There was a time when I devoured cheesecakes. I ate them so much, it began to show on my person. My waistline grew and my clothes needed to be altered. I am serious; ok maybe a little exaggeration. But I was obsessed. I think it was sometime in the late 1980s. A new cheese cake shop opened in town - I think it was actually called The Cheesecake Shop - and I was introduced to a whole array of flavours to my favourite cake. There was chocolate, chocolate marble, Oreo ... oh my. It was heavenly. I used to visit the shop on my way back from school (I was in the sixth form and took the public bus home. The Cheesecake Shop was a slight detour but, hey, I felt I earned a slice every now and then).
That was a long time ago and it's been a while since I craved cheesecake like that. In fact, it has been a while since I've eaten any cheesecake at all.
Truth be told, I may have gone off cheesecakes. If I could eat a whole slice by myself in a split second before (ok, who am I kidding ... I could eat two slices, easily), I now can't even take a bite before feeling like I've had too much.
So, it was mighty strange that I woke up this morning with an urge to make .... cheesecake.
Go figure, right? So, yeah, I wanted to make a cheesecake but I didn't want to make a creamy cake that sat on a biscuit crumb. I wanted something lighter, something more cakey and not too rich. I was about to give up and make something completely different (like a quiche or a crepe -- yes, my thoughts are always so random) when I remembered a Japanese cheesecake I'd eaten a long while ago (like five years ago) that I really liked. Yes! Perfect!
The Japanese Cheese Cakes (I'm not quite sure if it really does originate in Japan; I have never eaten one there either of the times I'd been there) are light and soft and have a more subtle (though not at all insipid) taste of cheese. The cake isn't overly sweet and there is no crust, so put away our digestive biscuits!
The cake also comes unadorned. There are also no toppings (no strawberries on top, no Oreo cookies in he middle ...) and though I have tasted a matcha-flavoured one before, I prefer the authentic, unflavoured Japanese Cheesecake the best.
Some compare the texture of this cake to flan, a souffle or a chiffon cake but, truth be told it's also almost like eating a slice of brie (although no brie is used; only cream cheese). The texture is the result of the emulsification of corn starch and eggs in the recipe -- this is what I've read. I figure it also has to do with the whipped egg whites (six, mind you) that are gently folded into the batter.
I don't know the science of it ... yet ... but I like the result. This cake is light, cheesy, not too sweet and oh-so-comforting. I am pleased that this is one cheesecake I am still fond of.
140g Castor sugar
6 egg whites
6 egg yolks
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
250g cream cheese
1/4 tsp salt
60g cake flour
20g corn flour
1. Melt the butter, cream cheese and milk by combining them in a bowl and placing the bowl atop a pot of boiling water. Do not allow the bowl to actually touch the water. Stir until the cheese and butter melts. Set aside and allow to cool.
2. Sieve the flours and add the salt and whisk together.
3. Preheat the oven to 160C. Line a 24cm spring form pan with parchment paper.
4. When the butter mixture has cooled, add the egg yolks and flours and stir to mix.
5. Beat the eggs whites and the cream of tartar using the whisk attachment of your mixer until the eggs get frothy. Add the sugar and whisk on high speed till soft peaks form.
6. Fold in the whited to the batter, gently but well.
7. Pour batter into lined pan.
8. Fill two ramekins with hot water and place them diagonally in the bottom tray of your oven (below the rack where your cake is going to sit). Put in the cake and bake for 70 mins.
9. When the cake is done, turn off the oven and let the cake cool in the oven with the door slightly ajar for 30 mins before removing the cake. This helps prevent the top from cracking.