Japanese Cotton Cheesecake
Did you know the much-loved cheesecake has been around for over 2000 years?
The oldest record of our much-loved cheesecake is by the writer Athenaeus in 230 AD. But even more interesting, records have been found from as long ago as 776 BC indicating that Cheesecake, made from flour, wheat, honey and cheese was fed to players of the Olympic Games to provide energy and stamina for the athletes.
To celebrate the finale of the Tokyo Olympic games, I thought I would try to make one of Tokyo’s and Japan’s most famous Cheesecake – the Cotton Cheesecake.
This Japanese Cheesecake is a relative newcomer, being only around for about 40 years. But it is amazing! In Japan it is affectionately known as “fuwa-fuwa” or just soufflé cheesecake.
This was because up until the 1950s Japanese gastronomy didn’t really use cheese in their cooking. This Japanese version, created by Japanese Chef Tomotaro Kuzuno in the 1960’s after trying the German Style Cheesecake käsekuchen during a trip to Berlin, is very light in texture and cheese flavour. Japanese desserts are typically less sweet so this version is quite different to a rich American-style cheesecake.
This Japanese Cheesecake is quite different to the American Cheesecake. Created by Japanese Chef Tomotaro Kuzuno in the 1960’s after trying the German Style Cheesecake käsekuchen during a trip to Berlin, is very light in texture and cheese flavour. You can add different flavours if you like, but I like this one with lemon and finished with Apricot Jam.
This cake pictured I flavoured with 1 tsp of instant coffee powder – and it is soo delicious! This is why the colour is a little brown. You can see it cracked a bit on top, but this doesn’t affect the taste which is soo light and fluffy – like cotton candy – which is where it gets its name.
The cake is made with cream cheese, milk, butter, sugar, and eggs and is very similar to a Chiffon cake or soufflé. Whilst fairly simple to make, the tricky part about this cake is in the cooking. The perfect Japanese Cheesecake needs to be light and fluffy, produced by whipping egg white and egg yolk separately and it is cooked in a bain-marie slowly to create a soft, chiffon-like consistency. It can be flavoured with any flavouring you like and topped with icing sugar or a smear of apricot jam.
It is now a modern staple in cafes, bakeries, patisseries, specialty shops, convenience stores and dessert menus across Japan. This version is based on the Tetsu’s recipe, but I have made some tweaks along the way.
My top tips for trying to perfect a Japanese Cheesecake:
The process of making this cheesecake is not too difficult, but it does require some specific techniques and the biggest challenge is in the cooking process to ensure the perfect Cheesecake. If it is not cooked properly it will crack and shrink.
If yours cracks or flops – don’t worry! I have made PLENTY of flops and cracked Japanese Cheesecakes, and while they might not look the part – they are still delicious!
Be prepared and measure all your ingredients before you start cooking as timing is important with this recipe, once you whip you egg whites you want to fold them into your other ingredients and straight in the oven.
- Line your cake tin well, use a solid cake tin if you can and include lifting strips so you can easily remove your light delicate cake from the pan. If you only have a springform pan – just make sure you wrap your pan well in aluminium foil so you don’t get any water leaks. Most importantly – grease your cake tin and greaseproof paper really well to prevent everything from sticking and allow your cheesecake to rise successfully.
- Don’t overbeat your egg whites – this is the most important part. You want soft to medium peaks. When you lift your whisk upside down, the egg whites should cling to your whisk and hold their shape for a few seconds before flopping over.
- Fold in your Egg Whites with your whisk for the first 2/3 of your mixture, then a spatula for the last 1/3 to try and hold as much air in your batter better, but keep it well combined.
- Bake your cheesecake in a water-bath (Bain-Marie) to allow the hot water to create a gentle and uniform heat around your cheesecake which helps create the soufflé texture.
- Bake on the lowest shelf in your oven with conventional heat – no fan-force if your oven allows you to turn this off. Also, bake at the correct temperatures – MOST IMPORTANT! If your oven temperature is too high, your cheesecake will rise too quickly and crack. If too low, it will not cook through and be dense.
- Cool down very slowly – although you might want to eat is straight away – resist! Once your Cheesecake is baked, do not take out of the oven. Let it cool down gradually by leaving the oven door ajar for 20-30 minutes. This prevents a sudden change of temperature which is the biggest reason why this Cheesecake shrinks, cracks or collapses.
