This jiggly Japanese cheesecake is also known as Japanese cotton cheesecake. It's the fluffier, lighter alternative to classic cheesecake that tastes mildly sweet, slightly tangy, but still rich and creamy. Follow our recipe with step by step photo reference, tips, and extensive troubleshoot help to make this cheesecake perfect! Also, check out our ube basque cheesecake for a super creamy and easy cheesecake recipe.
If you've ever had Japanese cheesecake, you know why it's so special. The moment the cheesecake comes out of the oven, the show starts! It jiggles while it's warm, then becomes the fluffiest, cheesecake that still taste rich and creamy after chilling. With the vanilla and lemon zest added, the cheesecake has the perfect amount of sweet vanilla and bright citrus to have us craving for another bite!
What is Japanese cheesecake?
Japanese cheesecake is also known as Japanese cotton cheesecake and soufflé style cheesecake. It's a meringue based cheesecake created by Japanese chef Tomotaro Kuzuno and made made popular by Uncle Tetsu's Cheesecake, the bakery.
Japanese cheesecake is known for it's jiggly, sponge-like, fluffy texture when warm that becomes creamier and richer after chilling. It's lighter than New York cheesecake and our ube basque cheesecake since it's made with less cream cheese and sugar and aerated with meringue.
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the ingredient quantities!
- Eggs - Our recipe measurement is based on large eggs. So please make sure to use large eggs or the cheesecake batter may not be the right consistency.
- Cream cheese - Full-fat cream cheese is best because it'll give the cheesecake the best flavor. We also recommend to have the cream cheese softened. So take it out of the fridge earlier.
- Heavy cream - We recommend using heavy cream because it's richer, which will give the cheesecake more richness. However, full-fat milk is a great alternative as well.
- Butter - Make sure to use unsalted butter and cut the butter into smaller pieces for easier melting.
- Cake flour - This ensures that the Japanese cheesecake stays tender and fluffy because cake flour has the least amount of gluten.
- Lemon zest and vanilla - These are optional flavorings that we highly recommend for the cheesecake. Lemon zest adds brightness and both are great flavor pairings for cream cheese.
- Sugar - Granulated white sugar and caster sugar is best for this recipe because the sugar dissolves faster.
- Lemon juice - This is for stabilizing the egg white for making meringue. You could also use some plain white vinegar instead.
- Optional toppings - Enjoy the Japanese cheesecake with berries, fruits, and whipped cream. You can also top the cheesecake with a dusting of powdered sugar or glaze the top with some apricot jam.
How to make Japanese cheesecake
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the full recipe and instructions!
1. Prepare equipments and ingredients. Japanese cheesecake is a meringue based dessert, so it's best to have the ingredients and equipment ready so that you can follow the recipe swiftly. So preheat the ovens, prepare the pans, and gather all the ingredients before starting.
2. Heat over bain-marie. Combine the cream cheese, butter, and heavy cream in a heatproof bowl. Heat it over a bain-marie and whisk the mixture until combined and smooth.
📝 Term: [bain-marie] This simply refers to the method of cooking where a heatproof bowl, pot, saucepan or any vessel is placed on top of another vessel filled with hot water. This method ensures the content is gently heated up/cooked to prevent scrambling, curdling, and/or separating.
3. Finish the base batter. Add the egg yolks and mix to combine. Then, sift in the flour and whisk until no more dry flour is visible. Finish with the lemon zest and vanilla. Mix until combined. Set aside.
4. Make the meringue. Combine egg whites and lemon juice and whip on medium high speed until frothy. While whipping, add the sugar, ⅓ at a time, before the meringue reaches soft peak stage. Reduce the speed to medium and continue whipping until meringue reaches medium-soft peak.
🌟Pro tip: The easiest way to determine the what peak the meringue is at is by picking up the whisk straight up, then turn it upside-down. The meringue should form a peak and at medium-soft, the peak should curl over like a hook or the letter "J".
