Two first-timers happened in the Bewitching Kitchen. My adventure with Japanese cheesecake, and with the intriguing flavor of cherry blossoms. Have you heard of Japanese cheesecakes? They originated in Hakata, back in 1948. Considerably lighter than the American variety, they are also baked in a water-bath, delicate creatures that they are. I intend to make them as such in the near future, but for the time being I share a departure on the basic method, taking them into cupcake territory. The steam part is provided by a big pan with water kept in the oven. And now for the unusual flavoring: Sakura, aka cherry blossom extract. I first heard about it years ago, finally caved and ordered some from Japan. The smell is amazing, floral as expected, but not as potent as rose extract, for instance. Think of vanilla with less of a sweet component, more pungent and bright. I know, trying to describe a smell is a big waste of typed words. Oh, well… Without further ado, here are my Japanese-style cupcakes.
JAPANESE COTTON-SOFT CUPCAKES WITH SAKURA ICING
(adapted from Mowielicious)
for the cupcakes:
250g cream cheese
50g unsalted butter
100ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla paste
60g all-purpose flour
1 tbsp lemon juice
6 egg yolks
6 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
for the buttercream:
150g unsalted butter
300g icing sugar
50ml heavy cream
1 tsp sakura (cherry blossom) extract
pink colour gel (I used Chefmaster)
sparkling sugar to decorate (optional)
Heat the oven to 300 F. Half-fill a baking tray with water and place on the bottom shelf. Line a cupcake tray with cupcake cups.
Place the cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla paste in a bowl over a hot water bath and stir until mixture is smooth and creamy. Remove bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
Sift the flour and cornstarch into the cheese mixture, add the lemon juice and egg yolks and stir until a smooth mixture forms.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy, then slowly add the sugar and whisk until soft peaks form. Add the egg white mixture to the cheese mixture and gently fold.
Pour into cupcake cups and place in the middle of the oven over the water bath and bake for about 1 hour or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
To make the buttercream, whisk the butter and icing sugar until crumbly, then add the double cream and flavouring and whisk until smooth. Place the buttercream in a piping bag fitted with a Wilton 1M tip and pipe swirls on the top of the cooled cakes. Decorate with sparkling sugar, if desired.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: The most amazing thing about these cupcakes is how light they are. I mean light in terms of weight… Feather-light. Very airy. I am definitely going to try the cheesecake soon, because I know it will be right up my alley. The Sakura flavor is delicate and complements the cupcake well. The only thing I would change for a next time is the buttercream component. The recipe uses your classic American buttercream, which not only is the sweetest type, but it also crusts after piping when in contact with air. It is often the buttercream of choice for elaborate piped effects, as they will not melt away. But in the case of this simple swirl, I think a Swiss buttercream will be perfect. Something to consider if you want to make them. By the way, if you don’t have Sakura extract, a little rose-water, or orange blossom water can be substituted.
A little sprinkle of sparkling sugar to dress them up, and we were all set!
Japanese baking is a whole new universe for me.
I’ve been exploring two excellent cookbooks on the subject.
Stay tuned for some exotic adventures in the future!
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