Back when I was still running my bakery, my Japanese cheesecake was a big seller. Once I convinced a client to try it, they never looked back. It’s what they ordered again and again.
Since I shut down my business, I’ve been hankering to make one for the blog, and after a lot of trials, I got my groove back. A lighter and far more delicate version of the New York cheesecake, Japanese cheesecake is the kind of dessert that shuts down the mind.
Airy like soft cotton, it falls apart under the pressure of a fork. Tangy from the cream cheese, it balances the sweetness perfectly. Nirvanic is the word I’d use to describe the taste and accomplished to describe the feeling of baking it.
What is Japanese cheesecake?
It’s in the name. The cheesecake is made in Japan and is popular for its quintessential jiggle and wobble. Even if you haven’t tried it, you’ve definitely seen it on Instagram.
The cake is also known as cotton cheesecake or soufflé cheesecake because the texture is extremely soft and super light. On the cake scale, it lies somewhere between a cheesecake and a sponge cake.
What's the difference between Japanese cheesecake and regular cheesecake?
In regular cheesecake like my Espresso cheesecake, I cream all the ingredients together, pour it over a crust, and then bake. In a Japanese cheesecake, there is no crust.
Also, we fold the cream cheese filling into beaten egg whites (meringue). Since there is less cream cheese, compared to a regular cheesecake and more egg whites, the texture is lighter and more voluminous.
When I cook, I often use cups and spoons as measurements. However, for this Japanese cheesecake recipe, I absolutely insist on using the metric equivalent.
The recipe does look intimidating, but if you follow the grammage, and prep everything (and I mean everything), it comes together in a mere 15 minutes. The rest of the magic the oven does.
Cream the cream cheese filling
- In a double boiler, melt cream cheese, butter, and milk. Keep whisking constantly till everything is combined, and you have a smooth, homogeneous mixture.
- Take off the heat, let the mixture cool a tad, then add just the egg yolks with vanilla extract. Whisk it. (Cooling is important, else the yolks will get scrambled.)
- Sift in flour and cornstarch and whisk again.
Make the meringue
- In a very clean and dry bowl, beat the egg whites till they start looking like foam. (You can use either an electric beater or your stand mixer.)
- At this juncture, add in powdered sugar and beat again for 3 to 4 minutes until you have medium-stiff peaks.
Prep the pan and the tray
Japanese cheesecake is baked in a water bath. That’s a fancy way of saying that the cake tin is placed on a tray of water inside the oven. To make the water bath:
- Use a tray that is deep enough to hold water and wide enough to fit the cake tin.
- Butter your cake tin liberally.
- Place parchment paper on the bottom of the pan.
- Butter the parchment too. It’ll help take the cake out after it is baked.
Bake the batter
One of the tricks to making a light and fluffy Japanese cheesecake is to mix the meringue and cream cheese filling in thirds. This makes sure that the small air pockets in the beaten egg white don’t deflate.
- Take a third of the meringue and fold it gently into the cream cheese.
- Pour in another third of the meringue and stir again using light circular motions.
- Mix in the last of the meringue till you see no white streaks.
- Transfer the batter into the prepared cake tin and place it inside the bigger tray.
- Pour hot water in the bigger tray. It should come up almost halfway up the sides of the cake pan.
- Bake till the cake is jiggly in the center and painted a light golden hue.
The right way to bake a fluffy Japanese cheesecake:
Japanese cheesecake is baked at two temperatures. First at 250 °C and then at 160 °C. The high temperature gives the cake the initial rise and color.
After 5 minutes, reduce the temperature and then bake for 40-45 minutes.
The rule of thumb with most cheesecakes is to leave them undisturbed in the oven, till they cool. That doesn’t work with this guy. Give it about 5 minutes, and then take it out.
Carefully invert the cake tin onto a plate, remove the parchment paper, and then flip it back right-side-up onto a wire rack. My suggestion is to serve it as-is, so nothing mars its beauty. At the most, dust it with icing sugar, and if you like a pop of color, accompany it with a few berries.
Do you eat Japanese cheesecake hot or cold?
You can serve Japanese cheesecake warm or cold. It’s delicious either way. I recommend trying both because the texture changes with temperature. When it’s warm, the cake is fluffier, tastes more custardy and every bite melts in your mouth.
