An unset cheesecake refers to a cheesecake that has not been fully chilled or set in the refrigerator. It has a soft and creamy texture, making it ideal for those who prefer a lighter and more delicate dessert experience. This indulgent treat is perfect for those who can’t wait for the cheesecake to fully firm up.
Reasons Cheesecake Won’t Set
Insufficient cooking time
If the cheesecake is not cooked long enough, it won’t have enough time to set. The heat needs sufficient time to react with the proteins in the eggs, causing them to solidify and set the cake.
Oven temperature is too low
A cheesecake needs a certain degree of heat to set. If your oven’s temperature is too low, it will not provide the necessary heat for the cheesecake to firm up.
Incorrect ratio of ingredients
Cheesecake requires a delicate balance of cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and other ingredients. If the proportions are off, especially with eggs or cream cheese, the texture can be affected, resulting in a cheesecake that won’t set.
Underbeating the eggs
Beating eggs into the batter incorporates air and helps with the setting process. The cheesecake might not be set properly if the eggs aren’t beaten enough.
Overbeating the batter
Conversely, overbeating the batter can incorporate too much air, causing it to rise and collapse, leading to an unset cheesecake.
Lack of a water bath
A water bath ensures even, slow cooking and prevents sudden temperature changes that can affect the setting process. If you skip this step, your cheesecake may not set correctly.
Not enough cooling time
Cheesecakes continue to set as they cool. It may appear unset if you don’t allow your cheesecake to cool completely before cutting into it.
If the recipe itself is flawed, such as if it doesn’t call for the right amount of setting agent (usually eggs in traditional cheesecake), then the cheesecake might not set properly.
Quality of cream cheese
Low-fat or non-dairy substitutes might not behave like full-fat cream cheese during baking, which can lead to an unset cheesecake.
Skipping the chilling step
After cooling to room temperature, a cheesecake must usually chill in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. This final chilling step is crucial for the cheesecake to fully set.
How to Fix a Cheesecake that Won’t Set Properly?
If your cheesecake hasn’t been set properly, you can try baking it a bit longer. Use a water bath to keep the heat gentle and prevent cracking. Check it regularly to avoid overcooking.
Resetting in the oven
If you’ve already taken it out of the oven, let it come to room temperature, then put it back in at a low temperature. This can sometimes help the cheesecake set without overcooking it.
Cooling and chilling properly
If the cheesecake is still warm, allow it to cool at room temperature. Once cooled, transfer it to the fridge to chill for at least a few hours, ideally overnight. This can often help the cheesecake to set.
Adding a topping
If the center of the cheesecake is slightly unset but it’s too late to cook it more, consider adding a thick topping like a sour cream layer or a fruit compote. This can cover up the soft part and add another flavor element to the dessert.
Turn into a parfait
If your cheesecake just won’t set, you can always salvage it by turning it into a parfait. Layer crumbled cheesecake, whipped cream, and fresh fruit in a glass for a lovely dessert.
Make a frozen cheesecake
If your cheesecake hasn’t set and it’s too late to cook it longer, consider freezing it. This will solidify the cheesecake, and you can serve it as a frozen treat.
Turn it into cheesecake dip
You can always turn your unset cheesecake into a dip if all else fails. Blend the cheesecake until smooth, then serve with cookies or fruit for dipping.
How to tell if a Cheesecake is Properly Set?
A digital cooking thermometer is a reliable way to tell if a cheesecake is done. Insert the thermometer into the cheesecake about an inch from the edge. The temperature should read around 150-155°F. Remember, the center of the cheesecake will still be slightly jiggly at this point, but it will set as it cools.
By visually inspecting your cheesecake, you should look for a change in the surface of the cheesecake. The cake should be slightly puffed and set around the edges, and the very center (about 2-3 inches) should be slightly jiggly and not completely set. Also, the surface should be lightly golden without any deep brown or cracked areas.
With clean hands, you can lightly touch the surface of the cheesecake. It should be firm but not hard, with a little give, especially in the middle. However, avoid using this test frequently, as it could damage the surface of the cheesecake.
Gently shaking the cheesecake can also tell you if it is done. The outer 2-3 inches should not move, while the center should wobble slightly, like a custard. Remember that it will continue to firm up as it cools, so it is okay if the center is jiggly.
Unlike most cakes, the toothpick test is not always reliable for cheesecake due to its dense, creamy texture. If you use it, insert a toothpick into the cake near the edge. It should come out mostly clean, with maybe a bit of creamy batter clinging to it. However, be aware that overbaking can occur if you wait for a clean toothpick, as the cheesecake will continue to cook slightly after being removed from the oven.
Tips for Making a Perfect Cheesecake
Room temperature ingredients: Ensure your ingredients, especially the cream cheese and eggs, are at room temperature before starting. This helps to get a smooth, lump-free batter.
Beat carefully: Overbeating can incorporate too much air into the batter, which can cause the cheesecake to puff up, crack, and then collapse. Beat just until smooth and creamy.
Water bath: Bake your cheesecake in a water bath. This helps to maintain a steady, moist heat that cooks the cake evenly and prevents cracking.
Don’t peek: Avoid opening the oven door too often as temperature fluctuations can cause the cheesecake to crack.
Proper cooling and chilling: After baking, allow the cheesecake to cool slowly in the turned-off oven with the door ajar. Then refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, before serving.
Chill the crust: Before adding the filling, chill the crust in the fridge or freezer. This helps it to set and not crumble when the filling is added.
Set properly: A no-bake cheesecake needs time to set. After preparing it, leave it in the fridge for at least 4-6 hours, ideally overnight.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the middle of the cheesecake not cooked properly?
The middle of a cheesecake might not cook properly if the oven temperature is too high or the cooking time is too short. This results in the outer edges cooking before the middle can set.
Why won’t a no-bake cheesecake set?
A no-bake cheesecake might not set if it’s not given enough time to chill in the fridge or if the recipe doesn’t have enough setting agents like gelatin or cream cheese.
How to make cheesecake firmer?
You can make a cheesecake firmer by using full-fat cream cheese, increasing the number of eggs, or adding more flour or cornstarch. Proper cooling and chilling of the cheesecake will also help it firm up.
Is it safe to eat undercooked cheesecake?
If a cheesecake is slightly undercooked, it is still safe to eat. However, significantly undercooked cheesecake with raw eggs poses a risk of salmonella.
Can you put the cheesecake back in the oven after it has cooled?
Yes, you can return a cheesecake in the oven if it hasn’t been set properly. It should be done at a low temperature and possibly in a water bath to prevent it from drying out or cracking.
How long should I keep the cheesecake in the fridge to set it?
Cheesecake should be refrigerated for at least 4 hours to set, but ideally overnight. This gives it time to cool and firm up.
What does an undercooked and overcooked cheesecake look like?
An undercooked cheesecake will be very jiggly and might even have a liquid center. It won’t hold its shape when cut. An overcooked cheesecake may have deep cracks, a browned or burnt appearance, and a too-firm or dry texture.