If you are new to baking, cheesecake can be a tricky one to get the hang of. Don’t get disheartened though, even the most seasoned bakers can struggle to get the perfectly baked cheesecake. When you do get your cheesecake-baking skills down to a fine art (and you will!) no one will be able to resist your silky sweet treat.
In my house, a cheesecake never hangs around long. My family, friends, and party guests always appreciate a home-baked treat, but a homemade cheesecake is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, and so much tastier than the store-bought alternatives!
So what’s the secret to a great cheesecake then? Following a great recipe is, of course, an essential step in the right direction. There’s also a trick to delicately controlling the cooking temperature to guarantee a consistent bake. You certainly don’t want to be left with an overbaked or worse, undercooked, cheesecake.
Another crucial, yet often overlooked, step in the cheesecake baking process is allowing your cheesecake to set and knowing how long to let it cool. The cooling and chilling process play an important role in giving your cheesecake that beautiful velvety texture, not just the baking process. I learned this the hard way after becoming impatient one too many times whilst letting my cheesecake cool.
Before we find out whether your cheesecake is perfectly baked and ready for the next step of cooling, let’s refresh ourselves with a few basics of baking cheesecake.
Cheesecakes come in various shapes, sizes, and, most importantly, with numerous tasty fillings and flavors. From fruit purees to melted chocolate, you can turn any of your favorite flavors into a cheesecake. Simply choose any biscuit or pastry of your choosing then decide whether to make a baked or no-bake cheesecake depending on your preferences.
My personal favorite is baked cheesecake. Its smooth, yet firm, texture sets it apart from its simple non-baked counterpart. As we are talking about how to cool a cheesecake, it’s the baked cheesecake we will be discussing today.
As the name suggests, a baked cheesecake is baked in an oven using a water bath, and a tray of water surrounding the cheesecake springform pan. These creamy and velvety cheesecakes contain cream cheese, full-fat or sour cream, and eggs. Flour is sometimes added in small quantities to help in binding the ingredients together. This mixture is poured into a springform pan with a prebaked or previously set biscuit base.
The standard cheesecake usually takes around an hour to bake. Depending on what recipe you are following, you may need to bake it on high heat for 10 minutes, and then for 45-50 minutes at 160C/320F. Most types of cheesecake, like the New York, will just require a standard temperature for the whole bake though.
The airy and light unbaked cheesecake does away with the eggs and flour. Instead, you use gelatin or agar-agar as a binding and setting agent. While the no-bake comes together quickly, the baked version is definitely worth the wait.
That said, it can be difficult to know when to remove the cheesecake from the oven, how to cool and set it before serving it to your family and friends.
A baked cheesecake continues to cook long after you turn off the oven. Don’t think it is undercooked because of its pale top. The best cheesecakes have that light golden color top unless your recipe calls for a burnt top, like a Basque cheesecake, for example. Overbaking can make your cake dry and crumbly and can lead to cracking.
Cheesecakes store well, but to ensure that they remain delicious, you need to let your cheesecakes cool completely.
How to cool a cheesecake
You have managed to bake the cheesecake to perfection. Unlike the prior attempts, this time you have managed to bake it properly and your cheesecake offers up a small juggle only in the center (If you haven’t already, be sure to read our article on testing cheesecake if you aren’t sure if yours is ready yet).
Now comes the hard part. You must resist the urge to cut that bad boy up instantly. It’s absolutely necessary to let it cool first!
Cheesecake takes its own sweet time to cool down. You have to be patient and let the cooling cheesecake do its thing unless you want one with a cracked top, runny and separated middle, or a soggy bottom.
Regardless if you are planning on serving up that cheesecake the next day or freezing it for later, you have to let it cool after it has done baking.
Step 1: Cooling cheesecake in the oven
Turn off the oven once you’ve tested the ensure your cheesecake isn’t raw. Keep the oven door and let the cake cool inside for an hour. This will help it firm up and finish its baking cycle.
Step 2: Cooling cheesecake on the countertop
Remove the cake from the oven. Partially cool it for 30 minutes. Place it on a wire rack on the countertop. Cool the pan preferably for 3 hours on the wire rack.
If you live in a hot and humid area, carefully place the wire rack in the coolest part of the house or in a kitchen cabinet away from all sources of heat.
How long should cheesecake cool before going in the fridge?
Ideally, it should be kept allowed to cool on the countertop for up to 3 hours before you pop it in the fridge. The cheesecake will continue to set in the fridge.
Step 3: Cooling cheesecake in the fridge
After enough time has elapsed, move the cheesecake to the fridge. Let it chill for at least an hour. This will help it firm up a bit.
Carefully remove it from the fridge. Remove the cheesecake from the springform pan by unlocking the side clasps and opening the pan as wide as it can go.
Lift the sides carefully off the cheesecake and cover well with plastic wrap and place the dessert in an airtight container. Let it cool overnight in the refrigerator.
This allows the cheesecake to set well and the flavor to blend together. If possible, let the sweet treat chill for 24 hours as a long chill gives it body and richness.
If you want to serve, place the cake on a plate, tray or cake board. If you plan to store it you can keep it well securely wrapped in the fridge for 5 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw it in the fridge for a day before you serve it.
How to cool a cheesecake quickly
Unfortunately, cooling cheesecakes require patience, and the cooling process cannot be rushed. After all, you have done all the hard work, why ruin your precious bake at the last hurdle?!
That said, if you really can’t wait to serve up that cheesecake, then there are a few things you can try to speed up the process:
Cool the pan on a wire rack
As we discussed earlier, placing the pan on the wire rack is one of the best ways to help cool your cheesecake. Keep it there for a few hours before transferring to the fridge.
Place a fan next to the cheesecake
This is a useful way to speed up the cooling process when you have taken it out of the oven. Using a fan is especially good when you have a hot kitchen or you’re baking in the sweltering summer heat.
Place a table fan next to the cheesecake and turn it on. The gentle blast of air from the fan will help cool the cheesecake quicker than usual.
Wrap a cool towel around the springform pan
If the previous methods fail to get you the desired results, try this technique. Wrap a cool towel around the baking pan. This will help regulate the temperature, reduce the heat and help the cheesecake cool down in less time.
Remember that cheesecakes are moody desserts and don’t take well to sudden changes in temperature. If the cheesecake cools too quickly then it is likely to crack, so be careful!
Use the fast-cooling methods after the cheesecake has had time to cool in the open oven. Gradual and steady cooling is the way to go.
How to tell if a cheesecake is done?
Before you cool a cheesecake, you need to know when it’s done so it sets properly while it’s cooling. There are a few things that you can try that will help with how to tell when your cheesecake is done.
I’ll keep things brief here. If you want a detailed guide on checking if your cheesecake is done and ready for cooling, theb make sure tocheck out this article. We covered how to test cheesecake in detail over there.
In short, though, the most accurate and foolproof method is to check it with a cooking thermometer. Poke the cheesecake in the middle with the thermometer. If it reads 150F/66C, then rest assured it is ready to come out and breathe some cool air (outside the oven).
Are you worried that it is undercooked because it jiggles just a bit? You shouldn’t, as some amount of wobbling especially at the center, is perfectly normal. The cheesecake will firm up as it cools.