Who’s Uncle Tetsu? Part of an incredible Japanese cheesecake phenomenon that has customers waiting up to an hour or more for one of his delicious treats! We’ll look at an article and some videos about this later. But no need to join the line dear reader … you can make one at home! They’re easier than they look and taste so incredible it was a delight testing them. The cloud-like texture is somewhere between a standard baked cheesecake and light fluffy sponge. The flavour’s usually subtle, not very sweet but slightly salty with scarcely discernible Philadelphia cream cheese. My citrus cotton soft Japanese cheesecake is lightly flavoured with yuzu or lemon juice, then orange and lemon zest. Serve unadorned. Alternatively with cream, maple syrup or fruit en papillotes!
The rise of the Japanese cheesecake
In the article Making Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese Soufflé Cheesecakes blogger Miso Hungry writes of her love for Japanese cheesecakes and how she could eat an entire cake in one sitting! She also gives good baking tips, recipe links and some savoury options. Don’t be put off by her use of the word soufflé as this cheesecake’s not that delicate!
There’s also an American youtube contributor who goes to an Uncle Tetsu take-away in China and tries a cheesecake, in Uncle Tetsu’s cheesecake phenomenon. He reports they’re ‘selling like hot cakes in China’ where people queue night and day, with an average wait of one hour after which you can only buy ONE cheesecake! The video looks at the company’s success from a rather ‘Western’ and not very positive viewpoint. The taster isn’t really impressed, finally preferring his New York cheesecakes. In contrast, here are a couple of youtube videos by extremely cheerful taste testers: Uncle Tetsu Japanese Cheesecake Compare and Review! and Uncle Tetsu cheesecake review.
So what kind of cheesecake would you prefer? Japanese or New York? Both perhaps? It’s all down to personal taste but if you haven’t tried Japanese cotton soft cheesecake here’s your chance to make one! The proof is in the pudding – or the cheesecake. 🙂
Timings: 30-40 mins to prepare and around 1 hour and 10 or 20 minutes baking. Then an extra hour resting in the switched off oven. Cool completely at room temperature and finally refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight before eating. So plan in advance and start making the cake around 7 hours before serving or the previous day.
Inspiration and sources
This version’s adapted from various recipes, many of which refer to Diana’s desserts and use her quantities. Rasa Malaysia provides more detail and tips for different tin sizes and there’s a useful youtube video from Baking with mi which demonstrates wrapping your tin with foil and hand-whisking the egg whites for better control over the stages.
All six of my prototypes were delicious even when flawed, so take heart. If you read comments on other blogs from people who made them you’ll notice even imperfect cracked Japanese cheesecakes are yummy and there’s a very good success rate! Yay!
- Make sure the bowl for your egg whites is very clean as any grease or trace of egg yolks will prevent whites rising.
- Don’t mix the egg whites into the batter too thoroughly. Fold in well enough so the ingredients are incorporated and there are no lumps, but gently. It’s okay if it loses a little volume but it mustn’t flatten out so don’t overwork it.
- Know your oven. If you have a ‘violent’ oven put it 10 degrees lower than stated because a very hot oven encourages cracks. Placing the cake lower in the oven helps. If you get enormous cracks don’t worry, they eventually settle back down while cooling in the oven and the cheesecake still has lovely flavour and texture!
- Be flexible about baking times, which depend on your oven, tin and batter. Keep an eye on your cake and test it with a skewer towards the end.
- The quantities given work best with a 9-inch springform tin. You get a taller cake using an 8-inch one.
- For the water bath your cake tin should sit comfortably in a baking tray high enough to hold 1 inch/2.5 cm of water. The water should reach half-way up your cake tin. This system works better using a springform tin with layers of foil wrapped around it. My standard ‘sealed’ non-springform tin floated in the water bath so cake no. 6 didn’t rise or bake very well (wrapping in foil weighs it down and reduces floating but it’s not ideal).
- Don’t forget the water bath. I did once and got disastrous cake no. 3.
- Read the whole recipe through carefully before starting, as Mary Berry of the Great British Bake Off always suggests.
Now let’s roll up our sleeves and make this lovely cloud of a cake! 🙂
Preheat your oven to 170°C/340°F (static oven) or 150°C/300°F (fan-assisted oven)
1. Heat the butter, cheese and milk over a bain marie/double boiler (in a large heatproof bowl)
- 50g/3 and a half tablespoons unsalted butter
- 250g/9 ounces Philadelphia full-fat cream cheese
- 100g/half a cup minus 1 tablespoon fresh full-fat milk
Stir with a whisk till the mixture is smooth, not lumpy but not too hot. Take off heat and allow to cool.2. Meanwhile, weigh the ingredients and lightly butter the inside of the tin. Line the bottom with baking paper then the sides, 1 or 2 inches higher than the tin. The cake bakes in a water bath, so wrap 3-4 layers of aluminium foil around the bottom and sides of your tin to stop liquid seeping in. Boil water so you can pour it medium-hot into the tray later.
