This One’s For You, Kid!

Japanese Cotton Cake

A favourite girlfriend from my office is in the middle of rather exuberantly expecting her first child right now.

And while I am sad that she will be leaving us at the end of this month, I was more than willing to use her departure as an excuse to shower her with well wishes and presents from the lot of us.  But man, keeping all of those bits and pieces in the air but still a secret for a few weeks sure was a ton of work!

Because she is special to me, I wanted to make sure that everything about the shower was just perfect, right down to the sugary confection I was planning to serve.  Not knowing her to be much of a dessert person though, I had to enlist the help of another kindly coworker to do a little low level industrial espionage in order to ascertain her preferences without sending up red flags.

The combination he reported back to me was cheesecake and pudding and I’ll admit, when he first ran it by me I was a little concerned about pregnancy cravings gone awry.  But, the more I thought about it, the more it started to come together into some semblance of a plan.

Since it’s summer, I decided not to do a traditional cheesecake, which is typically heavy (albeit creamily orgasmic) and a bit of a downer for a party scheduled right after lunch.  Instead I opted to make a Japanese (cotton) cheesecake, which is kind of like cheesecake and angel food’s awesome lovechild.  It’s puffy, light and airy, with a soft crumb and a pleasant hint of cream cheese that I envisioned would be well matched with a few of my homemade compote/jams.  To top it all off, I remembered a bottle of raspberry chocolate truffle creme that the Everyman had bought me around Mother’s Day that coincidentally had a texture similar to pudding, and thought that would make the guest of honor’s cheesecake complete.

After one hot, sweaty night baking batches of mini cheesecakes in a water bathed oven, I had a few dozen slightly homely looking specimens and a whole lot of hope.  Concerned that I wouldn’t have enough, I’d forgone sampling first and spent the rest of the night crossing my fingers and toes that they would taste good.

When I unveiled them the next day, I needn’t have worried.  All of my coworkers were absolutely blown away by the treat, and some even took it upon themselves to have seconds and thirds – generally a huge compliment to the chef, but in this case necessary because many people I’d anticipated for the party were out of the office.

I’m still going to miss my dear girlfriend, but whenever I make these cheesecakes from now on, I will always think of the surprised look on her face!

Foodie’s Vanilla Cotton Cheesecake

320 g. cream cheese

50 g. butter

240 g. heavy cream

80 g. flour

60 g. cornstarch

7 eggs, divided

0.25 tsp cream of tartar

140 g. sugar

pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla powder

Preheat oven to 325* and line a muffin tin with 24 cupcake liners.  Melt the cream cheese, butter and cream in a bowl over a double boiler, stirring until thick and creamy; set aside.  Add flour, cornstarch and egg yolks to the cream cheese mixture and blend well to combine.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar, sugar, pinch of salt and vanilla powder until soft peaks form.  Gently fold the egg white fluff into the cream cheese mixture, taking care not to deflate their loft.  Carefully spoon the batter into the prepared cups and bake in a water bath pan for 35-45 minutes, or until pale golden and set.  When done, remove from cups from the pan immediately to cool on a rack.  Serve with fruit, compote or a generous dollop of jam.  This can also be baked in 2 springform pans, though it will take slightly longer to bake.

Makes 24 mini cheesecakes.

Until next time…

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