31 May 2010

Japanese Souffle Cheesecake

Of all the cakes I have ever baked, this is the one most often requested by my daughters, aged 3 and 5. They call it the 'Marshmallow Cheesecake', because of its pillowy soft look and texture. Although I must hasten to add that it tastes nothing like a marshmallow. A cheesecake marshmallow would be awesome but also beyond my skills to conjure up at the moment.

I followed a recipe from one of my favourite bloggers, Auntie Lily of the "Lily's 'Wai Sek Hong'", blog, who always makes me feel like I am receiving secret cooking tips and instructions from my late grandmother, who was also a great cook.

But anyway I digress. I've made this cake many many times, and have learnt that the key to achieving a light texture lies in beating the egg whites correctly. The water bath is also essential, so that the cake will have a beautiful, crack-free surface.

One of the important adjustments that I made to the basic recipe, was to add cream of tartar to the egg whites while they are being beaten. This is to ensure that you do not overbeat the egg whites, as once you do, your cheesecake will rise phenomenally in the oven only to suddenly shrink and contract at the last stage of baking to become a sunken and dense little cake.

Although this cheesecake looks similar, it is different in texture from the Japanese cheesecakes sold at the malls and supermarkets (like Miki Ojisan) which are drier and more like very soft chiffons. This souffle Japanese cheesecake (which is essentially a type of foam cake) is much more moist and tender. Properly baked, it should have a cottony soft and melt-in-your-mouth texture.

My 3 year old Sugababe loves to eat these plain, cramming it into her mouth in quick succession (they are so light!). I, on the other hand, like to have these with Fragola Frabbri strawberries (Italian, and the best!) and a generous spoonful of its shiny syrup drizzled on top.

Recipe for Japanese Souffle Cheesecake

(slightly adapted from Lily's
Wai Sek Hong)


8" round cake tin

Plain cream cheese 225g,
fresh cream 50ml,
milk 100ml,
butter 80g,

Cornflour 25g,

milk 30ml
lemon juice 1 tbsp

Egg white 150g (about 6 egg whites)
cornflour 10g,

sugar 100g
Egg yolks 138g, (about 8 egg yolks)

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

butter and plain flour (for buttering the mould, if not non-stick).


1. Melt A. over a pan of simmering water until the mixture liquefies (stir every 3 minutes), use spatula to stir the mixture well. Let cool to room temperature.

2. Mix B. until cornflour dissolves and pours into A, stir until well-combined. Add in beaten yolks and strain the mixture.

3. Preheat oven to 150°C/300°F. Line bottom of mould with baking parchment paper. Butter the sides of the mould and coat it with plain flour, remove excess flour. If using non-stick mould, you can skip this buttering and flouring step. If using loose bottomed cake tin, cover the outside of the tin with 2 layers of aluminium foil to ensure that water from the water bath does not seep in.

4. In a clean bowl (make sure it is completely free of oil and water), beat the egg whites till foamy and in 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar. When soft peaks form, add in sugar and cornflour mixture slowly, one tablesppon at a time, and beat until stiff glossy peaks form.

5. Take 1/3 of the egg white and stir into the cream cheese mixture to loosen the batter. Pour the remaining egg whites into the batter and quickly but gently fold in the egg whites. Ensure that the egg whites are folded in completely and that the batter is uniform in colour. However, do not over fold or the air in the egg whites will escape.

6. Pour batter into cake tin. Sit the tin in a bigger mould or baking tray. Bake in a bain-marie (water-bath). Water must be boiling hot when poured into the baking tray or bigger mould. Water level should come up to ¾ of the height of the cake tin, at least half if you cannot manage ¾.