5. Combine the meringue and batter. Add ⅓ of the meringue into the base batter and gently fold until evenly combined. Repeat two more times to incorporate all of the meringue. Be gentle when folding to prevent deflating the meringue!
6. Bake the cheesecake. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and tap firmly to release large bubbles. Bake the cheesecake in a water bath for about 80 to 90 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
🌟Pro tip: The water-bath is essentially a bain-marie, but the content sits in the water so that it can be gently cooked. You can make a water-bath by either pouring a fresh batch of hot water into the larger pan when the cake batter is ready or use the bain-marie water (from step 2 and 3) and have it preheating in the oven. This way you can just place the cake pan into the oven instead of having to carry a pan full of water.
7. Remove the cheesecake. Dry the outside of the cake pan and place the cake pan onto its side, rotating it every 20 to 30 seconds, until the cheesecake completely pulls away from the pan. Flip the cheesecake out onto a plate and peel away the parchment paper on the bottom. Flip it upright onto another plate.
8. Enjoy. Let the cheesecake cool on the plate. Enjoy the Japanese while it's warm, completely cooled, or after chilling in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Here is a compilation of some of the most common issues we can across after many trials and errors of making Japanese cheesecake and the most likely reasons for these issues:
Japanese cheesecakes have the tendency to shrink a bit after being removed from the oven and that's totally okay. It's because the cheesecake is a meringue based dessert, like our flourless chocolate soufflé and Taiwanese castella cake. However, the cheesecake should not deflate drastically.
- Under-whipped meringue - The softer the peak the meringue is, the jigglier the cheesecake will be, that is, if the meringue is at least whipped to soft peak. However, that also means that the cheesecake will deflate more. Besides appearance, the cheesecake will still taste good and have good texture.
- Over-whipped meringue - If your meringue is whipped past medium soft peaks, you'll likely see that the cheesecake will rise higher and that also means that it will deflate more.
- Undercooked cheesecake - If the cheesecake is undercooked, the interior structure will not be stable enough to hold the weight of the whole cheesecake. Make sure the oven temperature is at 300°F. Use an oven thermometer for best accuracy. To check if your cheesecake is cooked, insert a skewer into the center and it should come out clean or with only a couple of cake crumps.
- Parchment paper - If you lined the sides of the cheesecake with parchment paper, the sides of the cheesecake will likely be crinkled when the parchment paper is removed. This is due to the humidity and moisture. The imperfection on the sides of the cheesecake will not affect its tastes but will cause the cheesecake to deflate a bit more.
- Over-whipped meringue - If the meringue is whipped past medium soft peak, there's a higher tendency for the cheesecake to crack. This is especially common if the meringue is whipped to stiff peaks. Make sure to not whipped the meringue past medium soft peaks.
- Oven temperature is too high - If the oven temperature is too high, the exterior of the cake will set and brown before the interior has the chance to expand more. Use an oven thermometer to ensure that the oven's interior temperature is at 300°F.
- Oven rack is too close to heating element - We usually bake cakes in general on the middle rack in the oven. But when we moved, we noticed that that our Japanese cheesecake cracks no matter what we did and what temperature we baked it at. We experimented and found out that in some ovens, the top of the cheesecake cake is simply too close to the top heating element, which makes the cheesecake crack. If you have the same issue, move the baking rack from the middle to about 3 inches lower.
- Water bath not used - The purpose of the water bath is so that the cheesecake can bake gently and is an important factor in preventing cracks. Because water never heats above 212°F, that means the sides of the cheesecake will bake at a lower temperature. The moisture from the water bath also keeps the entire cheesecake from setting too early, which allows the cheesecake to rise to its highest potential. Make sure to have enough water in the water bath to reach at least ⅓ of the way up the side of the cake pan.
Cheesecake has dense layers
- Over-whipped meringue - Meringue whipped past medium soft peaks have the tendency cause separation in layers in the cheesecake. It's not because of the meringue itself, but because stiff peak meringue is harder to properly incorporate, leading to an over-mixed batter.
