turning japanese – individual matcha sesame cheesecake

by hungryrabbit on February 24, 2012

Individual Matcha Sesame Cheesecake

I adore sushi and all the food that Japan has to offer. Besides dining out in Japanese restaurants, I’m always eager to cook up something at home. Part of the fun is shopping at a Japanese market: in my case, Sunrise Mart in the East Village. Though not a big store, it’s packed with everything you need to concoct a delicious Japanese meal.

Every time the elevator opens to the store on the second floor, I’m never satisfied with just acquiring the items on my grocery list. I want more. I check at unfamiliar items, pick up a snack or two, and usually come away with a few this-is-interesting-but-I’m-not-quite-sure-what-it-is items that my friend, Mariko, can usually identify from photos I send her.

Besides the savory Japanese cooking that I do on a regular basis, I’m always intrigued by the pastries and confections. There are traditional as well as French-influenced pastries and desserts using classic ingredients such as mochi, adzuki beans, matcha, sesame, etc.—all of which are beautifully presented. Japanese treat desserts as precious gems. Visit a Japanese pastry shop, and you will instantly be captivated by the exquisite creations. Think of it as a gallery where you consume the art.

So, when Abby decided that February’s #baketogether was all about cheesecake, I thought of using Japanese ingredients. After all, you always find some kind of cheesecake in a Japanese pastry shop. Matcha and sesame seemed like a good idea, so my contribution would be a green and black cheesecake. (Not exactly something you’d find at Junior’s)

Black sesame studded salted cookie crust is the foundation of these individual surprisingly light cheesecakes. I divided the cream cheese filling in two, one infused with matcha and the other with black sesame powder. The green and black layers provide a dramatic visual contrast, while the two distinct flavors play off each other.

This cheesecake will also be a reminder to M and I that our next Asia trip must include Japan–M has never been. We will enjoy this cheesecake and dream about the ramen, yakitori and lots and lots of pastries until we leave for that trip.

Matcha Sesame Cheesecakes

yield: Four 4-1/2-inch cakes


1 cup animal crackers crumbs
4 tablespoons butter, melted; plus more, room temperature, for the pans
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 tablespoon black sesame seeds, toasted

Cheesecake Filling
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sour cream, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons matcha powder, plus 1/4 cup for dusting
1/2 cup black sesame powder


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the sides of 4 4-inch springform pans. Wrap exterior of pans (including base) in a layer of foil.

2. Process animal crackers in food processor until fine. Add butter, sugar, and salt; pulse until combined, add sesame seeds and stir to combine. Divide mixture evenly among pans and pat into an even layer using the bottom of a measuring cup. Place pans on a baking sheet. Bake until the crust is firm to the touch and deeply golden brown, about 15-18 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool completely.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

4. In a small bowl, whisk sugar and flour to combine. Reduce mixer speed to low, gradually add sugar mixture to cream cheese; mix until smooth. Add sour cream, vanilla and almond extract; mix until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined.

5. Divide cream cheese filling into 2 bowls. Add matcha powder to one and black sesame powder to the other. Stir gently to combine, do not to over mix. Divide sesame-cream cheese mixture evenly among the pans with crust, follow by matcha -cream cheese filling. Set pans inside a roasting pans. Carefully ladle boiling water into roasting pan, halfway up sides of springform pans.

6. Bake until cakes are set but still slightly wobbly in the center, 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off oven; leave cakes in oven with the door slightly ajar, 45 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack; let cakes cool completely. Refrigerate, uncovered, at least 4 hours or overnight.

7. Release cakes from spring form, dust top with matcha powder before serving.

Recipe Notes:

1. Black Sesame Powder can also be purchased at Asian markets.

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian @ A Thought For Food February 24, 2012 at 7:37 am


Wow! I’m really impressed… Those layers are marvelous. Now, I’m typically a traditionalist when it comes to cheesecake, but this I would love to try.


Barbara | Creative Culinary February 24, 2012 at 9:37 am

Those are absolutely gorgeous Ken. I betcha I’ve never used matcha. I know…but it’s true. You could probably sway me I’m sure especially if you had one of these lovelies to offer.

Georgie February 24, 2012 at 9:45 am

These are beautiful! What I love about your recipes is that you make every one seem like a novice baker like myself can even make them. Lovely photos and clevernwriting.

Me And My Sweets February 24, 2012 at 9:57 am

this recipe sounds interesting and very unusaly for me. But I love trying out new things:-) Thanks for sharing!

abby dodge February 24, 2012 at 10:23 am

Outstanding Ken! not only are these babies gorgeous – the layers are killer – but, as always, the pix are truly heaven

Margaret February 24, 2012 at 11:49 am

These are absolutely gorgeous! I am getting hungry just looking at these. I think we need to incorporate this to our future dinner party. 😉

foodwanderings February 24, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Super original, that’s the Ken I love!! Stunning!

Lillian February 24, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Wow, these are breath-taking, Ken…works of art! Way too pretty to eat, but I’ll still take a slice. 😉 Love matcha & black sesame.

