Baking the Perfect Cheesecake
A cheesecake is baked in a springform pan. A sprinform pan can sometime leak, despite your best attempt to make sure it's tightly fastened. So it's a good idea to place the pan on a baking sheet with a lip to prevent a leaky springform from making a mess in your oven. It's also an easy and safer way to take the cheesecake in and out of the oven, preventing any surprise openings of the springform. If you don't have a baking sheet with a lip, you can wrap the bottom of the springform pan in aluminum foil to seal off any potential leaky cracks.
To tell if your cheesecake is done, observe the top surface carefully. For most cheesecakes, the edges of the cake puff up slightly and may turn faintly golden -- a golden brown cheesecake is undesireable. The top should also be dull, not shiny, and when you tap the sides, they should move, they should have the jiggle gelatin but not that of liquid. The center should be softer than the edges. The cake will rise slightly during baking, but when it cools, it will settle and solidify. If any cracks appear, they will get smaller as the cake cools and sinks down. You can also carefully run a butter knife around the edge of the cheesecake when it comes out of the oven. Then, as the cake shrinks as it cools, it won't stick to the side of the pan.
You can cool your cheesecake by removing it from the oven, or you can just turn off the oven and crack the oven door. Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature before chilling it in the refrigerator for at least 3 to 4 hours, or preferably overnight, before serving.