- Over mixed batter - With meringue based batter, it is crucial to not over-mix. Over-mixing the batter will deflate the meringue, creating a dense cake and separation in the Japanese cheesecake. That's when you see a super dense layer of rubbery cake, usually at the bottom.
- Oven temperature is too low - If the oven temperature is too low, the cheesecake will not bake properly. By the time the cheesecake is cooked, the air from the meringue will have escaped. This will make the cheesecake have separation in layers and dense layers.
Uneven crumbs (bubbles)
Having some larger bubbles in the Japanese cheesecake is totally fine. However, there should not be a lot of uneven size bubbles.
- Meringue has a lot of large bubbles - We recommend that the meringue be whipped on medium speed once the sugar has been all added. A lower speed helps to make finer meringue bubbles. It'll take a little longer, but the batter will look super glossy and smooth.
- Batter has a lot of large bubbles - Sometimes no matter how gently the meringue is folded into the batter, there will be large bubbles. To remove large bubbles, tap the cake pan on the table a couple of times or use a skewer to go in circles in the batter to pop some bubbles.
- Oven temperature is too low - If the oven temperature is too low, the air bubbles from the meringue will slowly escape and rise to the top of the cheesecake. If the temperature is significantly lower than 300°F, the cheesecake will have lots of huge air pockets at the top and denser layers on the bottom.
Cheesecake is undercooked or overcooked
This is essentially caused by not having the right oven temperature. We highly recommend getting an oven thermometer. Not all ovens are true to the temperature it's set to and usually preheating takes longer than when the oven says it's ready.
Top of cheesecake is not brown
If the top of your cheesecake is pale, it's most likely due to the oven temperature being too low or the oven rack is position too low from the heating element. But as long the Japanese cheesecake is cooked, you can simply turn on the oven broiling function to high to give the top of the cheesecake some color. You can do the same if the cheesecake is not as brown as you'd like. DO keep a careful eye on the cheesecake! The broiling function can turn the cheesecake from perfect to burnt in seconds!
Leftover Japanese cheesecake can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 to 4 days. Make sure to wrap it tightly or store it in an airtight container. Japanese cheesecakes also freeze really well. Store it in an airtight container and it will be good for up to 2 months. We recommend pre-cutting the cheesecake so that you can enjoy as many slices as you'd like.
Frozen Japanese cheesecake can be thawed in the fridge overnight or at room temperature. The cheesecakes are also pretty tasty frozen as well! They taste kind of like ice cream cheesecake.
Japanese cotton cheesecakes have a melt in your mouth texture that's mildly sweet, slightly tangy, rich and creamy, while also light and fluffy, similar to the texture of spongecakes and airy soufflé.
A good, classic NY cheesecake is rich, silky, and smooth. It's also heavily flavored by cream cheese and has a buttery crust of some sort. On the other hand, Japanese cheesecake is fluffy with a melt-in-your-mouth texture. Imagine a fusion between a super tender cake and a soufflé. Japanese cheesecake is also lighter in flavor. It's mildly sweet and slightly tangy. It's also crustless.
Japanese cheesecake can be enjoyed hot or cold! While it's hot or warm, the cheesecake's fluffiness will be at its prime. You'll be able to see its iconic jiggle. It tastes good, but it'll be more egg-forward. In our opinion, Japanese cheesecake tastes best after it's completely cooled, or even after at least an hour of chilling. The cheesecake will taste creamier and richer, and you'll be able to taste the overall flavors better.
Because Japanese cheesecakes are made with so many eggs, it naturally will taste a bit eggier than a classic cheesecake. However, if you let the cheesecake cool completely or even after a couple hours of chilling, you will barely taste any egginess.
Japanese cheesecake is essentially made of eggs, cream cheese, butter, cream or milk, sugar, and a little flour. Lemon zest and vanilla are usually added as a flavoring, which we highly recommend.
