Thursday, May 7, 2015

Having problems baking a Japanese Cheesecake?

Am I (Zoe) baking another Japanese cheesecake?
Yes, I am.

Why?
... because Joyce from Kitchen Flavours, Lena from Frozen wings and I are baking cheesecakes for our 4th Bake-Along anniversary and I crave to bake the soft and cottony kind.

Am I having problems baking another Japanese cheesecake?
Yes, I am... (sad with sobbing)

Since the day that I have baked my u-never-fail Japanese cheesecake at June 2013, I have not bake another Japanese cheesecake again. I wanted to bake another recipe and was Googling to find the top hits of "Japanese cheesecake". You know what? I was excited at first but disappointed later because...

The first Google hit goes to Rasa Malaysia and it is SAME cheesecake that I baked before.

The second Google hit goes to almost-everything-you-need-to-know Japanese cheesecake post by ieatishootipost. Seeing this title, Almost everything I need to know, I was fully charged when I clicked into the website but fully disappointed again to see that it is the SAME cheesecake that I have baked before.

The third Google hit goes to Christine's Fluffy and Creamy Cheesecake and you know what??? It is again the SAME cheesecake that I have baked before!!!

Unbelievable!!!

Then, I remember that I have seen something different elsewhere and managed to recall three interesting recipes.

First is this recipe from Cookpad which includes a long list of complicated steps to prevent the cake from over-rising and cracking. I was feeling skeptical that this recipe will work as it contains lesser flour than the Japanese cheesecake that I have baked before... True enough that it didn't work! Told my epic fail to my colleagues and they laughed hysterically and said that I was baking "Mount Fuji" in the oven. Ha ha and sob sob...

Second is this recipe from Victoria Bakes. It is an interesting recipe containing no flour at all and uses cream and less egg white. You know what??? It failed again. It didn't turn out to be Mount Fuji but the bottom is dense like custard!

Third is this recipe from Happy Home Baking. I have seen a few of my blogging friends baking this fantastic recipe and can't stop admiring those that are baked by Jessie (Jessie-Cooking Moment's) at here and here.

Am I baking this Japanese cheesecake recipe from Happy Home Baking?
Yes, I am but before proceeding, I like investigate the real problems of my cheesecake baking.

Am I just unlucky??? I can help to think so as I'm getting tired and traumatised over this series of epic fails.

I can't give up and so I wear a Japanese "sure-win" bandanna and tell myself that I have to conquer this problem!!! LOL!

Looking at my failures closely and reading almost-everything-you-need-to-know Japanese cheesecake post by ieatishootipost, I kinda know that my oven is my major problem!!!

According to Jessie and ieatishootipost, Japanese cheesecake should not be baked using fan forced function. According to ieatishootipost, you can even baked your Japanese cheesecake in a preheated 200ºC oven with top and bottom heat for 18 minutes, lower the temperature to 160ºC for 12 minutes and turn off the oven and leave cake in the closed oven for 30 minutes. Open the door of the oven slightly at the end of the baking for 10 minutes for cake to cool. Sounds really easy but I can't use this baking method!!!

You see... my oven is the fan forced kind with only the top heating element. No bottom heating element at all! To end my never-ending saga of disastrous cheesecake baking, I have decided to use the SAME cheesecake recipe that I have baked before to explore a different baking method and this is what I'm going to do... 

1) Do not use fan forced baking. Although my previous bake was a success using the 125ºC fan forced setting. I'm trying to bake the cake today with just 140ºC top heating setting.

2) To avoid the top part of the cake to be over-heated, I have placed the baking rack in its lowest position and placed an empty tray on the highest position as a heat shield for the cake.

3) Since there is no bottom heat from the oven, I can forget about using the steam baking method. Yeah... No ramekins or bottom tray of boiling water. By the way, do you know that the steam baking can reduce the overall temperature of the oven setting? Plus, different amount of water that you used for your steam baking can reduce the overall temperature of the oven setting very differently. Obviously, the more water you put in the oven, the cooler your oven will be. Then, what is the best amount of water to use for steam baking? According to ieatishootipost, it should be 1/3 the height of your cake pan. However, every oven can be different with their temperature control and having an oven thermometer might help. As for me... No fuss at all because I'm NOT using steam baking to bake this cheesecake.

