There may not be a more crowd pleasing, popular dessert than cheesecake, and this Japanese Cheesecake is next level. It’s melt in your mouth delicious; part cheesecake and part soufflé. All the creamy tang of cheesecake, lightened with the airy cloudlike texture of a soufflé. Now you know what you’re making next time someone says, “bring dessert”.
Unlike New York style cheesecake, which is rich, dense, and decadent, this Japanese Cheesecake is soft, airy, and sophisticated. It perfectly reflects Japanese tastes when it comes to desserts. It’s modestly sweet and just rich enough for you to feel like it’s dessert. Honestly, it’s hard to stop at just one serving. So if you’re a cheesecake lover (and let’s get real, who isn’t?), switch it up and try a different spin on a familiar favorite.
What separates Japanese cheesecake, also called Soufflé cheesecake, from a New York style cheesecake that you may be more familiar with is its incredibly light, fluffy, and airy texture. That texture comes from an egg white meringue that gets mixed into the cream cheese batter. And it relies on having a truly preheated oven. Don’t rush, give your oven enough time to heat up. If the oven isn’t hot enough, the egg whites will deflate and the cheesecake will be dense and heavy instead of light and airy, so turning on the oven is always the first thing I do. Then I begin by prepping my soufflé ramekin.
Prepping the Ramekin
I use the same ramekin here that I use for making soufflés. It’s 7 inches across and 5 inches deep. You can use a slightly bigger one too; your cake will just be a little bigger but flatter. First I swipe it with softened butter (you can also spray it with nonstick spray), and then I use parchment paper to fashion a sling that helps lift it out. The butter/oil is important for not only making sure the non-parchment parts of the cake don’t stick, but also for sticking the parchment in place.
I used standard parchment paper from a roll and cut out a circle by tracing the ramekin on paper with a pencil. Then I cut out the circle. The circle should either fit exactly into the pan or be a tiny bit smaller. I’m a terrible cutter, and can rarely cut a straight line, so my circle is typically asymmetrical. But that’s ok too; just make sure that the parchment circle is not so big that you have excess paper that’s balled up at the edges.
Next, I rip off two wide strips for the sling, which will help us pull the cake out from the baking dish. You do not need much overhang of paper. In fact, if they are too long, there’s always a chance they will burn getting close to a heating element. The sling should be long enough to reach the top of the ramekin so you can grip and pull out the cheesecake. Even if the cake cooks to the top of the ramekin, it will shrink back as it cools.
If you don’t have a ramekin, you can also use a 7 inch deep pan (about 4 inches). Since this cheesecake cooks in a water bath, a spring form pan may not be the best idea, unless you are POSITIVE that it will not leak-either batter out or water in. No matter what pan you use, use the same parchment technique. Only oil the pan. Do not oil the parchment as it’s already non stick and putting extra oil will cause you to bake up a wet gummy layer on the parchment.
Make the Batter
Then I start making the batter. Make sure to bring the butter and cream cheese to room temperature so that it can blend easily. I usually leave both out on the counter before I go to sleep, so the next day it’s there, ready for me.
This recipe uses a lot of bowls and equipment-yeah sorry about that! But there’s just no way around it. Because this cake is so simple, no real garnishes or add-ins to distract your eye, every step is important to achieve that smooth silky texture and lush mouthfeel. You will be rewarded in the end, so roll up your sleeves and don’t get discouraged.
Now it’s time to make the meringue, which gives the Japanese cheesecake its trademark cloudlike texture. There a couple rules to whipping a great meringue. First, make sure your equipment is squeaky clean. Any oily residue on your bowl or whip will interfere with the meringue and you will not get the volume you want. Also, your hands should be very clean for the same reason. Finally, make sure that you separate the egg yolks from the whites cleanly. Any trace of yolk in the egg whites will also affect your meringue.
Egg whites are at the soft peak stage when they will briefly hold a shape before collapsing. They are soft and malleable, not the stiff shiny peaks that happen after beating for several minutes longer. Soft peaks are easier to fold into the batter, which will help you retain the volume (it’s all about volume people ;))
Adding the meringue to the base helps to lighten the cheesecake mixture so it doesn’t deflate the meringue when it all gets mixed together. If you’ve ever made a soufflé, this technique will be familiar to you. Once you add the lightened base to the rest of the meringue, mix gently, taking care to not deflate the meringue. It’s ok to have a couple of thin streaks of egg white, which is preferable to over mixing.
Now it’s time to bake. I bake my Japanese cheesecake in a water bath to help ensure a gentle, even heat.
Bake for an hour undisturbed, and then test with a skewer. It should come out mostly clean. I turn the oven off, leaving the door cracked open with a towel wedged in the crack. Let the cheesecake cool in the oven for at least another hour or two. This helps it set up so it’s not as jiggly when you try to remove it. The gentle cooling will help the cake from deflating. If you were to remove the cake from the oven immediately, the cold air would cause the cake to shrink down significantly. Don’t let your hard work go to waste!
Once the cake has cooled in the oven, transfer the ramekin to the counter and run a knife around the edge of the cake to make sure it’s free. Then grab the 2 parchment slings on the left with your left hand and the other slings with your right hand. Gently lift and transfer the cake to a serving plate.