3. Use a whisk to slowly stir the ingredients below into the cooled cheese/butter/milk mixture
- 5 and 3/4 beaten egg yolks from medium-sized/large free-range eggs (about 105-110g)
- 1 tablespoon yuzu or lemon juice
- freshly grated zest from 1 lemon and 1 orange
4. Whisk the dry ingredients together
- 60g/half a cup cake flour /superfine flour or plain flour (Option: you can substitute 30g of green tea powder for 30g of the flour, though I haven’t tried this yet)
- 20g/2 tablespoons cornflour/cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon/1g fine sea salt
Then sieve into the yolks/milk/cheese batter, stirring slowly with a whisk to incorporate till smooth. The whisk helps avoid lumps but if there are some you can pass the mixture through a sieve.
5. Make the meringue
- 6 egg whites from medium-sized/large free-range eggs (around 240g)
- a quarter teaspoon cream of tartar (optional, but I use it)
- 140g/half a cup plus 2 tablespoons golden or white caster/superfine sugar
Whisk the egg whites in a very clean bowl with the cream of tartar until foamy, white and starting to thicken (if there’s any yolk or grease in your egg whites they won’t rise). Then gradually whisk in the sugar little by little until soft peak stage. This all takes a total of around 10 minutes with a hand whisk, which I used. With a standmixer or electric whisk it only takes a few minutes so be very careful not to overwhisk the whites. If you hold the whisk up your peak will droop (not stand up straight, which would be stiff peak) but the whites won’t slide down your whisk and won’t fall out of your bowl if turned upside-down.6. Incorporate the whites into the batter. With a medium-sized rubber spatula gently fold half the egg whites into the cake batter. Use slow figure of eight motions to go around the sides and through the middle of the bowl, making sure you scrape the sides and bottom so your mixture is homogenous. When almost incorporated fold in the remaining half. Mix well but be gentle and don’t overwork. It should stay light and fluffy.7. Pour into your prepared cake tin. Then tap the tin a few times on a hard surface to eliminate big air bubbles. Now place in your WATER BATH.
8. Bake 1 hour until golden brown (don’t open the oven door during the first 50 minutes or hour). After 1 hour, reduce the temperature to 160°C/320°F (static oven) or 140°C/285°F (fan-assisted oven) and bake another 10 to 20 minutes. It’s ready when a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
9. When baked remove from the oven. Take it out of the water bath then return to the switched off oven (stick a wooden spoon in the door to keep it open). Leave 45 mins to 1 hour so the cheesecake cools gradually and doesn’t shrink because of a sudden change in temperature.
10. Take the cheesecake out to cool at room temperature.
11. Once cool place in the fridge on a plate or baking paper in an airtight container. Leave in the fridge at least 4 hours or overnight before eating!!! I know… Oh, and take out of the fridge at least 20 minutes before serving.
A cake for your diet?
Can you make it part of your diet plan? Tee hee. Well it keeps at least 4 or 5 days in the fridge. And I’ve been eating this daily (yeah, 6 prototypes) without noticing sugar spikes, gluten-induced drowsiness or any weight increase. This cheesecake’s relatively low-sugar and low-gluten, with less than half the sugar or flour that an average 6-egg sponge cake contains. So Japanese cheesecakes don’t taste too sweet or heavy. Yay! Of course it’s really easy to have more than one slice.
It travels really well and is also so light that this weekend at the rock my friends ate 2 slices or more between climbs! And a few more later… They’d never had Japanese cheesecake before and loved it! Hurray! I also appreciated their assistance in reducing my mountain of cheesecake prototypes. 🙂
I’m also sharing this cake with Recipe of the Week@aMummyToo, Tasty Tuesdays@HonestMum and Simply Eggcellent@BelleauKitchen. And as it’s Japanese pâtisserie, Perfecting Patisserie@bakingqueen74.Do have a slice of yuzu, lemon and orange cotton soft Japanese cheesecake with some fruit en papillote.
Or on its own. Yum.
Why not have three or four slices of this deliciously fluffy new discovery? Hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading about it and feel inspired to try one, and I hope you’re having a lovely weekend on your own cloud of happiness! Happy baking and eating! 🙂 x