tried the steam option, but a few readers have with their cheesecakes with great success so that’s definitely an option. Other readers have reported back to me on a couple of my cheesecake recipes saying they put a roasting pan in the bottom of the oven, like you’re describing, and it’s worked for them too. So you definitely have these two options!

  3. I think you missed some important points about wrapping the springform pan in aliminum foil.

    1. Use heavy duty foil to lession the risk of tearing.

    2. Use a very generous amout so that there are NO overlaps where water can get into the pan (because it will)

    3. Wrap it again in a second very generous sheet of heavy duty foil; alternating the corners opposite from the first sheet (again, do not ‘clise up open spaces by squeezing sone foil over -water WILL get in).

    4. Cut off excess foil 1.5-2” above the top of the pan and then gently roil the foil down to the top of the pan.

    If you think you might have any breach where water could get in, START over. A perfect (not bottom wet/soggy cheesecake) is well worth the extra time & foil!

  4. I’ve recently been making a lot of cheesecakes to practice (hopefully bringing one to Thanksgiving this year for my family!) and I have had a hard time getting the cheesecake to come out of the springform pan nicely. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Becca! You can try lining the springform pan with parchment paper. Some readers find that successful, though I have never tried it.

      1. Hi! I have done s recipe with the parchment paper and it does help with sticking.

  5. Hi Sally! I’m making the cookies and cream cheesecake from your first cookbook for Thanksgiving. I’m hosting and need to make several things ahead of time (juggling cooking and 3 small kids!). Do you think i could freeze it? Thanks!

  6. Until today I was a cheesecake baking virgin
    Didn’t come out like I’d want sides browned and top cracked! Fortunately I am an over shopper!
    I usually buy twice what I’ll need just in case. Glad I did! Now having read this I’m confident to try again tomorrow!!
    Happy Thanksgiving

  7. If the cheesecake cracks – despite your best efforts – there is a fairly simple fix. Mix together sour cream and a touch of sweetener. Pour over top of cooled cheesecake like frosting. Refrigerate. The sour cream topping is what is used in New York style cheesecakes. It also brilliantly hides any cracks and tastes fabulous.

  8. Hi Sally,

    what are the best ways to get the cheesecake off the bottom of the springform pan? I had some issues with one I made for a friend. ( I tried to use the largest spatula I had, but still wound up not being able to lift the entire cheesecake onto the serving plate). Should the pan be greased?

    1. Hi Christine! The best way, I’ve found, is to line the inside bottom of the pan with aluminum foil. That way, after the cheesecake has chilled, it can be lifted off of the bottom of the springform pan. This is also extra insurance to prevent water leaking into the pan.

  9. Hi Sally,
    Made a cheescake last night. Cooked it in water bath, as per instructions. It said to cook on 475° for 12 min then lower to 350° for remainder with 1/2″ water. Looked ok except for a few light brown spots. Thoroughly cooked on rack and then overnight in frig before freezing. Very disappointed how much it collapsed in frig/freezer. Wondering what I should’ve done differently?

    1. Hi Suzanne! When cheesecakes collapse when they cool, it typically means they are over-baked OR the eggs where beaten too long in the cheesecake batter. Over-beating the eggs whips more air into the batter and will deflate the baked cheesecake.

  10. Thanks for all the tips, my cheesecake always taste great just cracks that I cover with cherries to hide, but I will use these tips. Thanks again. How jiggly should the 2 or 3 inch circle in the middle be to ensure doneness?

    1. You’re welcome! It will jiggle like jello, then set up as the cheesecake cools.

  11. I just made my 2nd cheesecake. The top was brown all over. I peeled off this layer. Any ideas why this happened. I probably over mixed the eggs. I used an electric beater. Scratching my head here. Thanks

    1. Hi David! Cheesecakes will brown heavily on top unless they are lightly covered with aluminum foil. The eggs and cream cheese are burning under the direct heat. About halfway through baking, tent the baking cake with foil.

    1. Anywhere between 1/2 inch – 1 inch of hot water should be enough!

  12. Is it possible to get all these tips for the perfect cheesecake put together with a cheesecake recipe so it’s much easier for people to remember what they’re supposed to do? Thanks

    1. Hi Laura! I link to my cheesecake recipe multiple times in this post. I also repeat most of these tips in that cheesecake recipe. Thank you!

  13. Hi, glad to have found this great tips! Should the water for the baking bath be hot from the start? boiling hot or how hot?
    Should I leave my cheesecake IN the oven after the 45 minutes of baking?

    1. Hi Daniela! Yes, the water should be boiling hot going into the roasting pan/water bath. Keep the cheesecake IN the oven with the door cracked after you turn off the oven. Here are full instructions in my cheesecake recipe.

