When I think of cheesecake, the first thing that comes to mind is an ultra rich and creamy New York style cheesecake. This is the polar opposite of that. This is light and fluffy like a cake, but slightly tart and creamy at the same time. It tastes like happy, delicious pillows in my mouth with a slight hint of lemony sweetness.
I first discovered a version of this at a bakery my mom frequented when I was a kid. It came in an oblong shape and it had a glaze over the top. It was so light, creamy and delicious. As an adult, I rediscovered this at a local Asian bakery in a mango flavor that blew my proverbial socks off. (I live in flip flops, who needs socks!?)
I did some Googling, as usual, and found this recipe for Japanese cheesecake. I’m a big believer in ratings and this one had a near 5 star rating and a good volume of reviews to back it up.
While I’m sure the original version is great, I changed it up the method bit and added some directions and tools I used. So here is my slightly altered (but not by much) version.
Total prep time: 30 min | Total bake time: 35 min (30-40)
7 oz. cream cheese (room temp preferred, but optional)
1/4 c whole milk
1/2 c sugar (divided into two 1/4 cups)
3 extra large eggs, separated (size matters!)
1/4 c cornstarch
2 tbsp lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
4-5 c of boiling water
vegetable cooking spray
Stand mixer (hand mixer will work), bowl, whisk and paddle (SideSwipe Paddle) attachments
Measuring cups and spoons
Large extra bowl (2 if no stand mixer bowl)
Springform pan (see previous post Tip: Fixing a Leaking Springform Pan)
Roasting pan for waterbath
Water Kettle (any version you have)
Scale (optional, but preferred)
Let me start by pointing out, if you have not noticed already, that there is no crust. First, its not in the recipe and second, I think it would weigh down the light and fluffy texture. Also, I skipped the glaze. I prefer this plain and adding glaze would make this too sweet for my taste and preference. Note that I don’t start by preheating the oven. I live in Southern California where its SUPER hot. I’m not leaving the oven longer than I need to.
Now to get started with actual directions. I started by prepping my springform pan by waterproofing it. See my previous post here on how I do this. Before I figured this out, I had a very sad failed cheesecake. In addition to using a non-stick springform pan, I sprayed my springform pan with cooking oil to make sure the cheesecake didn’t stick. This happens in the sink so I don’t get greasy spray everywhere.
Next, I took the cream cheese package and weighed it on my scale (8.1 oz.). There are markings on the package that divide it by ounces, but I prefer my scale for more accuracy. I opened up the package and started carving out pieces of cream cheese and placing it in the mixing bowl until the scale read about 1.1 oz. 1.1…1.2…close enough. (That extra ounce is going on tomorrow’s bagel.) Room temperature is ideal, but who am I kidding? When I decide to make cheesecake, I’m not waiting around for it to come to room temperature.
Next, I pour in 1/4 cup of milk to dilute the cream cheese (which is also cold) and use the paddle attachment to blend the ingredients. This takes a few minutes and in my guilt of using cold cream cheese, I try to warm the bottom of the bowl with my hands. Probably a useless attempt but It makes me feel better about my lack of planning and patience.
Next, up, I pour in the sugar (the original says castor, but I don’t have any and I was in no mood to pull out my food processor to make castor sugar). The recipe says 1/2 cup, but you only pour in 1/4 cup here. I put that in the ingredient notes because I hate it when I get to this part and find that I have to measure again. My 1/4 measuring cup was dirty so I eyeballed 1/2 of the contents and poured it in. I think I was close? I add the sugar in separately because I’m also hoping the little granules will break up any lumpies left from the cold cream cheese I was supposed to bring to room temp and hoping to give the larger sugar granules I wasn’t supposed to use more time to dissolve into the mixture.
After the sugar mixes in, I add the egg yolks, and lemon juice (from my cute little lemons from the lemon tree in my backyard). I leave the cornstarch out for now. I want to make sure all the liquids blend together before introducing potential for cornstarch lumpies coming up.
