A well-made cheesecake is a rich, decadent dessert and surprisingly straightforward to make at home. If you’ve never made a cheesecake, you may be wondering about the best ingredients, methods, and techniques. For example, do cheesecakes rise?
Cheesecakes don’t rise too much because they’re primarily cheese and egg custards, not cakes. Too much air in a cheesecake puffs it up in the oven, but it deflates, cracks, and collapses on taking out of the oven. Avoid overmixing cheesecake batter and bake in a water bath to avoid excessive rising.
Unlike regular cakes that need to rise in the oven to be light and fluffy, cheesecakes hardly need to rise at all – in fact, over-rising is a common problem for cheesecake bakers. Let’s look at why cheesecakes don’t rise and what happens when they do.
How High Do Cheesecakes Rise?
Most cheesecakes don’t rise too much – they puff up slightly and become airy.
A lack of rising doesn’t mean a cheesecake has a heavy, dry texture: cheesecake batter does incorporate air to make it light and creamy.
To understand why cheesecakes don’t and shouldn’t rise, we need to look at the ingredients and methods used when making cheesecake.
Why Don’t Cheesecakes Rise?
The components of a cheesecake are a crumb crust and a cheesy custard, with or without a topping.
You usually bake the crumb crust first and then pour in the cheesecake batter before baking and chilling.
Cheesecake batter is a custard that contains cream cheese or ricotta cheese, cream, sugar, and eggs.
You’ll notice that the batter doesn’t include a rising agent (like baking powder) or flour.
Flour and baking powder make regular cakes rise by incorporating air into the batter and stretching the gluten protein in the flour to hold the air bubbles.
Cheesecake ingredients don’t have the ingredients to sustain rising.
Cheese, cream, and eggs hold the air long enough to make the cheesecake light but can’t maintain a highly risen structure.
This lack of ingredients to create and maintain a rise explains why a cheesecake can’t and shouldn’t rise very much.
How To Stop Cheesecakes From Rising Too Much?
The techniques you use to make, bake and chill a cheesecake also explain why cheesecakes don’t and shouldn’t rise.
One of the biggest cheesecake-baking challenges is overbeating the batter.
If you mix too much air into a cheesecake batter, the air will expand as it heats.
This will cause the cheesecake to puff up like a soufflé while it bakes and collapse and crack when it cools.
Making a cheesecake is the opposite of making a soufflé.
Your aim is to stop it from rising excessively. The way you beat the batter is an integral part of this.
First, ensure that your ingredients are at room temperature, including the cream cheese or ricotta, eggs, and cream.
Using ingredients straight from the fridge leads to overworking as you try to beat the cold cheese smooth.
Overworking leads to overmixing and too much air in the batter.
If you have forgotten to take the ingredients out of the fridge, pop the eggs in warm tap water for a few minutes.
Heat the cheese in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds at medium power (not high) to reach room temperature.
To get your ingredients smooth and luscious, choose the paddle attachment on your stand mixer.
If you don’t have a mixer, don’t be tempted to use a food processor or blender, as these will overmix your batter and leave you with a thin, dense, airless batter.
Begin by beating the cheese on low speed until it’s completely smooth and creamy, without lumps.
Try to get rid of lumps at this stage because it will be impossible to remove them once you add other ingredients.
Add the rest of the cheesecake ingredients and continue to beat on low to medium speed until the ingredients are just combined.
Scrape the sides regularly to ensure the thicker cheese mixture and the thinner egg mixture blend.
Don’t beat on high, and don’t continue beating after the ingredients come together, especially once you have added eggs.
If you have to add whipped cream or egg whites, fold them in with a spoon or whisk, scooping the batter to draw them to the bottom of the mixing bowl.
These ingredients will add air to the batter and make it light and delicate.
With a cheesecake batter, you want a balance between airiness and denseness.
2. Low Temperature
Another way to ensure that your cheesecake doesn’t rise too much is to bake it low (to moderate) and slow.
As your cheesecake bakes, it gives off a lot of moisture.
Baking your cheesecake at too high a temperature converts this liquid to steam too quickly and too much, making the cheesecake expand and then collapse.
Your cheesecake will crack and deflate as a result.
When in doubt, always use a slightly lower temperature than recommended and allow the cake to bake a little longer. You can’t rush cheesecake.
3. Water Bath
Using a water bath will prevent your cheesecake from overrising either due to overmixing or baking at too high a temperature.
There are several advantages to baking a cheesecake in a water bath:
- It insulates the cheesecake against hot temperatures, which could cause a heat rise, keeping it at around 212°F.
- It creates a humid, steamy environment that prevents the cheesecake from drying out.
- It bakes the cheesecake slowly and evenly, preventing cracking, scorching, dry edges, and burnt spots.
You may be tempted to avoid the water bath step, but it’s worth it.
To bake your cheesecake in a water bath, follow these steps:
- Wrap your springform pan containing the cheesecake crust in a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil to avoid a soggy crust.
- Fill your pan with the cheesecake batter.
- Place the cheesecake pan into your deep baking pan. The pan needs to be big enough to hold the springform pan with an inch space or more around the sides.
- Pour boiling water into the deep pan, making sure it comes halfway up the sides of the springform pan. This step is more straightforward if you place the pan in the oven. That way, you don’t have to carry a hot pan.