Two major problems when baking cheesecakes are cracking and falling during the cooking or cooling process. Both can be avoided by following the recipe directions and a few tips from professionals. The primary reason the cheesecake splits is from the effects sudden temperature changes have on the eggs in the recipe. Falling is caused when the cake is not cooked at an even and regulated temperature. A cheesecake can also appear to have fallen if the outsides of the pan cook at a higher temperature than the center causing the cake to rise higher on the outer edges.
Lightly grease the entire inside of the pan before pouring in the cheesecake batter. This will keep the cake from rising up the sides of the pan and then falling, or giving the appearance it has fallen, after cooking.
Place the cheesecake pan in a water bath before placing in the oven. The water bath will regulate the temperature of the cake as it cooks and prevent hot spots or having the cheesecake heat up and cook too fast.
Bake the cheesecake exactly as the recipe calls for. Do not make adjustments for faster cooking. The secret to a great cheesecake is slow, even heat.
Leave the door of the oven closed during cooking. Drafts coming into the oven can cause the cheesecake to fall.
Run a knife around the outside edges of the cheesecake once it is done. This frees the cake from sticking to the pan and further reduces the chances of cracking as it cools.
Turn off the oven while the center of the cake is still loose and leave the cake in the oven until it is completely cooled. You can remove it once it is almost cool to run the knife around the edges if desired. Then place back into the oven for it to continue cooling.
References and ResourcesFood Network: How to Prevent Cheesecake from Cracking
What's Cooking America: How To Bake Perfect Cheesecakes - Cheesecake Hints & Tips
Baking 911: Cheesecake 101
Diana's Desserts: Tips for Cheesecakes