japanese cheesecake
Time for YUM

japanese cheesecake

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I've spent the last few months testing a Japanese cotton cheesecake recipe. Japanese cotton cheesecakes are a cross between the creamy, regular ol' cheesecake that we know and love and a light and airy Genoise sponge cake. As opposed to being dense and creamy like a New York cheesecake, they're tall and airy with the subtle flavor of cream cheese. They taste exactly what I imagine a cheesecake flavored soufflé would be like, with a light and fluffy texture similar to cotton (which explains its name, I guess).

I'm not exactly sure how I first found out about Japanese cotton cheesecakes, or why I got the idea to make one in the first place — it must have been a stray image on Pinterest that inspired me? Or maybe one of these cakes when idly browsing Goldbelly for what else I could add to my order of Russ and Daughters lox? Eitherway, researching recipes led me down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos of folks making the Japanese cheesecake and poking them to show the cakes' signature jiggle. This is now my second favorite YouTube genre of videos ever, right after the genre of "small girls beating up men trying to rob them". Anyway, search "Japanese cotton cheesecake jiggles" on YouTube. You heard it here first.

If I'm being honest with you guys, this is not the easiest recipe to make at home. To get the cheesecake's signature height and jiggle, you'll need to invest in a pan with 4-inch sides. Most Japanese recipes also appear to be made in a 7-inch cake pan, which is not a standard pan size in the United States — and unfortunately, my attempts at making the pan in more commonly available pans led to cracked tops (when baked in the 6-inch pan) and dense cakes (when baked in the 8-inch pan). It also requires the use of several bowls, an oven proof cocotte (more on that later), and the technical knowledge of how to fold a batter without deflating too much air (which I personally think is one of the hardest techniques in baking). I can tell you're exhausted already, and I'm sorry.

I realize that a complicated recipe like this one goes exactly against my New Year's resolution of simplifying my recipes and making them more accessible to folks who don't have 30 cake pans in their possession (cough) or have boxes of Valrhona feves in their basement (cough cough). And I have a ton of those planned this year too, I promise! You'll have more recipes like chocolate chip cookies and banana bread waffles in your hands soon. But right now, it's proving surprisingly hard to reign in my urge to pretend like I'm on the showstopper challenge of the Great British Bake-Off finale and come up with all sorts of crazy bakes. So tell me: WHAT KINDS OF RECIPES ARE YOU LOOKING FOR? Do you want more solid, delicious basics, or are you okay with reading about more complicated recipes like this one if they're full of handy knowledge and research? Tell me in my reader survey (or learn more about why I'm doing one in the first place), and for now, enjoy this jiggly cheesecake.

Some baker's notes:

  • Because this recipe is a little on the complicated side, it's best if you prep the ingredients beforehand by measuring them out before starting any of the recipe's steps.  Bring a kettle of water to boil first and set aside while you prep the other ingredients. Prep the eggs — you'll need six eggs total, with the whites and yolks separated into two different bowls for use in the recipe later.
  • Similarly, set yourself up for success by prepping the equipment needed for the recipe before starting any of its steps. You'll need a 7-inch cake pan with 4-inch sides; I used this pan from Fat Daddio's. In a pinch, you can substitute with an 8-inch pan with 3-inch sides, but your cheesecake simply won't be as tall and won't have the signature jiggle. Once you have the pan, it needs to be lined in a specific and slightly complicated way — I've tried to describe it as best as I could in the recipe steps, but if you need visuals, be sure to check out Just One Cookbook's recipe (which part of this recipe was adapted from) where she has step-by-step photos showing you how to line the pan. And finally, you'll need to prepare a water bath for the cake pan to bake in. Traditionally, water baths are made by placing the cake pan in a large roasting pan and pouring water into the roasting pan until the water reaches halfway up the sides of the pan. Because the cake pan used for this recipe has such tall sides, I found it cooked better if I stuck the cake pan in a deep Dutch oven (I used a 7-quart cocotte from Staub) and poured enough water for it to reach three-quarter's of the way up the cake pan. In a pinch, you can use a large roasting pan, especially if you're using an 8-inch cake pan instead. 
  • When fresh out the oven, the cheesecake should have a puffed and slightly domed top; however, as the cheesecake cools, the top will deflate and wrinkle. This is totally normal, I promise. If you find that your cheesecake top has cracked, you likely folded the mixture a little too rigorously and caused the batter to deflate — be careful when folding the batter to make sure that it stays light and airy! 

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