Losing sleep over cracks in your cheesecake? Follow these tips for a smooth surface and a good night's rest.

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A cheesecake is one of the most elegant and beautiful desserts to serve when you want to impress your guests. Unfortunately, it is also a temperamental treat and will develop ugly cracks on the surface if it is not prepared and handled properly. To serve a velvety smooth, stunning cheesecake, here are five tips to prevent cracks in your dessert.

Start with Room Temperature Ingredients

Cheesecakes such as this citrus topped Grapefruit Cheesecake are very sensitive to extreme temperature differentials. Make sure all refrigerated ingredients – cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, milk, etc.–are at room temperature when you begin mixing the cheesecake. This not only ensures that a chilled ingredient will not “shock” a warmer ingredient, but that all ingredients will blend into a velvety smooth, clump-free batter.

Don’t Over Mix

The same rule applies for when you are baking a cheesecake or a pound cake: don’t over mix. Mix the batter until the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated, and not any longer. Over-beating does not improve the texture and make the cheesecake creamier; instead, it whips too much air into batter causing the cake to puff up (similar to a souffle), then sink, shrink, and crack.  Stop beating as soon as the batter is smooth and creamy (unless otherwise directed).

Prepare the Pan

Grease the sides of your springform pan. This will help the cake detach from the pan as it cools and shrinks so that it does not stretch and crack. Many custard-like desserts, such as cheesecakes and flans, are baked in a water bath. If your recipe directs you to use this method, avoid water seeping into the springform pan by tightly wrapping the sides and bottom of your pan in two to three layers of aluminum foil. After pouring the batter into your pan, tap the pan on the counter two to three times to release any air bubbles still in the batter.

Don’t Overcook

Bake your cheesecake until the outer ring of the cake is slightly puffed and fairly firm, but the inner circle still jiggles like barely set Jell-O. If you see any small cracks forming, immediately move on to the cooling step.

Grapefruit Cheesecake
Credit: Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Tina Bell Stamos

Cool and Chill Properly

Cooling a cheesecake should be done gradually. Leave the cheesecake in the turned-off oven with the door cracked for about an hour, or however long your recipe directs.  When you remove it from the oven, run a thin-bladed knife around the edge to make sure the cake isn’t sticking to the pan, which can also cause cracks as the cake settles.

After all the baking and slow cooling, the cheesecake still needs to chill in the refrigerator to finish setting up. If you cut into the dessert before chilling, it will have a firm custardy texture – still delicious, but not the velvety cheesecake, texture you worked so hard to attain. So be patient and chill.

A water bath cooks the cheesecake gently, making it extra creamy with a smooth, crack-free top. You can make the lemon curd up to two weeks in advance; just be sure to store it in the refrigerator.

Don’t Stress Out Over Cracks

Even after all this caution and care you may still wind up with a crack or two in your cheesecake. It happens to even the most experienced baker. Your cheesecake isn’t ruined, and it will still be delicious. In fact, really delicious. Simply cover the top with a topping, such as sweetened whipped cream, chocolate ganache, or cherry pie filling and serve it with a smile.