For the avid baker like myself, there’s really no greater joy than executing a perfect cake. Particularly a cheesecake, which has a very heavy batter and therefore requires use of the correct tools and a focused, delicate precision, can be a true thing of beauty when baked the right way. Unfortunately, so many of us have come to find that the springform pan (a mainstay for the regular cheesecake baker), is a less than perfect tool. Too often the springform and the bottom pan do not create a perfect seal, allowing your precious batter to leak out, or (if using a water bath as one would for baking cheesecakes) allowing water to seep in. At best you’re left with a mess to clean up; at worst, the leaky springform pan can ruin an otherwise excellent bake. What to do? Fortunately, there are a number of ways to work around the apparent short-comings of this much-needed apparatus.
This solution is simple enough: upon tightening your springform pan into place and pouring in your batter, use a large sheet of aluminum foil to wrap the pan in its entirety (making sure to leave the top of the cake exposed by crimping the aluminum foil around the top edge of the springform). A double layer of aluminum foil is recommended.
Here, you would simply lay a sheet of aluminum foil across the bottom pan before resting the springform on top and adding batter. Tightening the springform against the aluminum-foil-covered bottom will create an added layer of cushion which will increase the tightness of the seal. If you’re not a fan of aluminum foil, a sheet or two of parchment paper should also do the trick. Note: it is important that your piece of aluminum foil is larger than the bottom pan to ensure that you’ve got a complete seal.
This technique is a little trickier, albeit highly creative. Rather than add any alien elements to your pan or cake, draw a fairly thin ring of cake batter on the bottom pan, following the line where the springform will touch it. Set your springform on top so that you’ve created a sort of “pasted” seal between the pan bottom and springform. Then, bake the pan for a few minutes (no more than five) to allow your paste to thicken and harden slightly, so that you avoid the messy seeping that we’ve set out to end in the first place! Bake at whatever temperature your cake recipe requires. Note: if your recipe employs a water bath, keep reading! Helpful tips on how to prevent paste from melting into the bath are highlighted below.
You wouldn’t think that when it comes to technique, you’d see much overlap between distilling and baking. And yet a clever trick learned hundreds of years ago in scotch and Irish whisky distilleries can come in handy for this very situation. When distilling, leakage of steam from your still can make or break the final product (much like leakage of batter from your springform pan can ruin a perfectly good cake). So, distillers devised a paste of oatmeal, flour, oat flour, and water to seal their pesky breaches. The recipe is simple:
With the oat paste made, set your springform on the bottom pan per usual and then seal the seam of the two pans with the paste. This is similar to what’s done if using batter as paste, only in this case you’ll want to make sure that the oat paste remains strictly outside of the pan so that you’re not mixing paste with batter. Bake assembled pan and paste (without cake) for 10-20 minutes at whatever temperature your cake recipe requires – your oat paste should be fairly hard and may even crack some. Don’t fear! Add a little bit of raw oat paste to any cracks seen and bake for another 5 minutes.
Wait a minute though: will a “paste” really work when your springform pan needs to rest in a water bath? It WILL, but additional steps are needed. If using a paste to address your springform pan leakages, two additional techniques can help further prevent leaks or (in the case of a water bath), ensure pastes do not melt away. First, see if you can find a metal cake pan that’s slightly larger than your springform pan. As long as the outer cake pan is not enormous, you can rest your springform pan (with whatever paste “leak prevention” technique you’ve chosen) inside the new cake pan in the water bath, and the bath should retain its intended effect. Alternatively, you can place your springform pan inside an unsealed slow cooker bag, and then place the bag in the bath. Both will prevent any pastes from melting away into the water bath, while still allowing the cake to bake properly inside the bath.
Maybe you’ve got the world’s leakiest springform pan, or you’re just very concerned about nailing this precious, delicate cheesecake. Combining leak-prevention techniques can only help you! Try layering the bottom of your pan with aluminum foil, and THEN applying a paste. Use a paste, and then wrap the entirety of the pan in aluminum foil, crimping the top. You could even use a paste, surround your pan in aluminum foil, and THEN place the wrapped pan in a slow cooker bag to keep the cake utterly protected. It’s your cake: don’t be afraid to go all out with leak prevention to ensure your bake is exceptional, from beginning to end.
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