- Cake Pan – 20cm diameter and 10cm high
- Parchment Paper
- 3 Mixing Bowls
- Fine Mesh Strainer
- Stand Mixer or Electric Mixer
- Large Baking dish that will hold at least 3cm of water
- 15 g unsalted butter for greasing the pan & parchment paper
- 120 g egg yolks 6 large egg yolks
- 250 g cream cheese
- 60 g unsalted butter
- 150 g milk
- 50 g sugar
- 100 g cake flour if you don’t have cake flour use 80g plain flour and increase cornflour to 60g
- 40 g cornflour
- Pinch salt
- ½ lemon for zest
- 30 ml lemon juice about ½ large lemon
- 180 g egg whites 6 large egg whites
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 100 g sugar
- 4 tbsp apricot jam for glaze
- Preheat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius
- To line your 20cm cake tin, cut 2 long strips of greaseproof paper which will be long enough to go along the base and up the 2 sides so you have handles to lift your cake out of the tin. Grease your cake tin and place the long strips in a cross pattern across the bottom of the tin. Then cut a circle the size of the base of the tin and line the base and finally line the sides of the tin with another long strip at least 10cm high. Makes sure your paper is greased well on both sides. If you are using a springform pan, you don’t need the strips above, but follow all other steps and wrap your springform pan tight and secure with aluminium foil to prevent any water getting in.
- Separate your 6 eggs.
- Place a medium saucepan on the stove, filled with about 5cm water (make sure it doesn’t reach the base of your mixing bowl). Bring the water to a boil.
- In a large glass bowl, add the cream cheese, 60g unsalted butter, milk and sugar. Place over the saucepan filled with boiling water and whisk together until melted and combined well. Remove from the heat.
- Add 1 egg yolk at a time to your cream cheese mixture, whisking well after each addition.
- Use a fine-mesh strainer sift your flour into the batter. Whisk to combine.
- Pass the batter through the same fine-mesh strainer into a large clean bowl.
- If you want to add any extra flavouring such as match powder, cocoa powder, coffee or anything else – substitute the lemon and add it now. Otherwise, add the zest and juice (30ml) of half a lemon to your batter. Whisk to combine.
- Get a large baking tray, big enough to hold your cake tin and pour about 3-4cm of boiling water into the tray. The water level will rise when you put your cake tin in, so don’t overfill it. Place this into your pre-heated oven.
- In a large clean mixing bowl of a stand mixer, add your egg whites and whisk on medium speed for a few minutes until the egg whites are foamy. Add the cream of tarter. Whisk well. Gradually add the sugar whilst continuing to mix. Once all the sugar is added, increase speed to high and whisk until soft peaks. When you lift your whisk upside down, the egg whites should cling to your whisk and hold their shape for a few seconds before flopping over.
- Using a hand whisk, whisk 1/3 of the egg whites into the cream cheese mixture until fully combined. Add the next 1/3 of egg whites and mix again, and finally using a spatula fold in the last 1/3.
- Pour the mixture immediately into your prepared cake tin, tapping the tin on your bench at the end to remove any air pockets.
- Place the cake tin in the water bath in the oven and turn the temperature down to 120-140 degrees Celcius. Bake for approximately 20-30 minutes. Then increase the oven to 160 degrees Celsius and bake for another 40-50 minutes until golden brown.
- Leave your cheesecake in the oven, turn off the oven and let rest of 15mins. After 15mins remove the waterbath and keep the cake in the oven with a wooden spoon in the door to keep it ajar. Leave to cool in the oven for 15 minutes.
- Then remove the cake pan from the oven and let sit for another 10mins.
- Gently lift the cake out of the tin using the greaseproof paper strips. Or if you are using a springform pan – remove the foil and greaseproof paper.
- Combine your apricot jam and 2 tsp hot water in a heatproof bowl and microwave for 30 seconds – 1 minute to melt. Combine and brush over the top of the cheesecake.
- Allow the cheesecake to cool completely at room temperature before serving.
- This cheesecake is best served at room temperature.
- You can store your Cheesecake in the fridge for 3-4 days or you can freeze it for up to 4 weeks. Defrost the cheesecake overnight in the fridge before serving.
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Disclaimer - Nutritional information is provided as a guide only.
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