The deliciousness of a cheesecake walks side by side with the hardships that come from baking it, in fact, it’s quite easy to find yourself with an undercooked cheesecake that you don’t know how to fix.
When you have a runny cheesecake, it’s easier to fix it while still in the baking process, because the options after you took it out of the oven are limited and might not work out as well.
How to tell if your cheesecake is undercooked.
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Unlike many other sweets, cheesecake is a dessert that is extremely filling, in fact, the average person cannot handle more than one or two slices of this deliciousness.
Despite being extremely popular, most people would rather buy a slice of cheesecake than making their own at home. The reason is simple: baking a cheesecake is harder than it seems.
A cheesecake needs to be baked to perfection, or it can result in a disaster. An undercooked cheesecake easily becomes a runny cheesecake, which is difficult to serve and unpleasant to eat.
When baking a cheesecake, it’s important to recognize an undercooked cheesecake from a well-baked cheesecake, and not overcooking is just as important.
Here’s how to tell if your cheesecake is runny in the middle.
The easiest and quickest way to check if your cheesecake is soft in the middle is through the wobble test. Using oven mitts, place both hands on either side of the baking pan while it’s still in the oven and shakes it slightly from one side to the other.
Don’t shake it too violently because it might crack and if you’re using a water bath to bake your cheesecake, make sure the water doesn’t get into the pan. Another way to do this test would be to gently rap the pan with a spoon.
There is a small area at the center of the cheesecake that should jiggle a little when you shake it. The fact that it jiggles is a good sign because if your cheesecake is completely firm, it means it’s overcooked.
This area shouldn’t be larger than 2 inches (5 cm) unless you used sour cream in place of ricotta or cream cheese because in that case you should expect a larger wobbling area in the center and you should look for a brownish color on the edges to know if the cheesecake is done.
If the area is larger than 2 inches, or if liquid spills from the surface, the cheesecake is runny in the middle and you should bake it for another 5 minutes before trying the test again.
Check the temperature
For this method, you will need an instant-read cooking thermometer. It is important that it immediately reads the temperature because not only it will save you a lot of time, but you risk overbaking the cheesecake while you wait for the result.
First of all, you should calibrate the thermometer by taking the water temperature out of a boiling pot. The thermometer should read 212 °F (100 °C).
The edges of the cake are usually warmer than the center and they become firm and brown when well-baked, so you should take the temperature by sticking the thermometer halfway through the center of the cheesecake.
This method will probably cause your cheesecake to crack, so only use it once to avoid ruining the cake. If you need to check the temperature again, stick the thermometer in the same hole to prevent further damage.
Using a toothpick is very similar to using a thermometer, except you’ll have to rely on your observation and evaluation skills to determine whether the cheesecake is ready or not. This method is a last-minute workaround in case you don’t have a cooking thermometer.
Stick a clean toothpick most of the way through the cheesecake (unless you have long toothpicks or another kind of thin stick, in that case halfway through the cake is enough). Wait a few seconds and pull it out.
Check the toothpick: if it feels rather wet or it’s dripping liquid, the middle of the cheesecake is not cooked. If it feels too dry and there’s no residual around it, the cheesecake is overcooked.
When the cheesecake is undercooked, you should bake it for another 5 minutes before trying the test again. As you’re bound to repeat this test multiple times, remember to use the same hole as you would with a thermometer, in order to avoid ruining the cheesecake.
Often, you can tell when a cheesecake is done just by looking. When the edges start turning golden-brown and a little puffy in comparison with the rest of the cake, your cheesecake is done.
The center should remain pale because when it starts developing a golden shade, it means it is overcooked. The area turning brown-ish should be around a ½ inch (1.3 cm) from the edges.
If the edges are still liquid, the cheesecake is not done yet. On the other hand, if the edges are browning and the center is firm, the cheesecake has baked too long.
Consider that a cheesecake doesn’t finish baking when you take it out of the oven. The cooling process is needed to make the cheesecake firmer, so it must not be already too firm when you take it out.
Another way to tell when your cheesecake is done baking is by checking how shiny the surface is. An undercooked cheesecake is still shiny overall. Once the shiny look wears off, your cake is ready to be taken out!
For this test, you will need to be very gentle as not to ruin or crack the surface of the cheesecake. The only tool you need for the pressure test is your hands, so wash them thoroughly and make sure to remove all traces of soap before drying them properly.
