Why Does Japanese Cheesecake Shrink? Exploring the Science Behind the Phenomenon

Disclosure: As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.

If you’ve ever tried baking a Japanese cheesecake, you may have noticed that it tends to shrink after being taken out of the oven. This can be frustrating, especially if you’ve put a lot of time and effort into creating the perfect cake. But why does Japanese cheesecake shrink, and what can you do to prevent it? In this article, we’ll explore the science behind this phenomenon, as well as tips for baking the perfect Japanese cheesecake.

The Origin of Japanese Cheesecake

Japanese cheesecake, also known as “souffle cheesecake,” originated in Japan in the 1970s. It’s made with cream cheese, eggs, sugar, and flour, and has a light and fluffy texture, thanks to the use of beaten egg whites. Unlike American-style cheesecake, which is dense and creamy, Japanese cheesecake is closer in texture to a sponge cake.

The popularity of Japanese cheesecake has spread beyond Japan, with many bakeries and cafes around the world now offering their own versions of this delicious dessert. In recent years, there has also been a rise in the popularity of “burnt” or “torched” Japanese cheesecake, which is made by caramelizing the top of the cake with a blowtorch or broiler. This gives the cake a slightly smoky flavor and a beautiful golden-brown color.

The Ingredients in Japanese Cheesecake

The ingredients in Japanese cheesecake are relatively simple, but play a crucial role in the final product. Cream cheese provides the tangy flavor and creaminess, while sugar adds sweetness. Eggs are essential for creating the structure and texture of the cake, while flour helps to give it stability.

Another important ingredient in Japanese cheesecake is milk. Milk helps to create a lighter texture and adds moisture to the cake. Some recipes also call for cornstarch, which helps to thicken the batter and create a smoother texture.

Japanese cheesecake is also known for its unique cooking method. Unlike traditional cheesecake, which is baked in a water bath, Japanese cheesecake is typically steamed or baked in a water bath at a low temperature. This slow and gentle cooking method helps to prevent the cake from cracking and creates a soft, fluffy texture.

The Baking Process of Japanese Cheesecake

The baking process of Japanese cheesecake is unique, as it involves a water bath. This helps to prevent the cake from drying out and cracking while baking. The cake is also baked at a low temperature for a longer period, which contributes to its light texture.

In addition to the water bath and low temperature baking, Japanese cheesecake also typically includes a higher proportion of eggs than traditional cheesecake recipes. This gives the cake its signature fluffy and airy texture. Another key ingredient is cream cheese, which is often combined with milk and sugar to create a smooth and creamy batter. Once the cake is baked, it is often served with a dusting of powdered sugar or a drizzle of fruit sauce.

Understanding the Role of Eggs in Japanese Cheesecake

Eggs play a crucial role in Japanese cheesecake, as they provide both structure and texture. Egg yolks are responsible for the richness and flavor, while the egg whites are whipped into a meringue and folded into the batter, creating the light and fluffy texture. However, overbeating the egg whites can cause the cake to shrink, as we’ll explore in the next section.

In addition to providing structure and texture, eggs also contribute to the nutritional value of Japanese cheesecake. Eggs are a good source of protein, which is essential for building and repairing tissues in the body. They also contain important vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, and selenium.

Another interesting fact about eggs in Japanese cheesecake is that they can be substituted with tofu for a vegan version. Tofu is a soy-based product that has a similar texture to eggs and can be used as a binding agent in baking. This substitution is a great option for those who follow a plant-based diet or have an egg allergy.

Investigating the Role of Flour in Japanese Cheesecake

Although flour is a relatively small part of the overall cake, it plays a crucial role in giving Japanese cheesecake stability. Without flour, the cake would be too delicate and prone to collapsing. However, too much flour can cause the cake to become heavy and dry, which can also contribute to shrinkage.

Recent studies have also shown that the type of flour used in Japanese cheesecake can affect its texture and flavor. Cake flour, which has a lower protein content, produces a softer and more tender cake, while all-purpose flour, with a higher protein content, results in a denser and chewier cake. Additionally, using a combination of flours, such as cake flour and cornstarch, can create a lighter and airier texture in the cake.

