Fuwa Fuwa Soy Milk Cakey

(Note: In Japanese, "fuwa fuwa" is used to describe something soft and flouffy, like lambs wool; "cakey" is actually Japanese for cake, quite possible because the first Japanese person who ever saw the English word pronounced the "e" in "cake" as "ee.")

Although food is something easy to love, it has its share of underdogs who find wide acceptance a little harder to come by--dried prunes, bran, and soy quickly come to mind. I think of these guys as the nerds of the foodyard, esculent equivalents of the brilliant, sensitive child that the grownups made the mistake of praising to the rest of the class.

Of all the dried fruit, prunes somehow got singled out for its laxative qualities. The words "prune juice" say it all--does anyone drink that stuff cause they think it's yummy? Uh, maybe. Next, bran. This word seems unable to go anywhere without "health" tagging along like an annoying little brother.

And then there's soy, the teacher's pet. When I was living in the U.S. a few years back, to me at least, soy often seemed sadly misunderstood. Magazines and newspapers were touting the benefits of soy, and people listened. They just didn't enjoy. All sorts of tricks were devised to sneak soy into the diet: soy milk blendered with lots of fruit in smoothies and shakes, tofu disguised in heavily seasoned casseroles. Recipes would come with promises like, "You won't even know there's tofu in here." Poor soy, swallowed dutifully like a vitamin supplement.

In Southeast Asia, soy enjoys a different status. In Singapore, for example, soy milk and tofu are as common, and loved, as bread and butter. You can find them in any supermarket and on many menus. And I don't know any Singaporean who consumes soy because of the health benefits. I actually didn't know there were health benefits until I moved to Canada and something godawful called soy burgers crept onto supermarket shelves. Taste a spoonful of cold, uncooked tofu: if it's good, there'll be a sweet, fresh fragrance and flavor, a pure delight.

So, for this eleventh (and my first!) Is My Blog Burning?, hosted by Cathy at My Little Kitchen, I thought a tribute to my favorite nerdy white kid--soy--would work nicely with the theme of beans. I did initially have another kind of bean competing in my head for attention, as I described in my slightly crazed post here. However, while flipping through a Japanese recipe book recently, I soon found myself riveted by a lovely picture: "Souffle Cheese Cake," the book said. It looked pale golden and pouffy and perfect for showcasing soy.

I, er, sort of memorized the recipe (Did I mention I was browsing in a bookstore?)--but then made HUGE changes, enormous changes. The original ingredients list included sour cream, lemon juice, and flour--none of which I use in my recipe--and of course didn't include soy milk (even in Japan, a country that adores tofu, soy milk is generally viewed as something more healthy than delicious; but then soy milk only comes in two forms here, salted or non-sweetened, neither of which I'd want to drink either). Also, I reduced the oven temperature to 160'C because the first time I baked at 180'C, there was quite a bit of cracking, and my cake did not in any way resemble this person's proud creation.

I swear I'm winding down and will get to the recipe in a second. I just wanted to explain a few things about this cake. First of all, although outside of Japan it seems to often go by the name "Japanese Cheese Cake," this cake isn't anything like a typical cheesecake. It is cheese-creamy, but it's also light as foam, and as it melts on the tongue, you can actually hear and feel all these little bubbles bursting.

Here's a macha (green tea) version whose color more clearly shows the bubbly crumb--although this picture doesn't do justice to how light the real thing is

One other point. All the recipes I came across for Japanese cheese cake included flour and/or corn starch, but perhaps because of the delicacy of the cake, I found the presence of flour disturbing. I could taste and feel the chalkiness on my tongue. I first tried cutting down the amount of flour, but still the floury taste lingered. I then tried substituting ground almonds, thinking the cake would collapse without something to offer support. But eventually, I said, "oh, heck," and just made a cake without any kind of flour. And the thing stayed up! The texture was creamier, and thus also a bit harder to slice into.

Messily cut cake: its fault, not mine

But a wonderful and unanticipated result: the taste of the soy milk was suddenly much more distinct. Suddenly, this wasn't a cake that just had a bit of soy milk in it; this was a fuwa fuwa soy milk cake!

Okay! I'm done. But I have to apologize for one thing: this recipe is for a mini cake that serves two to three people. You have to understand. I was making countless experimental versions. I simply couldn't keep making full-sized cakeys or my arms would probably have dropped off from all that egg white whipping.

