japanese cheesecake

January 15, 2019

Portland, OR, USA

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I've spent the last few months testing a Japanese cotton cheesecake recipe. Japanese cotton cheesecakes are a cross between the creamy, regular ol' cheesecake that we know and love and a light and airy Genoise sponge cake. As opposed to being dense and creamy like a New York cheesecake, they're tall and airy with the subtle flavor of cream cheese. They taste exactly what I imagine a cheesecake flavored soufflé would be like, with a light and fluffy texture similar to cotton (which explains its name, I guess).

I'm not exactly sure how I first found out about Japanese cotton cheesecakes, or why I got the idea to make one in the first place — it must have been a stray image on Pinterest that inspired me? Or maybe one of these cakes when idly browsing Goldbelly for what else I could add to my order of Russ and Daughters lox? Eitherway, researching recipes led me down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos of folks making the Japanese cheesecake and poking them to show the cakes' signature jiggle. This is now my second favorite YouTube genre of videos ever, right after the genre of "small girls beating up men trying to rob them". Anyway, search "Japanese cotton cheesecake jiggles" on YouTube. You heard it here first.

If I'm being honest with you guys, this is not the easiest recipe to make at home. To get the cheesecake's signature height and jiggle, you'll need to invest in a pan with 4-inch sides. Most Japanese recipes also appear to be made in a 7-inch cake pan, which is not a standard pan size in the United States — and unfortunately, my attempts at making the pan in more commonly available pans led to cracked tops (when baked in the 6-inch pan) and dense cakes (when baked in the 8-inch pan). It also requires the use of several bowls, an oven proof cocotte (more on that later), and the technical knowledge of how to fold a batter without deflating too much air (which I personally think is one of the hardest techniques in baking). I can tell you're exhausted already, and I'm sorry.

I realize that a complicated recipe like this one goes exactly against my New Year's resolution of simplifying my recipes and making them more accessible to folks who don't have 30 cake pans in their possession (cough) or have boxes of Valrhona feves in their basement (cough cough). And I have a ton of those planned this year too, I promise! You'll have more recipes like chocolate chip cookies and banana bread waffles in your hands soon. But right now, it's proving surprisingly hard to reign in my urge to pretend like I'm on the showstopper challenge of the Great British Bake-Off finale and come up with all sorts of crazy bakes. So tell me: WHAT KINDS OF RECIPES ARE YOU LOOKING FOR? Do you want more solid, delicious basics, or are you okay with reading about more complicated recipes like this one if they're full of handy knowledge and research? Tell me in my reader survey (or learn more about why I'm doing one in the first place), and for now, enjoy this jiggly cheesecake.

Some baker's notes:
  • Because this recipe is a little on the complicated side, it's best if you prep the ingredients beforehand by measuring them out before starting any of the recipe's steps.  Bring a kettle of water to boil first and set aside while you prep the other ingredients. Prep the eggs — you'll need six eggs total, with the whites and yolks separated into two different bowls for use in the recipe later.

  • Similarly, set yourself up for success by prepping the equipment needed for the recipe before starting any of its steps. You'll need a 7-inch cake pan with 4-inch sides; I used this pan from Fat Daddio's. In a pinch, you can substitute with an 8-inch pan with 3-inch sides, but your cheesecake simply won't be as tall and won't have the signature jiggle. Once you have the pan, it needs to be lined in a specific and slightly complicated way — I've tried to describe it as best as I could in the recipe steps, but if you need visuals, be sure to check out Just One Cookbook's recipe (which part of this recipe was adapted from) where she has step-by-step photos showing you how to line the pan. And finally, you'll need to prepare a water bath for the cake pan to bake in. Traditionally, water baths are made by placing the cake pan in a large roasting pan and pouring water into the roasting pan until the water reaches halfway up the sides of the pan. Because the cake pan used for this recipe has such tall sides, I found it cooked better if I stuck the cake pan in a deep Dutch oven (I used a 7-quart cocotte from Staub) and poured enough water for it to reach three-quarter's of the way up the cake pan. In a pinch, you can use a large roasting pan, especially if you're using an 8-inch cake pan instead. 

  • When fresh out the oven, the cheesecake should have a puffed and slightly domed top; however, as the cheesecake cools, the top will deflate and wrinkle. This is totally normal, I promise. If you find that your cheesecake top has cracked, you likely folded the mixture a little too rigorously and caused the batter to deflate — be careful when folding the batter to make sure that it stays light and airy! 

hummingbird high reader survey

January 11, 2019

Portland, OR, USA

It's the new year and I want to hear from YOU about what kinds of recipes (and other content) you want to see on Hummingbird High! Click the link below for the survey:

The best part?! Filling out the survey will qualify you for the chance to win a KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer in one of my favorite colors, Blue Steel!!! See the full rules for the raffle after the jump below.

tangy meyer lemon sugar cookies

January 8, 2019

Portland, OR, USA

A few months ago, if you'd asked me what my biggest vice was, I'd probably tell you that it was sour gummy candy. I love it all — Sour Patch gummi watermelon, Trolli Apple O's and Sour Crawlers, Haribo Fruit Salad, and more. Whereas most people are fine with just a piece or two, I can eat a whole bag in one sitting and still want more. It's bad, I know, I know. Don't tell my mom, lol.

