The first time I tried a slice of Japanese cheesecake, I had never tasted anything quite like it. The texture—bouncy and fluffy—was so different from the dense, rich American cheesecakes I was used to.
Japanese cheesecakes are characterized by their light and airy texture, thanks to the lofty meringue mixture that gets folded into the cream cheese base. While this style of cheesecake may seem intimidating to make, the steps come together fairly quickly and result in a simple, yet impressive dessert.
What Is Japanese Cheesecake?
Japanese-style cheesecake, sometimes referred to as a soufflé cheesecake or cotton cheesecake, has a texture that’s irresistibly soft and fluffy. Compared to a classic New York-style cheesecake, Japanese cheesecakes are minimally sweet and much lighter thanks to the whipped egg whites that are folded into the batter at the very end.
As the name suggests, this style of cheesecake originated in Japan. Japanese pastry chef Tomotaro Kuzuno is said to have created the dessert after a trip to Berlin in the 1960s where he tasted käsekuchen, a local German cheesecake.
Japanese Cheesecake vs. Cheesecake
In addition to Japanese cheesecake’s light and jiggly texture and toned-down sweetness, there are a few other differences between the dessert and New York-style cheesecake. For one, Japanese-style cheesecake does not have a crust. There’s also no need to bring the ingredients to room temperature since the dairy is heated in a double boiler before being combined with the remaining ingredients.
Tips and Tricks for Making Japanese Cheesecake
In this recipe, the combination of three types of dairy—cream cheese, heavy cream, and sour cream—make for a rich and velvety custard, while whipped egg whites provide a dreamy, souffle-like texture. If you follow the recipe and these simple tips, you’re assured success:
- Like many cheesecake recipes, this one relies on a water bath (bain marie) while the delicate cake bakes in the oven. The pan of hot water surrounds the cheesecake, acting as a buffer for the direct heat of the oven. A water bath helps to ensure that the custard bakes evenly and gently.
- In order to achieve the perfect fluffy texture, I don’t recommend substituting homemade cake flour (all-purpose flour mixed with cornstarch) for this recipe. Homemade cake flour has a tendency to weigh down the batter. Instead, seek out actual cake flour at the grocery store.
- If you don’t have a stand mixer, the meringue can be easily made using a hand mixer. Whichever mixer you use, it’s crucial that the bowl is completely clean and dry before the egg whites go in. This ensures that the egg whites and sugar whip up properly into stiff peaks. The meringue is what gives the Japanese cheesecake its characteristically cotton-soft texture.
- Make sure to line your pan completely using the instructions below. This will ensure that the cake does not stick and has room to grow above the top of the pan. It also makes it easy to remove the cake from the pan before serving.
How to Serve Japanese Cheesecake
Japanese cheesecake doesn’t need much accompaniment. If desired, sprinkle powdered sugar over the top of the cheesecake and serve with fresh berries.
Light as Air Desserts
- Classic Chocolate Mousse
- Peanut Butter Pie
- Lemon Icebox Pie
- Ricotta and Summer Berry Parfaits
Preheat the oven and prepare the pan:
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease the bottom and sides of an 8×3-inch round cake pan with butter.
Cut a sheet piece of parchment paper into 4 strips: two 16 1/2 x 2-inch strips and two 16 1/2 x 4-inch strips.
Grease the two 2-inch strips and crisscross them in the center of the pan, greased sides down, so they make an “x” in the bottom of the pan. Press them into the edges and up the sides (this creates a sling that will help you remove the cake from the pan once it is baked).
Line the bottom of the pan with an 8-inch round piece of parchment. Grease one side of each of the 4-inch strips of parchment and wrap them around the inside walls of the pan with the greased sides touching the sides of the pan. They will overlap and create a collar that is higher than the rim of the cake pan. Set aside while you make the cheesecake.
Separate the eggs:
Put a kettle or pot of water on to boil. You’ll use this for the water bath later.
Separate the eggs. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Place the yolks in a small bowl.
Combine the dairy and sugar:
Place a large saucepan with 1 inch of water in the bottom over medium heat and bring to a simmer. In a large, heat-safe bowl (that sits snuggly on top of the saucepan), add the butter, cream cheese, heavy cream, sour cream, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Set the bowl over the simmering water.
Stir with a whisk until the cream cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat.
Finish the cream cheese base:
Whisk in the lemon juice and vanilla extract, then whisk in the egg yolks one at a time.
Sprinkle cake flour over the batter and whisk to incorporate. Don’t overmix.
Make the meringue:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until they become opaque and foamy. Gradually add 1/3 cup sugar while mixing, a spoonful at a time, and continue to beat on medium speed until firm peaks form. If you remove the whisk, the peak will hold upright but the tip will fold back on itself.
Don’t overbeat the meringue, making it crumbly.
Fold in the egg whites:
Using a whisk, gently fold 1/3 of the meringue into the cream cheese mixture just until no streaks remain. Be gentle to avoid knocking the air out of the egg whites. Repeat, incorporating a third of the meringue at a time. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.
Bake the cheesecake:
Place the cake pan inside a roasting pan that will fit the 8-inch pan inside. Place both pans on the middle rack inside your preheated oven. Carefully pour a few inches of hot water into the roasting pan, careful to not get water on the cheesecake, until the water is halfway up the side of the cake pan.
Bake the cheesecake until the top is golden brown and set, about 1 hour. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake inside for 15 minutes. Crack the oven door slightly (you can use the handle of a wooden spoon if needed) and allow the cheesecake to sit inside for an additional 15 minutes.
Cool and serve the cheesecake:
Remove the water bath and cheesecake from the oven. Lift the cheesecake out of the water bath and place it on a wire rack to cool completely to room temperature for an hour.
Using the parchment paper strips, gently lift the cheesecake out of the pan. Peel the parchment off from around the sides. The cheesecake can be served at room temperature or chilled. If desired, sift powdered sugar on the cake before serving. A serrated knife is the best for making clean slices.
Refrigerate the cheesecake, covered, for up to 1 week, freeze for up to 1 month. If freezing the cheesecake, defrost overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
Love the recipe? Leave us stars below!