You can serve this at room temperature when it’s at its fluffiest, most soufflé-like texture, but I prefer it after a few hours in the fridge. I like to simply garnish my cheesecake with a dusting of powdered sugar but some fresh berries would be nice too.
If you are a cheesecake fan, you cannot sleep on this one. There’s a reason Japanese Cheesecake is so Instagram and TikTok famous. Try it for yourself and let me know what you think. Rate and comment on the recipe below, and tag us in your pics @funkyasiankitchen-we love seeing your creations!
- 8 ounces cream cheese (at room temperature)
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- 4 egg yolks (at room temperature)
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- ½ cup whole milk
- ¼ cup granulated sugar+2 Tablespoons for pan
- ½ a large lemon, zested and then juiced (you should yield 2 Tablespoons juice)
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup (1.125 ounces) all purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 egg whites at room temperature
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
For the pan:
baking spray or 2 Tablespoons melted butter
- powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and move the oven rack to the middle.
- Liberally grease the inside of your 7½ inch soufflé ramekin with the softened butter using your fingers (you can also use the oil spray).
- Line the ramekin: Cut two strips of parchment paper that are 2½ inches wide and 15 inches in length (this was the length of my parchment roll. It’s fine if yours is a little longer). These strips will form a sling that will help you pull the cake out. Next cut out a 7½ inch circle for the bottom of the pan. Lay the long strips for the sling first, forming a cross, and let any excess paper hang over the sides of the pan. Next place the circle down. (Don’t oil the parchment paper; it will create a wet gooey layer.)
- Combine the milk and heavy cream and microwave for 30 seconds until barely warm.
- Add the cream cheese and butter to a bowl and whisk for a couple minutes until smooth. Add the yolks one at a time, mixing well each time. Then add the heavy cream, milk, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and flour. Whisk well again.
- Pour the mixture through a strainer into another bowl to make sure there are no lumps of flour or coagulated egg. Mix in lemon peel, lemon juice, and vanilla. Set aside.
- In a clean bowl, add the egg whites and beat on medium speed (6 on a stand mixer) for a couple of minutes until they become foamy.
- Add the sugar in a very slow stream while the egg whites continue to beat. Raise the speed to high (8 or 9 on a stand mixer). Beat until soft peaks form. (When you lift the whisk attachment, the meringue forms a peak but then it slowly flops over.)
- Add a third of the meringue to the batter and mix gently using a spatula until the white meringue is completely mixed in. Now pour the lightened batter into the meringue bowl and fold gently until you don’t see unmixed meringue (small streaks are ok).
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.
- Place the cake pan in a deep baking tray or a large deep oven safe skillet. Fill the baking tray with cool water about 1½ inches high.
- Place the baking tray in the oven and bake for 1 hour. Test the center with a skewer. It should come out clean or with just a few moist crumbs.
- Turn off the oven, crack the door open (you can sandwich a kitchen towel in the opening if the oven door will not stay open), and leave the cake in the oven for 1-2 hours to gently cool.
- Remove the cake from the water bath and set it on the kitchen counter.
- Run a thin knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it. Pull the cake out using the slings.
- You can serve the cake at room temperature which is where it will be extra soft and most souffle-like. Otherwise, chill in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving.
- Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.
*Preheating your oven is crucial. Turn on your oven before you start the recipe. If you do not have an automatic beeper letting you know your oven is ready, let your oven heat up for 25 minutes before you start baking. Check that the inside of the oven is the correct temperature as some ovens have a variance between the actual temperature and what the setting indicates.
*My baking setting is automatically set to a convection (or forced fan) oven. If you’re using a standard oven, you may need to cook the cake for 10 minutes longer.
*If you do not have a soufflé ramekin, a 4 inch deep 7 inch cake pan (that is not springform) is best. But if the cake pan has a springform bottom, cover the bottom and side of the cake pan with a large sheet of aluminum foil so that the foil continuously covers the bottom and the side to just below the rim. You want to make sure no batter leaks out and no water leaks into the pan.
*Getting the right texture on the meringue is very important. Soft peaks means when you lift the whisk attachment or dip in a clean spoon, the meringue forms a peak but then slowly folds over. Do not beat too much or you will get a hard peak where the meringue looks very stiff and will actually start to ooze liquid. It will be very difficult to fold this into your base and you will get much less rise in your cake. If you’re not sure, it’s always better to use slightly under beaten eggs than overbeaten.
*The temperature of ingredients is very important in baking. Use room temperature eggs. If your eggs are straight from the fridge, put them in warm water for 10 minutes. Butter should also be room temperature, which normally means you should be able to make an indent if you push a finger into it. In general, room temperature butter should not be greasy soft. But in this case, we are mixing it into cream cheese so it’s fine if it’s very soft.
*A kitchen scale is your best friend when baking because it is the most accurate. If you do not have one, make sure you always stir your dry ingredients before scooping. Never pack flour into a measuring cup. And always level off with the back of a butter knife if using the scooping method.
Keywords: cheesecake, dessert, sweets, holiday, japanese