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Cake Night: Japanese Cheesecake

For some years now, a core group of food-loving friends and I have been getting together for what we call “Cake Night.”  It started with the January issue of Martha Stewart Living in 2006, which featured an article called “A Year of Cakes.” There were different cakes for each month, often sort of seasonally chosen or picked to match a holiday.  I decided I wanted to bake through that issue, so I invited two of my talented culinary friends to join me on the adventure.  Once a month, we’d get together for dinner, and while I’d bake the cake, my friends would provide the entrées.

It was such a fantastic tradition that once we finished the article, we continued our “cake nights,” and I would choose a new cake or other dessert that I wanted to try out.  My goal was to try some new things, learn a few new techniques, and make sure we were all getting together for some quality time on a regular basis.

So on Sunday, we had a cake “afternoon,” since kids were a factor and we all wanted to have the evening to unwind.  I made Japanese Cheesecake which I’d seen recently on a blog (can’t for the life of me remember which one, though; I feel like there was something featured on The Kitchn?), and my friends brought asparagus soup and salad.  I also tossed some no knead bread into the oven.  But more on this event in a moment; first, a trip through the annals of Cake Night History.

The first entry in a long line of cakes was Martha’s Meyer Lemon Anniversary Cake.

I was pretty proud of the piping I did

Other highlights from that year of cakes article:

Cardamom Streusel Coffee Cake at a cake “brunch,” which included this amazing fruit spread

This coffee cake was a big surprise.  I figured it was going to be kind of run of the mill, but it was fantastic.  Probably one of the best coffee cakes I’ve ever had.

Individual Triple Chocolate Mousse Cakes

I was pretty proud of these, too, since they looked right.  Each person got to indulge in one of these.  The bottom layer is devil’s food cake, and then there are two layers of mousse, one dark and one milk chocolate.  It was pretty divine.

Teatime Coconut Layer Cake

This cake was ENORMOUS.  I don’t think it was supposed to be that tall, but my layers rose and puffed and it seemed a waste to cut them and discard any.  You can see the piece barely fits on a plate!  It was delicious if you like coconut.  You can see from the photos that my photography skills were nil at this point.

Cocoa Buttermilk Cake

This one looks boring, but it was one of the favorites of the year (we have a lot of chocolate lovers in the group).  It was a very moist, lovely chocolate cake with nothing fancy, just good flavor.

Probably the biggest coup of the year was this concoction:

Darkest Chocolate Crêpe Cake

This one was a doozy to make and very impressive to serve.  See that white stuff in there?  That’s a hazelnut filling.  The dark parts are chocolate crepes.  So I made about 40 chocolate crepes, laid each one down, covered it with hazelnut cream, and then repeated.  40 times.  Or so.  Then, the whole thing is covered in chocolate ganache.  It was pretty cool.

There were other cakes from that year; ice cream cake, pound cake, cupcakes, petit fours…  But then we ventured out on our own, and I made:

Sweet and Salty Cake

This recipe comes from Matt Lewis at Baked in Brooklyn, and it’s a pretty rockin’ cake.  The moist chocolate cake is layered with both a salted caramel sauce and a whipped caramel chocolate icing.  The whole thing is topped off with a little fleur du sel.  And I made it look pretty, too.

Then, for those peanut butter/chocolate fans, I made:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake from Smitten Kitchen

It was so good that my friend made it for her husband for his birthday, too.  Chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting coated with a chocolate ganache?  Get OUTTA heah.

So, those are some of the highlights of several years of cakes.  We’ve done other fun little desserts, too– once I did a brownie taste test which was a very good time.

Anyhoo, Sunday we had Japanese Cheesecake, which is lighter than regular cheesecake.  I find regular cheesecake to be too heavy, so I was intrigued by this concept.  I found the recipe online, where everyone universally seemed to come back to Diana’s Desserts blog.  The hardest part of the recipe was using weight instead of volume measurements.  Thank goodness I have a kitchen scale.

It’s actually quite easy to make; you melt the cream cheese, butter and some milk in a bain marie, mix it with the other ingredients, whip some egg whites, fold it all together and voilà.  The pan takes a little prep since you have to bake it in a water bath, so I covered the outside with foil.

And it turned out lovely.

Since we were all of the opinion that cheesecake is generally too heavy, I think everyone agreed it was one of the best cheesecakes ever.  I made a little strawberry sauce to drizzle over the top, and it was a perfect spring afternoon dessert.  Especially with our other treats:

clockwise from top left: whole wheat olive oil and pain d’epi no knead bread; asparagus soup; champagne!; field greens salad

It was a lovely afternoon.  And you can expect more updates to come on our adventures in dessert.



Leave a Comment

  • April 20, 2010, 4:55 pm Amy

    I seem to be standing in a small puddle of… could it be drool? Oh, YES IT COULD. I am bookmarking, so I can make some of these (the less taxing ones!) for occasions down the road. Like that coffee cake. And definitely the cocoa one, cos husband is a big fan of choco cake, but not too heavy please.

    And a huge OMG for the crepe concoction. I’m terribly impressed. Plus the whole concept is so great!

  • April 20, 2010, 7:51 pm amanda

    Crepe cake! Holy Crepe. Yes, there appears to be a drool epidemic.

  • April 20, 2010, 8:02 pm Erika

    The next time you make the Chocolate Peanut butter or the individual mousse, which I hope will be soon, like tomorrow!, you have to save some for me. These look A-MAZ-ING!

    Also, I love the table cloth!

  • April 21, 2010, 7:12 am Beth

    Thanks for posting these recipes! The Japanse Cheesecake looks amazing, going to attempt it…

  • April 21, 2010, 8:41 pm bethpc

    @Erika, I just got that tablecloth at Crate and Barrel, and I LOVE it. It’s got a hole in the middle for the umbrella and everything. I just think the pattern is so cute.

  • April 30, 2010, 7:28 pm Erica Long

    Total food porn here for dessert lovers. The coconut cake had me jonesing for some! Food and friends…like peanut butter and chocolate. Great job as always. Xo

  • May 1, 2010, 1:26 pm Karen

    I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of several cake nights but after seeing all of these photos, I am quite jealous of the ones I missed….

  • January 3, 2011, 4:41 am Marcia Campbell

    My Goodness….you really love to bake complicated cakes! They are gorgeous! I’m a simple cook and would not tackle something like that! My daughter does tho. She has a blog Willows Quiet Corner….she hasn’t posted the fancy cake she made yet…takes 2 or 3 days to make….but she is very artistic also and that’s what it takes, plus a little patience! Actually I don’t think she has put any recipes on yet, but give her time. She hasn’t had her blog very long yet. Also my niece has a blog…9 Acre Farm…..both blogs are very nice. I love yours also!!!!

    • January 3, 2011, 6:47 am bethpc

      Thanks for visiting! I will be sure to check out the two blogs you mentioned! :-)