7. Put in oven and bake for about 25 minutes or when top is brown, reduce the heat to 125°C/260°F, continue to bake for another 1 hour or until a cake skewer comes out clean. (Mine took 1 hour 15 minutes). This cake doesn't dry easily, I would err on the side of a slightly longer rather than a shorter baking time. Let the cake cool in the cake tin and remove from tin when cooled and refrigerate (it’s ok to leave the cake in the tin and refrigerate)

27 May 2010

No-Bake Oreo Cheesecake with Boysenberry Jam

I had half a carton of whipping cream left in the fridge and a ton of cream cheese, and I didn't want too much trouble (I already spend waaaaay too much of my time baking, and besides, Michael Weston on Burn Notice was calling ...). So I decided to make a no-bake cheesecake. This has become my go-to lazy-ass dessert. In my world, cheesecakes fall into 3 broad categories - the fluffy Japanese-type cheesecake, the denser, baked (e.g. New York) cheesecake, and the no-bake, chilled cheesecake. My favourite is the New York cheesecake, but I have to admit that the sheer ease of making the no-bake variety is winning me over.

The cheesecake shown in the picture was a very soft and creamy cheesecake that needed to be kept in the freezer (the reason for this being that I varied the usual proportions by adding more whipped cream - I wanted to finish it remember?), but I include below my usual recipe, one that does not require freezing, but only to be chilled in the fridge. I am a fan of tall cakes, so the recipe uses quite a lot of cream cheese. If you are not inclined to buy so much cream cheese, you can half the recipe (of course your cake will look flatter) and perhaps use a smaller springform tin.

The wonders of a no-bake cheesecake is that you can easily vary the proportions of cream cheese to whipped cream depending on whether you prefer it firmer (more cream cheese) or softer (more whipped cream). Some recipes also call for gelatin to be added to produce a creamy and yet firm texture, but for the sake of simplicity I have kept the ingredient list below simple to make this a truly lazy-asssed recipe that will not require more than half an hour of your time (omitting chilling time).


Oreo Cheesecake with Boysenberry Jam
(for a 24cm springform tin)


For biscuit base-
250g crushed Oreo biscuits (for base)
150g melted unsalted butter

For cake-
some Oreo biscuits for decoration
80g crushed Oreo biscuits
750g room temperature, good quality cream cheese (I use Elle Et Vire)
410 ml heavy whipping cream (whipped to stiff peaks)
1.5 tablespoon lemon juice
150g icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Thick (not runny) boysenberry jam (or other berry jam)

1. Pound Oreo biscuits until finely crushed (to crumbs). Mix 250g of the crushed Oreo biscuits with 150g of melted butter and spread evenly over the base of the springform pan. Chill in fridge until the base sets hard.

2. In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese and icing sugar and beat on medium speed until well blended. Add lemon juice and icing sugar and beat on medium high speed until soft and fluffy. Mix in 80g of crushed Oreo biscuits on low speed until evenly distributed.

3. Fold whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until evenly mixed. Pour half of the cream cheese mixture on the chilled Oreo biscuit base.

4. Spoon boysenberry jam evenly over the first layer of cream cheese, then pour the second layer of cream cheese on top.

5. Decorate the top of the cake with Oreo biscuits, then chill in the fridge for several hours (preferably overnight) until the cake sets.

25 May 2010

Banana Rose Cakes with Salted Caramel

When silicone novelty baking pans became available here, I went crazy and bought 3 - a rose muffin pan, a traincar muffin pan, and a silicon castle bundt pan. They looked so promising when I saw them in the shop, but somehow, everytime I baked with them, the results were disappointing. The relief details were not always clear, and save for the one time where I baked a super-dense (and honestly not very good) pound cake in the castle bundt, all the cakes baked in these trays never seemed to unmold properly without some petals, turrets or chimneys disintegrating, resulting in trampled roses, broken down traincars and sad little castle ruins. Of course, there is also the problem that silicone pans are laborious to grease with butter, and if you use a baking spray like Pam, they tend to stay sticky even after a couple of rounds in the dishwasher.

When my friend C bought a heavy cast aluminium Nordic Ware muffin pan after attending a cooking class (plugging the same pan I might add), I laughed. Firstly, because I thought that at more than US$60 it was ridiculously over-priced, and secondly, it was so heavy and bulky I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to buy and store this over the roll-away silicone version (even though we know it's not that good). And lastly, because we both knew that she was always a little susceptible to clever marketing spiel and it seemed (to me) that she had totally been conned.

