Every baker who has ever made a cheesecake has had a cheesecake crack. Whether it is a small crack in the center or the entire cake has split, cheesecakes crack all the time.
There are a few reasons why your cheesecake may have cracked and some easy ways to prevent this from happening. Hopefully, this explanation along with some tips for the future will help prevent your cheesecakes from ever cracking again!
Mix It Just Right
The first major reason why many cheesecakes crack is due to overmixing the batter. After you beat the cream cheese and the sugar well, making the cheese soft and fluffy, you do not want to mix the rest of the ingredients together with such vigor.
Add the eggs to the batter and mix just a little to incorporate them, turning the mixer off once they are blended in. Add the flour and remaining ingredients in as well, stirring slowly until everything is homogeneous. The batter does not need to be beaten at a high speed or even for more than one minute!
If you do over mix your cheesecake, letting the mixer run excessively or at high speeds, you will incorporate too much air into the batter. When the cheesecake is baking, that air that is trapped in the cheesecake will expand and cause the cheesecake to puff up as it cooks. When the cheesecake is taken out of the oven, it will collapse and crack.
Air is not a friend of cheesecake! So yes, beat the cream cheese in the first step of the recipe until it is fluffy and soft, then slow that mixer down- you can even mix the rest of the ingredients by hand to help prevent cracking.
Release the Cake From the Pan
After your cheesecake has baked and you have removed it from the oven, you want to run a knife or small offset spatula around the edge of the cake pan, preventing the cheesecake from sticking to the sides. As the cake cools, it will contract and pull away from the sides of the pan.
If the cake is stuck to the pan, it will crack along the edges of the cake as the center sinks down and the edges stay stuck. You don’t want to take the cheesecake completely out of the pan while it is still hot or you may have even more troubles.
However, running a knife or spatula quickly around the cheesecake will prevent any sticking and any cracks around the edges of the cake.
Cooked to Perfection
Over baking a cheesecake can cause it to crack as well due to the cake getting too dry. When you bake the cheesecake, you want to remove it from the oven when the center is still a little jiggly.
Follow the time directions in your recipe and be sure to check the cheesecake a few times in the last few minutes of baking to be sure the center is still nice and soft.
The center will actually continue to cook once it is removed from the oven, so you do not need to worry about food safety- it will be perfectly okay to eat when the center has a little jiggle!
When the cake cooks too long, the moisture is baked out of the cake and it will become quite dry. This can cause cracks in the cake even before it is out of the oven. So, if you look in the oven and see cracks already forming, that cheesecake has cooked too long!
Take it out as soon as possible to prevent the cracks from getting deeper.
Be Sure to Water Bath!
If you have ever wondered why cheesecake recipes always call for the cake to be baked in a water bath, here is the reason- cracking! Cheesecake pans are placed in a water bath for two main reasons.
The first reason why you should always use a water bath when baking a cheesecake is to add some moisture to the oven as the cheesecake bakes.
As you just learned, cheesecakes crack when they dry out. To help prevent the cake from getting too dry as it bakes, a water bath adds steam to the oven, giving the cake a moist environment to bake in rather than a dry one.
The second reason why you should always use a water bath is it helps the cheesecake cook slower. Direct oven heat can be too much for a cheesecake, causing it to puff up quickly then collapse, crack and have a rubbery texture.
When the cake is cooked in a water bath instead, the cheesecake will heat slowly thanks to the insulation of the water. This helps with the overall texture of the cheesecake and also prevents it from rising and cracking.
Water baths are not a step to skip!
Cheesecakes can occasionally crack when the cake undergoes a drastic temperature change, such as going from the oven straight into the fridge.
This can once again cause the cheesecake to sink suddenly and crack along the edges of the cake. Never put a hot cheesecake right into the fridge or cracks are sure to occur!
You can even go a step further in helping a cheesecake cool slowly by leaving it in the oven once it is baked, turning the oven off and cracking the door to let out the heat. The cheesecake will slowly reach room temperature and cool at a nice, slow pace.
What To Do After the Cheesecake Cracks?
Sometimes, it is just too late to save your cheesecake from cracking- the cracks have already formed! Now what? There are a few things you can try to help save your cracking cheesecake.
Which technique you choose will depend on the depth of the cracks and also how you plan on serving the cheesecake but take a look at them all!
- Small Cracks– If you just have a few small, surface cracks on your cheesecake, you may be able to fix them and literally make them disappear. Cool the cheesecake completely then place a small offset spatula in a cup of boiling hot water. Once the blade of the spatula is hot, gently run it over the cracks in the cheesecake, melting the cheesecake and fusing it back together. The cracks will be gone and the surface of your cheesecake will be smooth once again!
- Medium Sized Cracks– If your cheesecake has some medium sized cracks in the center, consider adding a topping on the cheesecake. Fruit toppings or even chocolate ganache will conceal the cracks and be extra tasty on your cheesecake. If the medium sized cracks are just around the edge of your cheesecake, add a buttercream or whipped cream boarder around the whole cake, hiding the cracks and adding decoration to the cake.
- Deep Cracks– If your cheesecake has some deep cracks, you can try to press the cake together gently, squeezing the sides to push it back into a whole cake. You may also want to think about just cutting the cake and serving it as individual pieces. Place the pre-cut slices on plates and decorate them individually so that it looks intentional. No one will ever know your cheesecake had a big crack, they will just see pretty slices that are already plated for them!
A cracked cheesecake does not mean that the cake is completely ruined. While the texture of a cracked cheesecake may be a little drier than usual or the presentation may not be exactly what you imagined, it will still taste pretty good!
Whatever you do, do not throw that cracked cheesecake in the trash- at least give it a try!
Preventing Cheesecake From Cracking
Now that you have learned why cheesecakes crack and what to do to help save your cheesecake after it has cracked, here is a nice little recap to help you prevent your cheesecake from cracking in the future.
- Never over mix your batter. Whipping the eggs too much will add air and cause cracks. Mixing a cheesecake by hand is a good way to avoid overmixing.
- Use room temperature cream cheese. This will let the ingredients blend together easily and prevent you from over mixing.
- Always bake in a water bath. This will give the cheesecake a moist environment to cook in and prevent it from drying out and cracking.
- Watch the cooking time as your cheesecake bakes. The cheesecake is done when the center jiggles slightly when touched but before it has turned completely brown.
- Grease your pan well to prevent the cake from sticking to the sides and cracking around the edges as it cools and contracts.
- After taking the cheesecake out of the oven, run a spatula or knife around the edge to release the cake and prevent it from cracking as it cools and pulls away from the sides of the pan.
- Never cool the cheesecake too quickly but let it slowly come to room temperature and then place it in the fridge afterwards.
You are now a cheesecake expert! The chances of your cheesecake ever cracking again are slim now that you know the reasons behind those pesky cracks. And, if the cheesecake does happen to crack, you know how to fix it!
So go ahead and bake your next cheesecake with confidence- it is sure to turn out perfect.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.