Japanese Cotton-Soft Cheesecake Recipe

A meringue is the secret to this light cheesecake. J. Kenji López-Alt

Why It Works

  • Meringue folded into the batter lightens the texture of this cheesecake.
  • Sugar added to the meringue keeps it creamy and helps prevent the whites from becoming over-whipped.
  • This cheesecake doesn't have a crust, which makes it super-easy.
  • A hot water bath keeps the cake moist while baking.

Love the flavor of cheesecake, but find it too rich? Then this lighter Japanese version is for you. Airy meringue is folded into a not-so-sweet cheesecake batter to create a texture that's creamy and ethereally light. A good shot of lemon juice and the addition of sour cream give it some traditional cheesecake appeal.

Recipe Facts

Active: 40 mins
Total: 5 hrs
Makes: 1 cake

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  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar, divided
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 1 packed teaspoon zest and 2 tablespoons fresh juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (1 1/3 ounces) cake flour
  • 2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar


  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 340°F. Grease the bottom and sides of an 8- by 3-inch springform pan and wrap the bottom half of the pan with foil to create a waterproof seal (see note). Set into a roasting pan.

  2. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, butter, 2 tablespoons sugar, and salt on medium speed until very creamyscraping down sides as necessary with a rubber spatula (about 2 minutes). Beat in egg yolks and lemon zest until smooth, about 30 seconds. Replace paddle attachment with whisk attachment. Whisk in the lemon juice and sour cream on medium speed, scraping down sides as necessary with a rubber spatula, until combined.

  3. Sift the flour and cornstarch over the batter and whisk until completely combined. Transfer mixture to a large bowl, using a rubber spatula. Thoroughly wash and dry stand mixer bowl and whisk (a dirty bowl will prevent whites from aerating properly)

  4. Using the mixer's whisk attachment, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until frothy. Slowly pour in the remaining sugar and continue to whip to medium-peak stage (see note). Don't over-whip.

  5. Fold a third of the meringue into the batter with a rubber spatula until almost combined. Gently fold in the remaining meringue in two more batches.

  6. Pour the batter into the springform pan and set on the oven rack. Pour about 2 inches hot water into the roasting pan (see note). Bake until the cake is golden and just firm in the center, 40 to 45 minutes.

  7. Remove roasting pan from oven and let springform pan remain in water bath for 30 minutes. Set on wire rack to cool for another 30 minutes, then chill until set, about 3 hours. Serve.

Special equipment

8- by 3-inch round springform pan, roasting pan, mixer, wire rack


I used a tall-sided springform pan; if you don't have a pan with sides at least 3 inches tall, you can use a 9-inch pan (which means the cheesecake will be much flatter), or line the sides of the pan with a parchment collar to keep the batter from overflowing the pan. There is flour in this cake. Beaten whites are medium-peak when the peak gently and partially flops over after the whisk is lifted from them. When pouring water into the pan, keep it below the foil, or the water will seep through and make the bottom of the cake soggy.

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