Recently, however, my love for sour gummy candy has been overtaken by my obsession with these tortilla chips from New Seasons, a local Portland supermarket similar to Whole Foods (but pricier and more pretentious, if you can believe that). It makes no sense — in theory, there's nothing special about these chips. They're New Seasons' generic brand, sourced from what looks to be a small shop in Salem, Oregon. All they are are fried white tortilla chips, seasoned with a hint of lime and salt to give them a slightly tart and sweet kick. But they're so addictive that I've banned myself from buying a bag except on special occasions, because I've definitely sat down and eaten the entire 1000+ calorie bag in one sitting. Again, don't tell my mom, lol.

This past Christmas, I bought myself a bag for my stocking and found myself reading the Ingredients list absentmindedly in between binge watching episodes of Black Mirror. Although most of the ingredients were pretty par for the course for what you'd expect for a bag of fancy tortilla chips, there was one that caught my eye: citric acid. The same stuff that gives the sour candy gummies I love so much their tartness too. A quick Google search revealed that citric acid is commonly used for flavor and a preservative in many foods like jams, jellies, sodas, and crunchy savory snacks like crackers and chips.

A light bulb went off in my head; what if I used citric acid in my baking somehow? I'd been trying to develop a solid lemon sugar cookie recipe for a while now, but had been disappointed in my results so far — although the cookies I'd made were perfectly lemony and delicious, they lacked any tart or bite from the lemon and were quickly overwhelmed by all the sugar. I wanted my lemon sugar cookies to have the tartness of lemon curd, with a similar slight pucker that you get from sour candy from the acidity.

It turns out that citric acid is indeed the secret weapon for that bite. After ordering an entirely too big bag from Amazon, I mixed a teaspoon into a small amount of sugar and found that I'd basically created the tart sugar that all my beloved sour candies are coated in. Working backwards from there, I decided to make my standby snickerdoodle recipe (also seen in these raspberry lemon snickerdoodles) and rolled the cookies in the citric acid sugar as opposed to traditional cinnamon sugar mixture. And voila — just like that, it was the lemon sugar cookie I'd been dreaming of for the last few weeks: perfectly lemony and sweet, but with the tang and kick of lemon curd and/or your favorite sour candy. For even more fun, I used Meyer lemons, which I love for their fragrance and sweetness. Enjoy!

also featured:

Some baker's notes:
  • You only need a teaspoon of citric acid for this recipe, so I definitely suggest checking the bulk sections of any fancy grocery store, spice shop, or food co-op — I saw some in the bulk spice section at my Whole Foods and, if you live in Portland or the Bay Area, New Seasons. In a pinch, you can buy a giant bag for fairly cheap on Amazon. You can also check the canning section of hardware or general stores — they usually sell citric acid by the canning tools and mason jars as it's often used to help preserve jams and jellies.

  • If you don't want to source citric acid, you can still make these cookies and come out with perfectly wonderful Meyer lemon cookies that aren't tangy but more traditional — just skip the sugar topping since you won't need since it's mostly there to counteract the citric acid and give your cookies pretty yellow specks. Similarly, there's no need to stick to Meyer lemons for this recipe; you can use regular lemons too.

  • A couple other things to note about the ingredients for this recipe: because this is actually based on a snickerdoodle recipe, it uses cream of tartar as a leavener as opposed to baking powder. Cream of tartar is more acidic than baking powder and baking soda, which gives the cookies an added tanginess it wouldn't otherwise have if I'd used baking powder. It's worth sourcing the stuff (it's available at most supermarkets in the herbs section), especially since it pretty much keeps indefinitely in the pantry. I also used six leftover egg yolks I had from another baking project (ehem, this champagne cake), which gave the cookies a signature pale yellow to match their lemon flavor — in a pinch, you can substitute the egg yolks with 2 large eggs and come out with the same results.

pink champagne cake

January 1, 2019

Portland, OR, USA

Happy Birthday to 2019! I hope everybody had a wonderful New Year's Eve. Ours was pretty chill. Erlend and I are not really the type to go out on New Year's Eve; instead, we sat at home and drank these French 75ish cocktails I made for Crate and Barrel, ate Molly's classic tater tot hotdish with this pink champagne cake for dessert, and watched several depressing episodes of Black Mirror. How do I live this rock and roll lifestyle, I know, I know.

