Life is fragile, but we are strong.
I'd been planning a Japanese themed blog post for about a month now, ever since I read this Cotton Soft Japanese Cheesecake post. And then of course the disaster struck Japan last week and now this has turned into a very different post altogether. I had so much that I was going to talk about, but it all seems so insignificant now. It's so scary to think that B and I would have been in Japan around the time of the earthquake had we gone ahead with our plan to visit Japan this year.
I've just come back from a little trip to Germany where I visited my Oma and had some much needed time off. Bizarrely enough though, she'd just experienced a magnitude 5 earthquake, something very unusual - almost unheard of - for the little town that she lives in. She was fine, but obviously very shaken and couldn't stop talking about it. So I can't even begin to imagine what the people of Japan are going through - tears well up every time I look at the news. It's something I just can't comprehend and my heart goes out to all the people suffering from this catastrophe.
There are so many ways you can help & donate to relief efforts. But the one I'd like to highlight is related to this blog post. Last year, I was lucky enough to be given a small bottle of sakura (cherry blossom) extract. I'd been planning to use it for a long time, and when I saw the cheesecake post above and read the original post it was adapted from, I knew it would be perfect in a buttercream frosting. Sakura extract is very hard to come by and you can't buy it in many places outside of Japan (not even in the Japan centre here in London - I checked!). So if you'd like a chance to win some extract, along with some other cherry blossom goodies, while helping Japan at the same time, Chika from She Who Eats is hosting a giveaway on her blog. All you have to do is make a donation which will go to the Japan Disaster Relief, and you will be entered into the giveaway.
As for this cotton soft cheesecake, it really does live up to it's name - it's so light and fluffy and soft, very much like a baked cheesecake, but much, much lighter. This recipe is very easy to follow and the results are easily replicable, but if you'd like to learn more and get this cake just right, Ju from The Little Teochew shares these tips & tricks. I thought these would make perfect cupcakes as they are so perfectly light and airy, and I also added some vanilla to it for extra flavour. Enjoy!
To all reading this, I hope you are healthy and safe no matter where you are.
Japanese Cotton Soft Cheesecakes With Cherry Blossom Buttercream And Raspberry Sugar
(Recipe adapted from the original over at Diana's Desserts)
For the cakes:
250g cream cheese
50g unsalted butter
100ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla paste
60g plain 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 double cream
1 tsp sakura (cherry blossom) extract (or any other flavouring)
1 drop red colour paste
For the raspberry sugar:
200g caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 150˚C. 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 (you can place the bowl in a sink of cold water to help speed up the process).
Sift the flour and cornflour into the cheese mixture, add the lemon juice and egg yolks and stir until a smooth mixture forms.
In a separtate bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff, then add the sugar and whisk until soft peaks form.
Add the egg white mixture to the cheese mixture and gently fold under.
Pour into cupcake cups and place in the middle of the oven over the water bath and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, 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 (or similar) and pipe swirls onto the tops of the cakes.
To make the raspberry sugar, place the sugar and the raspberries in a food processor and blend until smooth and pink. Sprinkle over the piped cupcakes. Keep the remaining raspberry sugar in an airtight container for other baking or coating the rims of cocktail glasses.