In a sign of true friendship, not only did C not take offence at my laughter, she even insisted that I borrow the muffin pan and bake away with it so as to make her investment worthwhile. I suspect also that she needed a place to store it ... haha, well, in any case, after my first experience with a Nordic Ware pan, it seems that I will have to eat my words (and silicone pans) after all. Each mini-cake came out tall and evenly baked, with beautifully and precisely detailed petals. I had no problems unmolding them at all as they literally slid out smoothly from the pans. I could never go back to my silicone rose muffin pan again. Colour me converted!

If you're searching for a good recipe to use with your Nordic Ware pan (or even if you're just in the mood for bananas), I highly recommend Dorie Greenspan's recipe for banana cakes (reproduced below). The cakes were soft, moist and deliciously fragrant with banana.

The only variation I made to the recipe was to insert a feve of Valrhona chocolate in the middle of each mini-cake, instead of mixing chopped chocolate throughout the batter. It was wonderful to bite into one of these and find these melty chocolate surprises in the middle. So good, in fact, that I rather regret not stacking 2 feves in the middle instead of 1.

To take these seemingly homely cakes to another level, try serving them warm like I did, on a pool of hot and creamy burnt caramel salted with fleur de sel, and a scoop of deliciously cold vanilla bean ice cream on the side. Banana cakes were never quite so chic.

Classic Banana Cake, The Small Version (taken from Baking with Dorie, Serious Eats)

Adapted from a recipe by Ellen Einstein in Baking From My Home to Yours


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
3 ounces chopped chocolate, optional


Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter 12 regular-size muffin cups.

Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then the egg, beating for about 1 minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the bananas. Finally, mix in half the dry ingredients (don't be disturbed if the batter curdles), all the sour cream and then the rest of the flour mixture. Stir in the chopped chocolate by hand. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake the little cakes for about 28 to 32 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. (The cakes will rise above the muffin cups, dome and then spread out and flatten beyond the cups—that's fine.) Transfer the muffin tin to a rack, cool for 3 minutes, then gently turn the little cakes out of the tin. Cool to room temperature on a rack.

Storing: Wrapped airtight, the little cakes will keep at room temperature for 2 or 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

23 May 2010

Salted Caramel Valrhona Chocolate Bar

I just bought a 2kg bag of paillette feuilletine - those beautifully crisp vanilla wafer flakes that add a delightful crunch to all sorts of chocolate desserts. Yes if you were wondering what those tasty crunchy bits at the bottom of your dark chocolate tart dessert were, they are not cornflakes. And although some recipes suggest cornflakes as an acceptable substitute for paillette feuilletine, to me the taste and texture are quite different.

My first dessert with paillette feuilletine is a salted caramel Valrhona chocolate bar, inspired from a blog post I saw on sweet pleasure. My version featured a chocolate-nutella-paillette feuilletine base, topped with a layer of rum-flavoured dark chocolate ganache, a sprinkling of toasted almond flakes, then a layer of creamy white chocolate, drenched with - the best part - runny burnt caramel lightly salted with fleur de sel. This chocolate bar is both luxurious and incredibly addictive. My husband is already demanding that I make a second tray of chocolate bars (having demolished the last remaining pieces).

11 May 2010

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea .. is an animated film by Hayao Miyazaki, the same genius who did Spirited Away, for those of you who are familiar with Japanese anime. Anyway, it is also one of Sugarbabe 2's favourite movies, she'd been asking for this cake since last August, so I had no choice but to deliver.

My talented husband put his Warhammer miniature painting and figure sculpting skills to good use and helped me do the house and road. I am so married to the right guy, haha. The rocks are chocolate candy rocks which I literally had to beg a cake shop to sell to me. The car and ponyo figurine are actually bath toys from Japan, and the rest are sculpted from sugar gum paste. The base cake is a very rich Valrhona dark chocolate and coffee buttermilk cake (my 'go to'recipe for chocolate cakes!), with chocolate fudge icing. And oh, the green flock is dessicated coconut!


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