Cheesecake Disaster...Please Help
I attempted to make a two layer pumpkin cheesecake. A layer of vanilla cheesecake and a layer of pumplin cheesecake in a pecan graham cracker crust. I basically made two different cheesecake recipes to have enough to bake two 9 inch cheesecakes with the two layers. I baked the vanilla layer for about 15 minutes just so it could set before I poured the pumpkin layer on top. I baked for 60 minutes at 325. The outer edge of the cheesecake the crust basically looks very very very dark hard and borderline burnt. I only put the graham cracker crust on the bottom, so why do the sides look like this? I bought new springform pans from target that seem to be dark and heavy. Could that play any factor on the edges looking like this. I am trying to achieve a perfect looking cheesecake and am dumbfounded on what happened here. Does it matter which layer goes on the bottom? Should it have been the pumpkin? Or does it really matter? What do I do? I put a pan of water on the bottom shelf instead of the actual water bath because I was nervous about water getting into my cheesecake. Please help me so I can make a perfect cheesecake for Thanksgiving. I am going to go to the store and buy ingredients to start all over again.
What makes some cheesecakes light on the sides and a perfectly browned crust and others do what mine did?
Is the outer edge of the cheesecake taste burnt? If it is, the reason is that you did not bake your cheesecake in a water bath as instructed. By placing a pan of water on the bottom rack below the cheesecake does not do the same thing as a water bath. The direct heat is too intense for the delicate custard. If you are worry about water leaking into your cheesecake, wrap the bottom and sides of your springform with a heavy duty aluminum foil and make sure the water of your water bath comes about half way up the pan. Also check the accuracy of your oven temperature. If you find that your cheesecake is still getting too dark on the edge before it is done, tent the top with a sheet of foil.
Try this. I usually bake my cheesecakes (depending on size) anywhere between 45 to 75 minutes. I start by baking it at 350 for 30 minutes, then finish it off by reducing the oven temp to 315.
Also, I would strongly suggest you use a water bath. The pan of water underneath simply keeps the cheesecake in a moist environment, but will not prevent overheating the cheesecake that can result from direct dry heat.
I agree with the replies so far. Use a water bath, place heavy duty aluminum foil around the bottom of pan (a couple of layers should do it), and bake in a slow oven. 325 degrees sounds right to me. Also, check out baking911.com for Sarah's cheesecake tips and suggestions. I printed out info from her site about baking cheesecakes and her advice has resulted in gorgeous cheesecakes. I gave up baking in dark colored pans a long time ago. Too much hassle adjusting the temp as they retain more heat than light colored pans. I use an inexpensive Wilton aluminum springform pan and so far, so good. I've never made a 2 layer cheesecake so I can't comment on this issue - about which layer you should bake first. Maybe someone more experienced than I could answer that for you.
You've already gotten some great advice, esp. about the water bath. I'd highly recommend getting heavy duty longer aluminum wrap to wrap around the springform pan and use 2-3 layers. If you think of the cheesecake as a custard, which it is, you want to treat it like one--lower heat works, moist environment, don't overcook (and it will continue to cook after you take it out of the oven) which it sounds like you've done. I've cooked a cheesecake overnight at 200-225 degrees and it was perfect, creamy and smooth but I don't make the time for that normally. With a darker pan, you can reduce the temperature by 25 degrees (also worth checking your oven). I also like to turn off the oven while it's just underdone (jiggly center), prop the door open slightly w/ a wooden spoon and leave it for an hour. It prevents a sudden change in temperature which might cause cracks, as can overcooking.
As for layers, I'd put the denser layer below, not precook, but carefully put the other layer over it. Actually, if you want both flavors, I think a marbled cheesecake is easier to do and prettier. Did you bake the crust first, before the first layer? That'll help with getting a browned crust.
I think I just saw something related to this on America's Test Kitchen last week - commenting on the color of the pans - they were talking about muffins or cupcakes, but mentioned that the darker pans make darker sides of the cakes - I would guess it has something to do with heat retention.