Once you’re ready, use one finger to touch the cheesecake right at the center or in the area that closely surrounds it. It’s useless to check the edges because they tend to be firmer even when the cheesecake didn’t set.
Apply the slightest pressure with your finger and if the cheesecake gives in a little, but feels otherwise firm, it is done. If the cheesecake is soft in the middle and your finger sinks into it, or if, when you pull your hand away, you have batter on your fingers, it needs further baking.
How to fix a cheesecake that didn’t set.
A cheesecake that didn’t set is not always a lost cause. This is a very common mistake, therefore over time people have come up with different methods to fix an undercooked cheesecake.
1. Let it rest
Cheesecake is not one of those cakes that is ready to serve once it’s out of the oven. In fact, a fundamental part of baking a cheesecake is the cooling period, during which the cheesecake sets properly and becomes firmer in the middle without the help of the oven.
A freshly-made cheesecake should normally rest in the fridge for at least 4-5 hours before being cut into and served, and it would be better to let it rest for a whole night (8 hours).
Sometimes, your seemingly undercooked cheesecake is only missing its cooling time and you can easily fix the problem with a few hours in the fridge.
2. Water bath
The water bath is a baking method that uses hot water to bake desserts more evenly and prevent cracking of the surface. A water bath is made using a larger pan with hot water, inside of which you will place your baking pan wrapped in foil.
The foil is used to protect the cake from leaks, and it is recommended even if your pan is leak-proof. Remember not to fill the pan with too much water because once you place the cake inside, the water level will rise. Usually, an inch of hot water is enough.
The water bath is a common baking method for cheesecakes, but did you know you can also use the water bath for undercooked cheesecakes that have already passed their cooling period?
Take the cheesecake out of the fridge and let it reach room temperature, then prepare your water bath. The temperature of the oven should be really low because the edges of your cheesecake are already done and you don’t want to overcook and crack them.
For better results, use an instant-read cooking thermometer to check the temperature at the center of the cheesecake. When the temperature reaches 150 °F, the cheesecake is ready.
Despite this method proving sometimes successful, please note that it is not recommended to re-bake your cheesecake, because the risk of ruining it is very high.
3. Slow cooking
Even without a water bath, you can simply put your cheesecake back in the oven, even after it has already been in the fridge.
In order to do that, set your oven to a low temperature and let the cheesecake slow-cook to the right temp. Come back to check every 5 minutes. It shouldn’t take more than 15-30 minutes.
Many people wait for the top of the cheesecake to turn brown-ish before turning off the oven, but that is a mistake. A perfectly baked cheesecake should always remain pale in the middle. Any shade of golden or worse, brown, could mean overcooking and thus, ruining the cheesecake.
Be careful because it is very easy to overcook a cheesecake trying to fix previous mistakes. The internal temperature of the cheesecake shouldn’t be over 150 °F.
4. Frozen dessert
Sometimes it’s not possible to fix cheesecake mistakes, or maybe we don’t want to risk ruining the cake, but it doesn’t mean you have to throw out your creation.
A delicious alternative is to turn your cheesecake into a frozen dessert. It’s enough to freeze your cheesecake and then serve it in slices.
You can make your frozen cheesecake more delicious by dipping it into a chocolate shell or adding fruits and other toppings to it.
For example, did you know that red bean paste made from adzuki beans goes really well with cheesecake? There is also a variety of cheesecake called “adzuki cheesecake” where these beans are added from the start.
You can unleash your creativity with this frozen dessert, it is very easy to personalize it and make it super appetizing for you and your guests!
How to tell when a cheesecake is done.
The safest and most recommended way to check when a cheesecake is done is to use a cooking thermometer to measure the inner temperature at the center of the cake.
In fact, while the edges of a cheesecake usually become firm faster, the center often remains soft and undercooked and might need a longer baking time to reach the ideal temperature of 150 °F (around 65 °C).
In order to cook a cheesecake to perfection, it is also recommended to use the water bath as a baking method. This way, the cheesecake will cook slowly and evenly, and you will also avoid the cracks on the surface.
Since cheesecakes are hard to make at home, mistakes are always behind the corner. If you have an undercooked cheesecake, you can try baking it again the next day through a new water bath. You can also opt to turn your cheesecake into a frozen dessert, which will be just as delicious.