Now let's talk about this cake — I initially had this massive plan to turn all of my New Year's resolutions intentions into #drakeoncake style champagne sheet cakes, but for some reason, I couldn't get any of them to look good. It turns out that Joy has a special skill that I do not have, OH WELL. After about Cake Number 3 (there were 4 total, sigh), I threw down the towel and decided to make a layer cake, the kind that you guys loved so much last year. This layer cake is made with a white cake from one of my favorite cookbooks of last year, Rose's Baking Basics, and a classic cream cheese frosting adapted from my upcoming cookbook, both with a twist: they're spiked with a heavy dose of pink and champagne extract (ACTUALLY, I believe I used sparkling wine extract, because I guess LorAnn Oils knows that you can only call it champagne if it comes from the French region Champagne 😂).

To be honest, I'm not sure how much like champagne the extract actually tasted like; I thought it tasted like concord grape, whereas Erlend thought it tasted like strawberry ice cream. His coworkers who ate the rest of the cake definitely tasted the champagne though, so there's that. If you're looking for a more legit champagne flavor, I suggest taking 2 1/2 cups of champagne (pink or regular) and boiling it down until you have a 1/4 cup to use in both the cake and frosting — although I did this for the resolution sheet cakes, I didn't write this process as part of the layer cake's recipe because making your own champagne extract takes a decent chunk of time and I was trying to make everybody's life easier by using extract instead. Because that's actually one of my resolutions intentions goals for 2019: to make recipes that you guys will actually make. Happy New Year, y'all!

cake flags || cake stand || number toppers

Some baker's notes:
  • Champagne extract is available online via Amazon; I used the LorAnn Oils variety (which I mentioned in the post is "sparkling wine" flavored as opposed to actual champagne) because I have several of their other extracts and know it's good quality, but it looks like you can get "real" champagne extract too for steeper prices

  • For this cake recipe, it's REALLY important that all the ingredients are at room temperature before beating them together — if either the butter, milk, or eggs are on the colder side (or worse, straight from the fridge), the batter has a tendency to curdle and separate once the last of the eggs and milk are added in. To make extra sure that everything was at the right temperature, I stuck the butter, milk, and eggs in the microwave and blitzed each ingredient on low for around 10 seconds or so.

hummingbird high's 2018 review

December 27, 2018

Portland, OR, USA
Time for my annual lookback, where I review your favorite recipes and my favorite recipes. Ready for it? Here goes!


Readers' Favorite Recipes of 2018
The following recipes are YOUR favorites from the year — that is, the most viewed recipes of mine from 2018. Similar to last year, you guys really loved my cakes! Most of the top recipes were cake related, but the most popular recipe of them all were for some fancified chocolate chip cookies. Because who doesn't love a good chocolate chip cookie?!

1. Brown Butter and Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

Although I'm aware of how much everybody loves chocolate chip cookies, I was surprised by how popular this one was! It's actually just a re-published Bon Appetit recipe — I wasn't even going to post it on the blog, but so many of y'all saw it on my Instagram Stories, flipped out, and kept asking for the recipe. Chocolate chip cookies rule forever, I guess.

2. Bomb Cyclone Black Sesame Cake

This crazy cake was inspired by New York City's crazy winter weather at the start of the year. I have no idea how I came up with that idea, but I loved how it turned out in the end and you guys did too!

3. Homemade Carrara Marble Wedding Cake

I was literally obsessed with glazing everything with a carrara marble glaze — first these champagne cookies, then for a simple wedding cake for my friend's wedding. So pretty and surprisingly simple to make too.


My Favorite Recipes of 2018
For better or worse, I went fancy in 2018, saving the more simple recipes for #weeknightbakingbook. I'm trying to course correct for next year, but in the meantime, these were my favorite recipes that used more complicated techniques and ingredients:

This cake was inspired by all of Portland's pretty trees that blossom in the spring. For the cake, I used a specially sourced cherry blossom extract from Amazon. Totally worth it, I promise! Frosting the cake was also surprisingly easy to do — you just need to dab and quickly swipe small dollops of different colored pink frosting across the cake.

2. Chocolate Babka Morning Buns

As the self-proclaimed cinnamon roll queen, these chocolate babka morning buns were one of my more genius creations — they're a cross between a babka and a cinnamon roll, and were my contribution to the awesome The Staub Cookbook.

3. Ube Layer Cake

2018 was the year of ube at Hummingbird High: I made ube cinnamon rolls, babka, and crinkle cookies with the Filipino purple yam. My favorite of all the desserts, however, was the ube layer cake which I made in honor of my blog's SEVENTH birthday. I can't believe I've been blogging for that long!


Your Favorites on Instagram

Your favorites on Instagram this year included a wide range of fun recipes and bakes from this year and others, including this passionfruit and blueberry tart, this Vietnamese iced coffee cake, this chocolate chestnut yule log, Carl Sagan's apple pie, and this ube layer cake.


Thanks for following along, you guys! I have moderately big plans lined up for next year, including a return to more simple recipes and the launch of my cookbook (finally!), Weeknight Baking. Be sure to check out the highlights from the previous years: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012. Let's keep baking in 2019!

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