So here’s a dirty little secret. I’m not a cake person.
I know, it’s like saying I enjoy drop-kicking puppies in my spare time. But I’ve never bought into this knee-wobbly nostalgia for a really good Victoria sandwich, or licking cake mix out of the bowl with your fingers. Give me a leg of pata negra with candles stuck in it, any time.
It took until my mid-twenties to find a cake that I was actually willing to make. So naturally, this wasn’t just any cake. It was, simply, the lightest, airiest, most delicious cake that I’d ever taste. The fact I’d never seen such a confection in the shops clinched the deal – if I wanted more, I’d have to bake it myself.
My flatmate took one glance at the recipe, and gave me a look that indicated I was attempting the culinary equivalent of buying a swimsuit, waving at France and jumping head first into the Channel. But I was adamant: this cake was the one.
So, to the amusement of visiting friends, we formed a little baking double act: her, rolling her eyes every time I covered the kitchen counter in more flour and cake mix; me, asking highly complicated technical questions such as ‘How do you actually separate eggs?’ and ‘Fold? How the hell do you fold a bowl of gloop?’
The result was, well, a little bit eggy when warm, but almost as good as the original version when served fridge-cold the next day.
Many many cakes on, this one’s still my favourite. Happy baking.
Recipe: Japanese Cheesecake
Based on recipe from Dianna’s Desserts
- 250g cream cheese
- 50g butter, unsalted
- 100ml milk
- 6 large eggs, separated
- 60g plain flour
- 20g cornflour(cornstarch)
- 140g white sugar (caster or granulated, both work fine)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/4 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 160°C fan-assisted (170°C gas).
Line the base and sides of an 8” high-sided round sealed-base baking tin with baking paper. (If your baking tin has a removable base, wrap the outside with tin foil to stop water getting in later.)
Melt the cream cheese, butter and milk in a metal or Pyrex bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Don’t let the bowl touch the water. Stir until there are no lumps. Leave to cool.
When cool, mix in egg yolks and salt, then the lemon juice. Sift the flour and cornflour into the cream cheese mixture, and fold in gently.
In another bowl, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar until foamy. Add the sugar and whisk until soft peaks.
Gradually add the cream-flour mixture to the egg whites, mixing very gently with a spatula. Try to maintain as much of the “airiness” as possible, but ensure the final mixture does not have streaks in it.
Pour the cake mixture into the lined baking tin, and place the tin in a high-sided roasting tray. Pour hot water (boiling is best) into the tray until it comes two-thirds up the baking tin (or until the tin starts to float, and then add a bit more water as it will evaporate off).
Place the roasting tray into the preheated oven, and bake for at least 1 hour 30 mins. (If you find your cake deflates and wrinkles a lot on top after it comes out of the oven, try baking for longer. Keep an eye so the top doesn’t burn.) Don’t open the oven at all until you think the cake is ready.
Cool in tin on a wire rack. When cooled to room temperature, remove from tin and remove the baking paper.
Serve cold / at room temperature. Store in the fridge in a closed container.