If you’ve ever baked a cheesecake in a water bath or bain-marie, chances are water has seeped into the cake at least once. It’s a defeating feeling, but there is a chance the cheesecake can still be saved if water seeps into it.
What Is a Water Bath?
A water bath, also known as a bain-marie, is simply a pan with water in which another pan, dish, or pot is set. It helps to cook a custard, like cheesecake, slowly and evenly, resulting in a creamy texture and minimizing cracks. Sometimes water from the larger pan seeps into the cake.
Do you need to use a bain-marie for cheesecake? Mostly, yes.
How Did Water Get Into My Cheesecake!?!
- You’ve used standard length (12-inch) aluminum foil rather than extra-wide (18-inch) to wrap your pan. Always go with 18-inch foil.
- There was a small puncture or tear in the foil.
- Water slopped in between the foil and the springform pan when you were putting the roasting dish in the oven or pouring water into the roaster.
How to Keep Water Out of Your Cheesecake
- Wrap it well using 3 layers of extra-wide, heavy-duty aluminum foil. I use a 9-inch springform pan, and a standard 12-inch roll of foil isn’t wide enough to go up all sides of the pan.
- Sara Bir, one of our recipe developers at Simply Recipes, has a great trick. Skip the foil and use the oven-safe plastic bags used to brine turkeys. The good news is you can wash and reuse the bag and keep it as your cheesecake pan bag.
What to Do if Water Gets in My Cheesecake?
Not all things go as planned. You think you wrapped that cheesecake as well as humanly possible in foil, but the foil was breached somewhere along the way and water entered your cake.
You can usually tell within the first 20 minutes of baking the cake if the foil didn’t hold and water entered your cheesecake.
Very thin, usually large, watery bubbles will appear on the surface of the cake or you can see little sputtering places on the edges. (Not all bubbles are signs of water. Some small bubbles rising to the surface are air bubbles and those are just fine.)
How to Save It Before the Cake Has Finished Baking
If you know you have water in your cheesecake, all is not necessarily lost. If this happens to you, you can try to save it if you catch it before it has finished baking.
- Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Use oven proof mitts to grab the edges of the spring form pan and lift it out of the pan of water.
- Carefully peel back the foil and put the cake back in the oven on the middle rack.
- If you have a lower rack, put the roasting pan full of water below the cheesecake on the lower rack.
- Finish baking the cheesecake for the time designated in the recipe.
I don’t want to give you false hopes. This doesn’t always save a wet cheesecake. However, if only a little water made its way into the cake, this can help it dry out, and no one will be the wiser.
How to Save It Once the Cake Has Finished Baking
Sometimes you just have to improvise. Chances are the actual cake is fine, and it’s just the crust that’s wet and unappealing. After you’ve already let the cake cool and chill for the time designated by the recipe try some of these ideas:
Plate the cake as individual slices and leave the crust behind.
If you have your heart set on serving a whole cake, cover up the mistake!
- Remove the ring from a springform pan but leave the base attached.
- Flip the cake over onto its top onto a serving platter so you have the crust side up.
- Use a long, sharp, hot knife to slice the crust off of the cake. Discard the crust.
- Top the cake with whipped cream, chocolate ganache, or fresh fruit.
DO NOT WORRY! You are going to reinvent this dessert!
- Let the cake cool according to the recipe instructions.
- Slice, cut, scoop just the cake portion (not the crust) into a smaller dish—preferably something with sides like a bowl or ramekin. Cover and put in the fridge.
- Crush some graham crackers like you're making another crust only with larger pieces.
- Combine the graham crackers, sugar, and butter together in a skillet over medium heat and toast it until fragrant and golden. Let cool. Cover and store on the counter.
- Just before serving, top the bowls of cheesecake with the toasted butter graham cracker crumbles, sliced strawberries, blueberries, or whatever tender fruit you have around. A little whipped cream never hurt anyone and Viola! You created an entirely new cheesecake-inspired dessert! You've got this.
When to Call it Quits
If your cake was pretty well saturated (which you won’t really know until you cut into it) then it’s a loss. I’m sorry. Part of life in the kitchen is making mistakes. You are not alone in glorious kitchen failures. (I once set an entire baking sheet of marshmallows on fire.)
The good news is you’ll know what to do next time!