Fuwa Fuwa Soy Milk Cakey (aka Japanese Cheese Cake)
60g cream cheese
3.5 tablespoons sugar (I use light brown)
2 egg yolks
75ml 100% fresh soy milk (use regular milk if you really hate soy, you big meanie)
1 egg white
*2 tablespoons candied beans (optional--they look pretty and actually taste delicious, but they also sink to the bottom and detract from the soy flavor)

1. Line bottom of 12cm/4.7-inch round cake tin with parchment paper; make a separate paper collar that rises about 5cm/2 inches above rim of tin.
2. Preheat oven: 160'C/320'F
3. Soften cream cheese in microwave or double boiler and stir until nice and smooth.
4. Beat into cream cheese: 1 tablespoon of sugar, egg yolks, and soy milk.
5. Whip egg white and rest of sugar only until soft peaks form.

6. Add a spoonful of whipped egg white into cream cheese mixture and mix gently but thoroughly.
7. Fold in rest of egg white in two parts. You want to be soft-handed but don't be too timid. The batter needs to be well mixed or it will separate while baking and you'll have a denser layer at the bottom.
8. Pour batter into tin. Soak some kitchen cloths with water (should be very wet). Put one cloth on oven tray and set tin on top. Twist rest of cloths into long ropes and wrap snugly around side of tin. Many recipes suggest a water bath, but my cake still cracked when I tried that. I find the wet towels work better--thanks to shiokadelicious! for teaching me this trick.

9. Bake for about 35 minutes. Let cake sit in oven, with heat turned off for about 5 minutes. Open oven door and let cool completely or as long as you can stand waiting before you have to unwrap it and have a taste. Mmmm.

Notice the bit of separation going on at the bottom? I didn't do a good job of mixing.

By the way, if you're curious to see what a typical Japanese cheese cake recipe looks like, this seems like a pretty nice one (it's at the bottom of the page).

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Hi Rach, am dead tired from my ski trip so this is going to be short, but I just want to know that the macha version looks so yummy. Also, is there any reason why you heat the cream cheese before beating in the sugar and stuff?  

- Lynn

1/23/2005 11:00:00 PM  

Hi Lynn! If the cream cheese is warm and smooth, it blends better with the other ingredients. Sorry, I should have mentioned that it probably helps if the soy milk is also gently warmed--but be careful not to overheat or it will lose its aroma, I find. Anyhow, I once tried to just mix up everything without the double boiler, and the cake ended up all spotty with little lumps of cream cheese.

Oh! I just thought of something though. If you have a blender, I bet you could skip the heating up part and just blitz everything into a nice, creamy consistency... Should I be adding this info directly to the post, I wonder?  

- Rachel

1/23/2005 11:23:00 PM  

Looks amazing. Can't believe you took a recipe and did such major overhauling! It's as good as pulling the recipe out of your own head.

I salaam before the great Rachel.

PS. My mom suggests you and Lynn should write a cook book. All this experimental baking should be recorded for all to read! 

- Hsin

1/24/2005 02:08:00 AM  

Rachel - what a great little cake! I'd love to try it and the size is perfect for me - only problem is I don't have the right size pan. I'll have to hunt around for one, because I really would like to try this. Thanks so much for participating in IMBB 11! 

- Cathy

1/24/2005 04:24:00 AM  

Thanks, Hsin-Li, but the thought of me writing a cookbook is rather scary!

Cathy, thanks so much for hosting this IMBB. I'm so glad my mini-sized recipe didn't bother you. I thought people would be rolling their eyes when they saw the cake tin size I gave.  

- Rachel

1/24/2005 12:51:00 PM  

hi rachel

i love japanese cheesecake. they sell a soy-based cream cheese here, i'd love to try it in this recipe. do you think if i used tofu instead of cream cheese this might work? 

- santos

1/24/2005 01:51:00 PM  

Hi Santos! To be honest, I've never tried soy-based cream cheese, so I don't know how the cake would taste. It's a *very* simply flavored cake, as it is, so if you substituted tofu for the cheese, I do wonder if the flavor might become too subtle.

On the other hand, I am *ALL* for experimenting, so I totally think you should try it and please let me know how it turns out. Because this recipe produces a small cake, it's perfect for tinkering with. The next time I make this cake, I might try a dark chocolate version--mmmmm. 