What Causes Shrinkage in Japanese Cheesecake?

The most common cause of shrinkage in Japanese cheesecake is overbeating the egg whites. When egg whites are beaten, they create a network of protein that helps to hold air bubbles in the cake. However, if they’re overbeaten or beaten too quickly, they can become dry and lose their ability to hold air. This can cause the cake to collapse and shrink.

Another cause of shrinkage in Japanese cheesecake is improper cooling. After baking, the cake needs to be cooled gradually to prevent it from collapsing. If it’s cooled too quickly or placed in a drafty area, the sudden change in temperature can cause the cake to shrink and lose its shape.

In addition, using the wrong type of cheese can also lead to shrinkage in Japanese cheesecake. The ideal cheese for this type of cake is a soft, creamy cheese like cream cheese or ricotta. If a harder cheese is used, it can cause the cake to become dense and heavy, leading to shrinkage as it cools.

The Science Behind Shrinkage in Japanese Cheesecake

When a Japanese cheesecake is taken out of the oven, it’s still very hot, and the air bubbles in the cake are still expanding. As the cake cools, the air bubbles contract, causing the cake to shrink. However, if the egg whites were overbeaten or weren’t beaten enough, there may not be enough protein to hold the air bubbles in place, causing the cake to shrink more than usual.

Another factor that can contribute to shrinkage in Japanese cheesecake is the type of flour used. If the flour has a low protein content, it may not be able to support the structure of the cake, causing it to collapse and shrink. On the other hand, using flour with a high protein content can help the cake maintain its shape and prevent excessive shrinkage.

Additionally, the baking temperature and time can also affect the amount of shrinkage in Japanese cheesecake. If the cake is baked at too high of a temperature or for too long, it can cause the air bubbles to expand too much and then collapse, resulting in a smaller cake. It’s important to follow the recipe instructions carefully and monitor the cake closely while it’s baking to ensure the best results.

How to Prevent Shrinkage in Japanese Cheesecake

Preventing shrinkage in Japanese cheesecake starts with beating the egg whites correctly. They should be beaten slowly and steadily until they form stiff peaks. Overbeating them can cause the cake to shrink, while underbeating them can result in a less fluffy texture. Additionally, using the correct amount of flour and not overbaking the cake can also help prevent shrinkage.

Expert Tips on Baking Perfect Japanese Cheesecake

When it comes to baking the perfect Japanese cheesecake, expert bakers recommend using room temperature ingredients, as they’ll mix together more easily. It’s also important to be precise with measurements and to beat the egg whites slowly and steadily. Finally, using a water bath and not overbaking the cake can help to achieve the perfect texture and prevent shrinkage.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Baking Japanese Cheesecake

Some common mistakes to avoid when baking Japanese cheesecake include overbeating the egg whites, overbaking the cake, using the wrong amount of flour, not using a water bath, and not allowing the cake to cool properly. Additionally, not having all of the ingredients prepared ahead of time can lead to mistakes and a less than perfect cake.

Alternative Recipes for Japanese Cheesecake

While the classic Japanese cheesecake recipe is delicious on its own, there are also many variations to try. Some popular variations include matcha (green tea) cheesecake, chocolate cheesecake, and fruit-flavored cheesecake. Experimenting with different flavor combinations can be a fun way to take your Japanese cheesecake baking to the next level.

How to Serve and Store Your Perfectly Baked Japanese Cheesecake

Once you’ve baked the perfect Japanese cheesecake, it’s important to know how to serve and store it correctly. Serving it chilled can help to enhance the flavor and texture, while storing it in an airtight container in the fridge will keep it fresh for several days. Freezing it is also an option, but it’s important to wrap it tightly and thaw it slowly in the fridge to avoid losing the texture.

The Growing Popularity of Japanese Cheesecake Across the World

Japanese cheesecake has become increasingly popular across the world, with many bakeries and cafes offering their own versions. Its light and fluffy texture, combined with its tangy yet sweet flavor, has made it a hit with cheesecake lovers everywhere. Whether you’re a seasoned baker or just starting out, Japanese cheesecake is definitely worth trying.