4) To minimize any shrinkage or any collapsing effect of the cheesecake, I like to try to drop the cake from 20-30cm height immediately when it was baked and removed from the oven. I wonder if this is a better method than leaving the cake to cool in oven with door ajar. Well, let's see.

This is the SAME cheesecake recipe that I have baked before.
... but I'm using a different baking method to bake this cake.
Bad cheesecake one: This "Mount Fuji" one is baked with the recipe from Cookpad.
Despite its undesirable look, it is still edible :p
Bad cheesecake two: This custard sort of cheesecake originates from Victoria Bakes but mine is a far cry from Victoria's. It is so bad that it went straight into the bin!

Room for improvements? Heaps! These are what I have done to fix my problem...

I did these before I pre-heated the oven.
No fan forced, please. This 140ºC top heat setting is just good!
No steam baking, please! I don't have to do this if I'm baking my cake without the bottom heat.
Instead of lining the sides of the pan with baking paper, I have lined the bottom of the pan only.    
Geez! I feel that I have been really brutal to this cake by dropping it from a 30cm height.
In regardless, I had to do it to test if this cake-dropping method can minimise this cake from shrinking.
Despite some cracks, crinkles and a little bubbling top, the cake looks ok being decent enough to serve and eat.
Once again, I have baked another decent Japanese cheesecake!
Happy Birthday, Bake-along!
Glad that this baking method works!

Have I solve my cheesecake baking problems?

I would say sort of... After series of cheesecake baking, I have learned that 1) fan forced oven is too strong and not suitable for Japanese cheesecake baking. 2) If my oven don't have bottom heating, I can omit steam baking. 3) dropping the cake from a 20-30 cm height immediately after baking can be traumatising to some cakes resulting cracks and wrinkly cake tops but I do agree that this step does help a little to minimize any shrinkage. Alternatively, leaving this cake to cool in oven with door ajar seems to me to be a better option especially for this recipe.

Why am I not using this method to bake the two failing cheesecake recipes?

Nay... Sorry to say that I have been pretty traumatised over this series of epic fails. I can't convince myself to eat another slice of these yucky cheesecake again!!!

Once again this is my u-never-fail Japanese cheesecake that I have mostly adapted from The Little Teochew with a few baking options.

Makes one 16 cm round cake
165g cream cheese
30g butter
65ml milk
40g cake flour (with 8% protein content)
15g corn flour
1/8 tsp salt
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
1/2 tsp lemon juice
90g caster sugar

Using an oil spray, lightly grease the sides and the bottom of a 16 cm round removable-bottom cake pan and line its bottom only with baking paper. Wrap the outside bottom of the pan with a piece of foil.

Place a rack at the lowest position in the oven. Preheat the oven according the baking option that you are using (see below).

Melt cream cheese, butter and milk over a double boiler. Set aside to allow the mixture to cool slightly. Fold in flour, cornflour, salt, egg yolks and mix well. Pour mixture through a sieve to avoid having lumpy batter.

Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk egg whites and lemon juice with a low medium speed until foamy. Increase the whisking speed to medium. While whisking, add sugar in 3-4 batches and gradually and continue to whisk at medium speed until soft peaks form.

Add the egg whites to the cheese mixture and fold well. Pour into the prepared cake pan and tap the cake pan gently a few times on your table top to remove excessive bubbles - Seeing the bubbles on my cake, I reckon that I probably have to tap my cake a lot more.

Baking Option 1:
If you have an oven that has top and bottom heating, you can preheat the oven at 160°C. Place the cake on a tray of boiling water and bake the cake with steam baking for 1 hr 10 mins.