  14. My oven doesn’t heat up evenly and I usually need to flip whatever I’m baking halfway through. I realize this would be disastrous for a cheesecake. I plan to add a pan of water in the oven this time to hopefully avoid any cracks I’ve previously gotten from having to turn it around.

    Do you have any other suggestions on making an evenly baked cheesecake in a not so even oven?

    1. The steam from the water bath should certainly help with this. Also, be sure to keep the cheesecake in the oven after it’s finished baking. When the cheesecake is done, turn the oven off, crack open the oven door, and leave the cheesecake inside for 1 hour. A drastic and sudden change of temperature can cause cracks. And if all else fails I have a wonderful no-bake cheesecake you can make: 🙂

  15. Hi Sally,

    I didn’t wrap my pan well enough and it seems like some water could have leaked it will this ruin the cheesecake? Any way to try and salvage it?

    1. Hi Katrina, If water leaked in the crust will be soggy but you can still eat it. Next time you can try placing a large pan of hot water on the rack beneath the baking cheesecake. In this manner, the cheesecake does not bake directly in a roasting pan of water. This is a wonderful alternative if you are nervous about your springform pan leaking. Simply place a large baking pan filled with 1 inch of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven.

  16. Hi Sally, I’ve been making your classic cheesecake and have been having trouble with cracks. Today was my fourth attempt and it came out beautifully with a nice jiggle in the middle! So I followed your instructions and let it cool in the oven with door slightly ajar but when I came back after letting it cool some cracks formed.

    Did I leave it to cool in the oven too long? it was still slightly warm to the touch when I returned.

    I used a roasting pan of hot water while it was baking and set the cheesecake above the water.

    Help please!

    1. Hi Candice! It sounds like you did everything right with the cooling process. Try shortening the bake time by a few minutes– that will help. Also, make sure you aren’t over-mixing the cheesecake batter as you add the eggs.

  17. Hi Sally,
    I love your recipes! They’re so easy to follow and always turn out beautifully. Do all of these tips apply to your chocolate peanut butter cheesecake bar recipe? Or is it just for regular cheesecakes? Thanks!

    1. Hi Olivia! They could apply, yes, but this is really more for full size cheesecakes, which are much thicker than cheesecake bars (and more prone to cracking due to their thickness).

  18. Hi Sally. Thanks much for your article! I ordered pans to make Crème brûlées & cheesecakes.
    The Springform pan is 9″ but nearly 10″ counting it’s bottom lip.
    I ordered a 12 X 3 round cake pan to set the springform pan into, then a 13 X 3 round cake pan to set the other two into. Will that be enough space (1″) to fill with water for the water bath? Thanks again.

    1. Hi Frank, that would be a little tight for a water bath. It could work, but I don’t think there is enough room for enough water to steam the oven.

  19. 2 questions:
    1. Confused how you check for jiggle/doneness if you shouldn’t open oven
    2. Baking 2 or more cheesecakes in oven at same time. Assuming they are same recipe. Placed in individual water baths, on shelves 1 & 4 (out of 7) of oven – How much extra time should I bake for? 10 minutes? 15??

    1. Hi Jen! You want to open the oven as little as possible but you can certainly open it to quickly check on the cheesecake’s doneness. We’re unsure exactly how much longer you’ll need to bake two cheesecakes, but it sounds like you’re on the right track. Let us know how they go!

  20. Hi Sally, every time I refrigerate my cheesecakes they form condensation. Sometimes I cool them at room
    Temperature for over 2 hours and that still happens…help!

    1. Hi Sara, If the cake is still warm when you cover it then condensation will form. You can let it cool at room temperature, then place it uncovered in the fridge for about an hour before covering it. This should help!

  21. Once the cheesecake has cooled do you open the springform pan, then wrap it in plastic?

    1. Hi Kathy! We recommend leaving the cheesecake in the pan after cooling. Cover the cheesecake in the pan with plastic wrap to chill in the fridge. It’s easier to remove the chilled cheesecake from the pan.

      1. Thank you so much. So keep it in the oven for an hour. Then do I run a knife around the outside of the pan? Then put in the fridge?

      2. Hi Kathy, no need to run the knife around the outside of the pan before putting in the fridge, although you can if you prefer.

  22. Hi Sally! Instead of water bath, could I just use the steam function in my oven? All the best, Lillian

    1. Hi Lillian, We haven’t tried the steam option, but a few readers have with their cheesecakes with great success so that’s definitely an option. Other readers have reported back to us on a couple of our cheesecake recipes saying they put a roasting pan in the bottom of the oven, and it’s worked for them too. So you definitely have these two options!



  24. I put my cheesecake in a baking bag instead of using the foil. Works great for me