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.