Baking Option 2:
If you have an oven that has top and bottom heating, you can also opt to try this method from ieatishootipost. Preheat oven at 200ºC with top and bottom heat. Place the cake on a tray of boiling water and bake the cake with steam bake for 18 mins, lower the temperature to 160ºC and bake for another 12 mins. The, turn off the oven and leave cake in the closed oven for 30 mins. Open the door of the oven slightly at the end of the baking for 10 mins for cake to cool. To optimise the baking time and temperature of this method, I see that ieatishootipost had used a cake thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the cake when baking it.

Baking Option 3:
If you have an oven like mine that has fan forced or top heating options (sob!), please do not use the fan forced option! Besides placing a rack at the lowest position of the oven, place another rack with a baking tray at the highest position of the oven. Preheat oven at 140ºC with top heat and bake the cake for 60 mins with NO steam bake. Remove the baking rack and the baking tray at the highest position of the oven and continue to bake for 25 mins or until the top of the cheesecake turn golden brown in colour.

To minimize shrinkage of the cake, you can either 1) drop the cake from a height of 20-30 cm immediately after removing the cake from the oven. 2) leave to cool in oven with door ajar, about 30 mins to 1 hour.

Unmould the cake immediately after removing it from the oven. Place the cake on a wire rack to allow it to cool completely. Please be careful that the cake can be very hot when you do this. 

Happy Baking
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Please note that the linky tool for bake-along is no longer available.

13 comments:

  1. Hi Zoe,
    Happy Bake-Along 4th Anniversary! It has been wonderful baking together with you and Lena.
    You never fail to amaze me with your in-depth research before embarking on a bake! Thumbs up to you! And I am surprised to find that your oven only has top heating element, and you have made so many fantastic bakes from it. Glad to know that you have found out which method works best for you, you definitely know your oven!
    Your cheesecake looks soft and fluffy! If you are tired with it, then you can always pass them over! haha! I have not eaten soft cheesecakes in ages!
    Here's to another year of wonderful baking with you and Lena! Cheers!

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  2. fool proof? bet his will give us no more reasons not to make this! happy days... woot ~~

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  3. i'm also quite eager to bake another japanese cheesecake, shall see your next post..

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  4. Thanks for the Fail Proof Cotton Soft Japanese Soufflé Cheese Cake. Make my life easier to chose which is the best recipe.

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  5. Zoe, I enjoyed reading this post! I remember my struggles with this cake and have not baked one in a long, long time. Hmm...it's time to re-visit this torturing cake hee..hee...

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  6. Hi Zoe,
    Nice cheesecake you have here! :) Thanks alot for your interest in BREE, don't feel too bad about not joining yet. Cheesecakes are allowed on BREE, though, so why not submit this Japanese Cheesecake to the event, if you don't mind? Once again, thanks for your interest! X)

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  7. Hi, Ive recently baked two of the Japanese Cheesecake and they failed! They cuddled at the bottom of the cake. Can someone explain why this happened? thanks.

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    1. Hi Genevie,

      Am I the "someone" who is suppose to explain your situation? I have been baking unsuccessful Jap cheesecakes before and know your frustration but I can't tell you anything because I don't know what you have been doing to bake your failed cheesecakes! Cheers!

      Zoe

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  8. Hi Zoe, I enjoyed reading your blog. :D as I have the same problem..while reading it feels like I am hearing myself over and over again with all the dilemmas and frustrations I have while baking this so challenging cake. But just like you I won't stop till I make it to perfection or just close to it. :D my latest cheesecake is okay, we were able to eat it :D I have to thank you, because my next cheesecake baking I will omit the paper on the side on the pan, I will not use the fan and most of all I will not forget to put an empty tray on top of the oven to lessen the heat. I will send you a pic once I'm done baking. :D Wish me luck!

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    1. Good Luck! Yes... Let me know that you have good result :)

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  9. May I know how the recipe for 8 inch cake? Tried a few times but still fail

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    1. Hi Jacinthia,

      I'm sorry to hear about your failure. I don't think it will change much if you bake the cake in different sizes. The problems are always the egg white mixture, weight of your ingredients and oven setting. Cheers!

      Zoe

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