Surface cracks (and even deep crevices in some cases) are a common problem with homemade cheesecakes. These cracks can be caused by several factors, including air trapped in the cake, dryness and drastic temperature changes. While you cannot absolutely prevent cracks every time, there are several steps you can take to drastically reduce the likelihood of a crack in the finished product.
Things You'll Need
Preheat your oven to the temperature suggested by your recipe. If the recipe calls for a temperature over 325 degrees Fahrenheit, only preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Fill a tea kettle or pot with water and put it on the stove over high heat.
Mix 1 tbsp. of cornstarch with the sugar in your cheesecake filling recipe before you add it to the other ingredients. If your recipe already includes cornstarch, skip this step.
Make the cheesecake filling as normal, but add the eggs last and mix the filling as little as possible once you have added them. Over-mixing the eggs can lead to trapped air inside your cheesecake.
Grease the sides and bottom of the springform pan in which you will bake the cheesecake. This will help the cheesecake pull away from the sides gently when it shrinks while cooling. Put the crust and filling in the springform pan as normal.
Wrap the bottom and sides of the springform pan with a layer of aluminum foil, then place the pan into a deep baking dish. Put the pan into your preheated oven then fill it with the (now very hot) water in your tea kettle or pot. The water in the baking pan should be around 2 inches deep. This will help provide humidity and keep your cheesecake from drying out.
Bake your cheesecake until a patch 2 to 3 inches across in the center still wiggles when you shake the cake gently. Alternately, use a thermometer to test the temperature of the cheesecake. You are aiming for 150 degrees in the center of the cake. The time this will take will vary greatly depending on the size of your cheesecake. Turn off the heat in your oven, close the oven door and leave the cheesecake for about an hour. This will allow it to finish baking and to cool gradually.
Remove the cheesecake from the oven and the baking dish of water. Place it on a table or counter and run a paring knife between the crust and the side of the springform pan. Cover the cake with a cookie sheet or similar item and allow it to cool to room temperature. Once your cheesecake has reached room temperature, put it in the refrigerator for at least eight hours.
References and ResourcesDiana's Desserts: Tips for Cheesecakes
What's Cooking America: How to Prevent Cracks on Cheesecakes
The Food Channel: How do You Prevent Cracks in Cheesecake?