When chilled, it is spongier and creamier. Plus, it's easier to cut neat slices. My personal preference is to chill the cake overnight.
How to make a double boiler?
Fill a bowl with an inch or two of water. Insert a smaller bowl on top. And then heat till the water is simmering.
How to check if the meringue is done?
From a peak using the egg white and sugar mixture. If it lifts and then immediately droops slightly, the meringue is done. Also, the consistency of the beaten eggs will be glossy and thick.
How to tell when a cheesecake is done?
Insert a skewer on the side of the cake. It should come out clean. Moreover, the cake would separate from the tin sides. Another test is to gently shake the tin. If the center of the cake wobbles, but the rest is set, then the cheesecake is done.
What to do if the cake feels undercooked?
If you feel the cheesecake is not done and the 45-minute mark has crossed, loosely cover the top with foil. Bake for another 10-15 minutes.
Why did my Japanese cheesecake crack?
It’s the high temperature. The simplest way to make sure your cheesecake doesn’t crack is to use a water bath. It helps the batter bake slowly, gradually, and evenly, and it keeps the cake moist.
Why is my Japanese cheesecake not fluffy?
The reason the cake is not airy and light is incorrectly beating the egg white mixture. The meringue has to be at the perfect soft-medium peak stage. Always make sure the egg white and sugar peaks start to bend over. That’s the point when they have enough air bubbles to give you a fluffy cheesecake.
- Measure every ingredient and prep every piece of equipment beforehand. It will save you a lot of time. Stick to the steps and the baking will be simpler.
- I used my coffee grinder to powder granulated sugar for the meringue.
- The bowl you use to beat egg whites has to be clean and dry. Any grease or water will hamper the rise of meringue peaks.
- Before you beat the egg white, squirt a little lemon juice (or add cream of tartar, if you have that). It stabilizes the beaten egg whites.
- Don’t overmix the meringue and cream cheese mixture or use a heavy hand. A few strokes of the spatula (or a balloon whisk) will do the job. It’s key to get that perfect texture and look the cake is known for.
- To make sure no air is lost when mixing, use a very light circular motion. Also, move from top to bottom.
- I use a regular 8-inch tin and not a spring bottom one because I was petrified that no number of foils would prevent water from seeping in. If you grease the tin and the parchment liberally, the cake will slip out easily.
One bite, and you’ll love Japanese cheesecake. It’s:
Perfectly balanced sweetness
Genuinely melt-in-the-mouth experience
- 94 gms Cream cheese
- 56 gms Butter
- 94 ml Milk
- 130 gms Egg whites, approximately 4
- 47 gms Egg yolk, approximately 3
- 18 gms All-purpose flour
- 9 gms Cornflour/cornstarch
- 63 gms Powdered sugar
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract
- 1 tsp Fresh lemon juice
- Icing sugar and fresh berries for the topping (Optional)
- Preheat your oven to 250C.
- Grease an 8" cake tin. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper too.
- Keep a bigger baking tin handy. Your 8" cake tin should fit into that comfortably.
- Keep a kettle on for hot water for the water bath.
- Measure out all the ingredients.
- Separate the eggs. Keep the egg whites refrigerated until you're ready to use them.
- In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, butter, and milk. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water.
- Once the butter has melted, take the bowl off the heat and whisk well. Let this mixture cool for a few minutes.
- Add egg yolks and vanilla extract. Sift in the flour and cornflour/cornstarch.
- Now place the egg whites and lemon juice in the bowl of your stand mixer. You can also use a handheld electric beater.
- Beat the egg whites until they are foamy. Add in the powdered sugar. Beat until you just reach the stage of stiff peaks.
- Fold in a third of the egg whites into the cream cheese mixture. Add another third, fold well and gently. Then add the remaining whites.
- The batter will be very light and airy.
- Pour into the prepared tin. Place the tin in the bigger baking tray and pour hot water almost halfway up the sides of the cake tin.
- Carefully place in the oven. Bake at 225C for 5 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 160C and continue baking for 40-45 minutes. The top of the cake should be lightly golden. The top and the sides should look cooked, but the cake should be slightly jiggly in the center.
- Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes. Carefully take the cake out of the tin, while it's still warm, and place on a cake rack to cool completely.
- You can serve the cake at room temperature or chill it for a few hours. I prefer it chilled!
- Sprinkle some icing sugar on top and serve. Enjoy!