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 19 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

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Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this instruction. I had never tried to make a cheesecake in a waterbath before, but I will never make another without it.5 stars

  2. I have made many cheesecakes in my life. But I never did it quite the way you explained it. It is in the oven now. I will follow all the cooling instructions too. Thanks so much for your detailed instructions, and the reasons why each step is important5 stars

    1. Hi Valerie, thanks! So glad this method worked out for you, hope you enjoy! – Meggan

  3. I use the silicone lids to wrap around the pan. it worked! Silicone lids to use for the cheesecake waterbath and to wrap my food in. perfect!

    1. Hi Robert, that’s a good question! I’ve always done it with the rack in the middle. It might have more to do with whatever your specific cheesecake recipe says, but I know it works for the middle rack. Thanks! -Meggan

  4. I don’t use foil for the water bath, I simply put a 9inch springform pan into an 11 inch round cake pan. Then I put both pans into a roasting pan. I add 4 cups of boiling water to the roasting pan. It works no leaks, no cracks. I bake at 300 degrees for 70 min, turnoff the oven and let it sit in the oven for 60 min . Take springform pan out of water, run my knife around the cheesecake. Once cool goes into the refrigerator wrapped in plastic wrap. Cool for 8 hours.

    1. Hi Lisa, that’s SUCH a great idea! The foil just helps if the springform pan doesn’t have a perfectly tight seal. Sounds like yours doesn’t have an issue. But I love it. Thanks! -Meggan

  5. This water bath instruction is brilliant! I have made one modification- my springform pan would not seal out water well even with aluminum foil wrap. I have found that turkey roasting bags work perfectly! I put my pan in the bag and fold down the sides before loading into the water bath. Perfect!!5 stars

    1. Hi Melinda, the post is about using a water bath as a technique for how to cook a cheesecake. But there is no actual recipe for a cheesecake in the post, so no, there is no baking temperature. That would depend on which cheesecake you were making. There is not “one” standard temperature for baking all cheesecakes. That’s why it says “bake according to your recipe’s instructions.” Sorry for the confusion on that. Also, there is no “story” in the post. It’s just information on using a water bath. Thanks! -Meggan

  6. I have just finished my first cheesecake and it is cooling in the oven. I was wondering about the “run a knife around the inside edge” part. Do you run it just deep enough for the filling layer or do you run the knife all the way down and disturb the crust that is up on the side? Thanks.

  7. I have just finished my first cheesecake and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. It is in the oven cooling right now, but when you “run a knife around the inside”, is that just for the cheesecake part or do you go all the way to the bottom and disturb the crust layer?

  8. I’ve got my cheesecake in a water bath in the oven and I’m counting down the minutes. I am perplexed and a bit terrified to remove a pan full of boiling hot water and a cheesecake pan out of the oven to the countertop. Any suggestions? I’ll tell you how this came out in the end…

    1. After it’s done baking leave the oven door cracked and turn off the oven. Wait about 45 mins before pulling it out this will also prevent cracking.

  9. Hi! So I just made a cheesecake and thought I’d give a water bath a try and I pulled the foil off and there was water inside the foil. Is there anyway to save the crust? I’ve never done this before so not even sure what the crust is going to be like. Is it ruined? Coils it just be built up steam?

    1. I just made a cheescake and it was the first time that I used a water bath. I tripled the heavy duty reynolds wrap and had the same problem with water build up. I think it could be moisture because there were no holes in the reynolds wrap. Once it cools and it is removed from the pan you should be able to tell. My fingers are crossed because it is for a xmas party. Maybe you can let me know where you made this in November.

  10. Hi! So I just made a cheesecake and thought I’d give a water bath a try and I pulled the foil off and there was water inside the foil. Is there anyway to save the crust? I’ve never done this before so not even sure what the crust is going to be like.