A water bath, also known as a bain marie, is the baker’s secret to creamy cheesecake perfection. It’s also a wonderful way to bake custard or bread pudding. All you need for a water bath is a deep roasting pan and foil.

Water being poured into a pan to make a water bath for a cheesecake.

Because cheesecake batter is basically a rich custard, it needs to be treated delicately. Without the moist heat of a water bath, the custard can take on a rubbery texture.

With cheesecake, your primary goal is to bake it slowly and evenly without browning the top. When you bake in a water bath, the water surrounding the pan will never get hotter than 212 degrees, no matter how hot the oven is. Read on to discover how to make a water bath to bake your best cheesecake recipe yet.

Table of Contents
  1. Equipment notes
  2. Step-by-step instructions
  3. Recipe tips and variations
  4. Water Bath for Cheesecake Recipe

Equipment notes

  • Roasting pan: Test its size by attempting to set your springform pan inside. It should be large enough to hold the complete round.
  • Springform pan: Most cheesecake recipes call for a 9- to 10-inch springform pan.
  • Foil: This is key to waterproof your cheesecake.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. Preheat oven to the temperature required for your recipe. Wrap springform pan (or other pan) in two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
A water bath for a cheesecake with foil wrapped around it.
  1. Arrange a dish towel in the bottom of a heavy roasting pan.
A roasting pan lined with a kitchen towel.
  1. Add crust to the bottom of springform pan and bake according to your recipe instructions.
Pressing graham cracker crumbs into a springform pan.
  1. Remove from oven and set in prepared roasting pan (on dish towel). Bring a kettle or saucepan of water to boil. Add cheesecake filling to the baked crust. Transfer the roasting pan (with unbaked cheesecake on dish towel) to an oven rack. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the pan.
Water being poured into a pan to make a water bath for a cheesecake.
  1. Bake cheesecake according to recipe instructions. Remove from oven, then let cheesecake cool in the roasting pan for 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool until barely warm, about 2 ½ to 3 hours longer. Run a knife around the inside edge of the springform pan about once per hour to loosen the cake.
A baked pumpkin cheesecake cooling in a springform pan.
  1. Wrap the pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours. To unmold the cheesecake, wrap a kitchen towel wet with hot water around the cake pan for 1 minute. Remove the sides of the pan and carefully slide the cake onto a cake platter.
Slices of pumpkin cheesecake on a cooling rack.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Make it leak-proof: Every springform pan is different, and many of them leak to some degree. To prevent water from leaking in, make sure you have a tight-fitting springform pan. Double (or triple) wrap your cheesecake pan with heavy duty foil. No foil? Use a heat-safe, plastic slow cooker liner to safeguard against water leaks. Carefully place the cheesecake inside the liner, then twist the extra plastic and knot it up tightly just under the top rim of the springform pan.
  • Avoid overcooking: It can be tough to tell when the time is right to take a cheesecake out of the oven. Look for firm edges and a jiggly, swaying center. The cake finishes setting up as it cools. Speaking of cooling, keep the cheesecake away from drafts, and give it time to cool slowly. Once it’s completely cool, then you can chill it in the refrigerator.
  • Slice it cleanly: A warm clean knife cuts through a chilled cheesecake better than anything. Dip a long, thin knife in hot water for a few moments, (running hot tap water is fine) then wipe the blade dry with a towel. Make your first slice. Then repeat the dip-dry-slice method with each slice.
  • Get creative with your cake: Try this method with my recipes for Pumpkin Cheesecake or your own personal favorite cheesecake recipe. For equally-decadent options that don’t require a water bath, consider my Cheesecake Bars or Cheesecake Brownies.
Cheesecake squares topped with strawberry topping on a cooling rack.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

My best Pumpkin Cheesecake features a graham cracker crust topped with a rich, creamy, and warmly-spiced cheesecake filling. Master how to make cheesecake from scratch for Thanksgiving (or any day).

2 hours 25 minutes
View Recipe

More baking techniques

Water being poured into a pan to make a water bath for a cheesecake.

Water Bath for Cheesecake

A water bath, also known as a bain marie, is the baker’s secret to creamy cheesecake perfection. It's also a wonderful way to bake custard or bread pudding. All you need for a water bath is a deep roasting pan and foil.
5 from 21 votes
Cook Time 1 hr 50 mins
Cooling Time 7 hrs 45 mins
Total Time 9 hrs 35 mins
Servings 8 slices
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Calories 1

Ingredients 

  • 1 roasting pan, large enough to contain cheesecake pan such as a turkey roaster
  • 1 springform pan
  • heavy-duty aluminum foil

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to the temperature required for your recipe. Wrap springform pan (or other pan) in two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Arrange a dish towel in the bottom of a heavy roasting pan.
  • Add crust to the bottom of springform pan and bake according to your recipe instructions. Remove from oven and set in prepared roasting pan (on dish towel). Bring a kettle or saucepan of water to boil.
  • Add cheesecake filling to the baked crust. Transfer the roasting pan (with unbaked cheesecake on dish towel) to an oven rack.
  • Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the pan. Bake cheesecake according to recipe instructions.
  • Follow recipe instructions, or let cheesecake cool in the roasting pan for 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool until barely warm, about 2 ½ to 3 hours longer. Run a knife around the inside edge of the springform pan about once per hour to loosen the cake.
  • Wrap the pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours. To unmold the cheesecake, wrap a kitchen towel wet with hot water around the cake pan for 1 minute. Remove the sides of the pan and carefully slide the cake onto a cake platter.

Recipe Video

Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 1kcal
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Meggan Hill

I’m the Executive Chef and head of the Culinary Hill Test Kitchen. Every recipe is developed, tested, and approved just for you.

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Comments

  1. When do you remove the aluminum foil from around the pan? After it’s cooked 45 minutes? Or is it left on longer?

  2. Please clarify for me. From you pictures, the foil is down when you pour in the boiling water for baking the cheesecake. Isn’t the foil supposed to be up the entire side while baking and the foil is only removed after an hour of cooling at room temperature?? Thanks!

    1. Hi Claudia, thank you for the question! Sorry for the confusion. The foil should be all the way up the sides as in the photo in Step 1. – Meggan

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