After the mixture looks blended, I add the cornstarch and continue to mix with the paddle until 95% smooth. I don’t want to risk over mixing to get the last lumpy (we are real technical around here).
Once I achieve a 95% lump free mixture, transfer the mixture to another bowl with my spatula. I only have one stand mixer bowl so this is a necessary transfer. If you’re using a hand held mixer, you won’t have to do this or if you’re super lucky and just have two mixing bowls…well lucky you.
The next step requires beating egg whites to soft peaks. If you’ve watched Alton Brown’s Good Eats, you know that any fat globules is going sabotage your fluffy whites. I make sure to wash the bowl very thoroughly before the next step. So…scrub, scrub, scrub, rinse, rinse rinse.
This is when I preheat the oven to 350º F. The timing worked out perfectly.
Now, I’m ready to beat the egg whites. I attach my whisk attachment to my stand mixer, pour in the eggs, and add the cream of tartar. The recipe says to beat the whites to a froth first, which I did, but in hindsight, what a useless step (because the second time I made this, I skipped this step and it was fine). Just toss the cream of tarter in there with the whites and get to whisking.
After about 45 seconds whisking on high speed, I start slowly pouring in the remaining 1/4 cup of my (expertly) eyeballed sugar. This matters less because its all going in one mixture, but in general I’m not an idiot baker who doesn’t measure anything. I promise. I continue whisking the whites and sugar until I get to firm peaks. (Guide to peaks). The recipe calls for soft peaks, but somehow I got to firm and I prefer to get to slightly stiffer consistency to compensate for all the deflating during the folding process.
Next, I scooped the egg white mixture up with my spatula and added it to the cream cheese mixture. Try not to stab it a bunch of times trying to move it. One swift scoop from one bowl to the next.
Now, its time to FOLD the two mixtures together. Fold, not stir, not semi flip around, give up and stir. FOLD. Cut down the middle, scoop down and out, then bring it all over to the top. Repeat until barely combined. Not even perfectly combined. It’ll probably mix even more when you transfer it to the pan.
Once I was happy with my folding, I used my spatula and scooped it into my springform pan. Next, I dispensed all hot water in my Zojirushi Water Boiler into the roasting pan then placed the springform pan into my roasting pan.This creates a hot water bath that helps control the temperature around the cake to prevent cracking and to gently cook the cheesecake. Unfortunately, my little hot water boiler doesn’t have enough to go half way up the side of the cheesecake pan, so I supplemented with room temperature water until it reached 1/3 to 1/2 way up the springform pan wall. Some people say I should add the water after I place the pan in the oven, but I like to do it now so all the heat doesn’t escape from the oven.
Next, I moved the roasting pan, springform pan, water, and all, to the oven to bake for 35 minutes. That’s just how long mine takes. It could be anywhere between 30-40 minutes, but the original recipe specifically states not to open the oven before 20 minutes. Frankly, you shouldn’t open the oven at all. That’s what the oven light is for. Use it.
Once you see the top slighty…very very very slightly start to dry out and look like its very very very slightly starting to crack and its past the 20 min, take a skewer and poke all the way through to see if it comes out clean. If not, put it back in and wait. For a super gunky skewer, another 3-5 min. For a semi gunky skewer, another 1-3 min. So technical.
Since I’ve made this a few times and I know mine takes exactly 35 min, I waited a full 35 min before I inserted a skewer into the center to check doneness. It came out clean so I removed the roasting pan from the oven, and transferred my springform pan to plate to cool. I did not depan my cheesecake.
After about 20 min of cooling, the cheesecake actually pulled away from the sides and i could just release and remove the side wall of my springform pan to unveil my perfectly cooked cheesecake. No water leaks!
If you want to serve cold, cover the cake (I do it with a big bowl) and place in the fridge until cooled. I’m not that patient and am happy to eat a semi warm cheesecake. I carefully (to not damage the non-stick surface) cut the cheesecake slices in the pan and serve.
I may or may not have eaten one of these by myself in 2 days. Nom, nom, nom.