- Rachel

1/24/2005 02:59:00 PM  

This looks wonderfully tasty, I'm definitely going to give it a whirl. My twin's usually too lactose-intolerent to eat much cheesecake even though she adores it, so this might be the answer. Thanks! 

- Christina

1/25/2005 01:02:00 AM  

Your cake looks beautiful, so appealing that I will certainly be trying it soon! 

- Elsa

1/25/2005 04:15:00 AM  

Rachel - you have done an amazing job for your first IMBB experience! I doubt anyone else would have tried as many different recipes in their quest for the perfect bean recipe! Good on you and hope to see you out again at one of our many blogging events!


- Jennifer

1/25/2005 07:17:00 AM  

I actually find there are too little of the 2-3 person recipes for cakes out there - the thing is, it's fine to make a huge cake, but you know who's hips it's gonna end up on, eih? So thank you for this one, it sounds delish! 

- ZarahMaria

1/25/2005 07:50:00 AM  

Hi Rachel,
First time commenting here : ) You’ve got one great site! I’ll be coming back often.
After I read this post, I went straight to my fridge and found all the ingredients there. Yep, I’m all set for this. Thanks for sharing!

- obachan

1/25/2005 10:33:00 AM  

Hi Christina! If your twin can eat this cake, that would be terrific. Just warn him/her that it doesn't taste like a typical cheesecake. Less dense and rich. And not very sweet. If you decide to give the recipe a try, would love to hear what you and your twin think!

Hi Elsa! I'm so glad you think my cake looks beautiful--*preen* It's quite wonderful to hear because presentation is not usually one of my strong points.

Hi Jennifer! I have to admit, toward the end, I kept saying to myself, "Okay, that's the *last* cheesecake. No more!" I had a lot of fun though and I'm really glad I took part.

ZarahMaria, yes, I KNOW what you mean. I love baking but sometimes you look at a recipe and wonder what the heck you're going to do with four dozen cookies or three loaves of bread.

Hey Obachan, welcome to my blog! I'm so glad you like it. Yeah, one great thing about this recipe, it's so simple, you don't need a long shopping list and sometimes you might find you have everything you need at home. I really hope you like the cake!


- Rachel

1/25/2005 01:22:00 PM  

Hi Rachel,
I gave it a try and liked it! ( and posted about it on my blog.) Actually mine turned out a bit too soft. I think I know what to improve, so next time I'll do much better. Thanks a mil. for sharing this recipe!

- obachan

1/25/2005 05:11:00 PM  

Oooh, I'm going over to your blog right now to check it out! 

- Rachel

1/25/2005 07:21:00 PM  

Just a note about Japanese. Japanese is not like English, Spanish or French. It does not have an alphabet. It has a syllabary system. Think of this as meaning something like syllables. So you have to have syllables and can rarely end a word with just a consonant sound (exception is n). You have to end a word with a vowel sound. That is why the word is pronounced keiki or as you have written it cakey. BTW, I think you misspelled fluffy. 

from Purple Tigress

5/08/2006 01:54:00 AM  

Hi Purple Tigress,

Thank you for sharing your knowledge of Japanese with us! When I hazarded the guess about the origins of "cakey," I guess I was trying to explain why the more logical "ke- ku" wasn't the result.

Also, don't you know the word "flouffy"?! I'm teasing--if you were more familiar with this blog, you'd know that I sometimes make up my own words when I feel limited by the English language. For instance, "flouffy" is something more  than just fluffy: it's fat, pouffed, cuddly, and exploded, all rolled into one. But it's not your fault for not knowing this. I bet a lot of people are disturbed when they find vocabulary here not defined by the Merriam-Webster!  

from Rachel

5/08/2006 01:31:00 PM  

HAHAha Flouffy is what i named my Cat how strange you "made" up the same word i did.

9/30/2008 11:45:00 AM  

A couple of years later:

The reason cake is 'ke-ki- rather than 'ke-ku' is because the word 'cake' entered Japanese very early on. These days, the rule is to change a word which ends with k into 'ku'; but 100 years ago the rule was to change it into 'ki'.

This is why the word 'strike' has two different pronunciations in Japanese: 'sutoraiki' means baseball strike, and 'sutoraiku' means workplace strike.

1/23/2011 05:00:00 AM  

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