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For the cheesecake:
- 6 large eggs separated (each egg is about 50g, shell-on)
- 8 ounces cream cheese preferably softened
- ¼ cup heavy cream or full fat milk
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into smaller pieces
- ½ cup cake flour fluffed, spooned, and leveled
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest about 1 lemon (optional)
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract (optional)
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice about ⅓ of a lemon
- Powdered sugar (for dusting)
- Apricot jam for glazing (slightly warmed up)
- Sweetened whipped cream
- Preheat the oven to 300°F. Also, line the bottom of an 8 by 3 inch cake pan with a circle parchment paper and prepare a 9 by 9 baking pan.*The 9 by 9 inch pan is for the water bath. So, as long the 8 inch round cake pan can sit in it, any larger size pan works too.*
- Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a large saucepan or pot. Once the water is simmering, reduce the heat to low.
Make the base batter:
- Place the cream cheese, butter, and cream in a large heatproof bowl that can sit on the saucepan or pot and not touching the water. Slowly heat everything up and whisk until the mixture is well combined and smooth. Turn off the heat.
- Add the egg yolks and mix until well combined. Immediately, sift the cake flour into the mixture and whisk until no more dry flour or clumps remain. Take the bowl off the pot and add the lemon zest and vanilla. Whisk to combine. Set the mixture aside to cool until needed.*Make sure to work swiftly to prevent the egg yolks from getting scrambled!*
- Fill the 9 by 9 baking pan half way with the hot water and carefully place the baking pan into the oven to preheat. You can also use the hot water left from the ealier.
Prepare the meringue:
- In a clean mixing bowl, add the egg whites and the lemon juice. Using a hand mixer, whip the egg whites on medium high speed until completely frothy.
- While whipping, add the granulated sugar to the frothy egg white, a third at a time, before the egg whites reache soft-peak stage. Once all the sugar has been added, whip the egg whites for another 10 to 20 seconds. Then, reduce the speed to medium. Continue whipping the egg whites until medium-soft peak.*Please refer to the post above for photo references.*
- Add ⅓ of the meringue to the cream cheese mixture and gently fold the meringue until the mixture is well combined and no more streaks are visible. Incorporate the remaining meringue in two more sessions.
- Pour the cheesecake batter into the prepared 8 inch cake pan and firmly tap the cake pan on the table a couple of times to remove large air bubbles. You can also use a skewer if you prefer.
Bake the cheesecake:
- Carefully place the cake pan into the oven, in the pan of water, and bake for about 80 to 90 minutes, or until the Japanese cheesecake is golden brown on top and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Carefully remove the cheesecake from the oven and dry the bottom of the cake pan. Let the cheesecake cool for a few minutes on its side, rotating the cake pan every 20 to 30 seconds, until the cheesecake releases itself from the cake pan.
- Remove the cheesecake from the cake pan by carefully flipping it out onto a plate. Pull away the parchment paper on the bottom and flip the cake upright onto another plate. Let cool.
- You can enjoy the Japanese cheesecake while it's warm, after it's completely cooled, or after chilling in the fridge for at least an hour.
- Either keep the cheesecake plain, dust the top of the cheesecake with powdered sugar, or brush the top of the cheesecake with some apricot jam to glaze it. Enjoy by itself or with fruits, berries, and/whipped cream.
- Springform pans and cake pans with removable bottoms - If using either of these pans, make sure to securely wrap the outside of the cake pan with foil. This will prevent water from leaking into the cheesecake, making it soggy.
- Smaller cheesecake - This recipe can be divided in half to make a 6 inch Japanese cheesecake. Use a 6 by 3 inch cake pan and decrease the baking time to 60 to 70 minutes.
- Troubleshoot - We've included an extensive list of troubleshooting tips in the post above from our years of making Japanese cheesecake. Please refer to it first if you have questions!