Rebecca@A Dusting of Sugar February 25, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Wow! I love that you used animal crackers in the crust. Can you make your own black sesame powder perhaps? I’ve never seen it. Also, did you just have lots and lots of mini springform pans?

hungryrabbit February 25, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Hi rebecca, thanks for dropping by. You can grind sesame seed with some of the flour use for the recipe. Make sure you don’t grind them into a paste. I do have a few small spring form pans because I love individual desserts.

Sarah February 25, 2012 at 11:57 pm

This looks incredible! I can’t wait to try it – Thanks for the recipe!

Cristina February 26, 2012 at 12:11 am

Wow! These matcha cheesecakes are gorgeous and what a combination of flavors. These are truly perfection…beautifully done!

Amrita February 26, 2012 at 8:32 am

That cheesecake looks absolute gorgeous! Even the colour combination seems beautifully put together!

Elizabeth @Mango_Queen February 26, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Oh my goodness, this Matcha Sesame Cheesecake is wonderful! Wish I had seen this before I baked my son’s Green Tea birthday cake. Will definitely bake this for the family…my sons will love this! Thanks for the recipe, Ken! As always, this is another classic :-)

Corina @WineDineDaily February 26, 2012 at 3:01 pm

OMG… this is one beautiful Matcha Sesame Cheesecake :)

Leah February 26, 2012 at 9:51 pm

I love matcha, but am always coming up short on creative ways to incorporate it into desserts. This is perfect! Cannot wait to try.

Lisa | Dust with Flour February 27, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Stunning execution. Yes, works of art. Congratulations!

Janina February 28, 2012 at 10:31 am

Great recipe. What could I use instead of a 4-inch springform? I’m from Germany and can’t get this size here :( Would it matter if I’d use a springform which is a little little bit bigger?

hungryrabbit February 28, 2012 at 10:54 am

Thanks Janina for visiting my blog. Try double the recipe and use a standard 20-23cm springform. Bake it at 190℃ for 1-3/4 hr. This will be an approx. guideline.

Lora @cakeduchess February 29, 2012 at 9:26 am

My talented friend Ken…WOW! These are incredible. The layers are so different and pretty. I really love that this is not your typical cheesecake. Amazing flavor choices. xx

merry jennifer March 1, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Those cheesecakes are stunning. I love the layers and the colors within. Beautiful, Ken.

Jeanne @ CookSister! March 7, 2012 at 7:47 am

Oh Ken – those are just stunning! Love your idea of using black sesame seeds in the base…

Deeba Rajpal (@vindee) March 12, 2012 at 9:46 am

Holy yum! Absolutely gorgeous wabbit! ♥♥♥

kim March 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm

What a creative take with the layers and I adore matcha. I go to the Sunrise Mart in Midtown, since that one is closer to me. Though whenever I’m near Soho, I make it a point to make a stop there, too. :)

Su-yin March 22, 2012 at 12:19 am

These are gorgeous. I love the idea of using sesame seeds in the biscuit base! :)

K&B N. March 22, 2012 at 6:17 am

That is just a beautiful cake

Sandrik October 10, 2012 at 6:34 am

When I saw the pics I couldn’t resist but to make this cheesecake! I altered the recipe a bit though: used digestives for the base and added a knob of fresh ginger for more flavour.
For the 2 layers I used white and black sesame and added glutinous rice flour instead of normal flour to help set the filling. I also used some honey together with the sugar. It turned out amazing! Only thing is that when I added the second layer it mixed a bit with the first. Could I just bake the cheesecake with one layer first until it sets and then add the second layer and bake further?

hungryrabbit October 10, 2012 at 7:11 am

Hi Sandrik, thanks for visiting my blog. Glad you enjoy the recipe. The cheesecake batter should be thick to hold their own, your batter must be a bit more runny. The first layer might be over baked if you bake them one at a time, but you can certainly give it a try. -K

Sandrik October 10, 2012 at 9:26 am

Thanks Ken, indeed I think you are right as my batter wasn’t very thick and a bit more runny. It didn’t affect the taste though as it was simply devine! Will try and make it again for sure!

Karen November 21, 2012 at 1:41 am

These cakes are beautiful, but I didn’t have 4-1/2″ mini pans, so I used a 9″. You will not get the layered effect if you do this because a 9″ pan will not hold the layers. I think there’s something about the “tension” of the smaller area of the 4-1/2″ pans that hold the layers. I don’t know, I’m not a physicist or mathematician, it’s just my guess! The matcha layer gets sucked in by the sesame layer in a 9″ pan. You can still see it on the top, tho. I baked it for 1 hour instead of 20 mins. and it came out nicely.

Aasa April 19, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Hi there, absolutely loved this! So pretty, and I love anything matcha!
My sesame batter turned out really thick, and mixed with the matcha, I just took a chopstick and made a beautiful swirly pattern though! 😉 Fake it til you make it, as they say!

have a good weekend!

Thanks, Aasa x

Aasa April 19, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Ah, Karen, that’s what I did! That must be why it didn’t layer! Thanks!

B April 25, 2013 at 12:14 pm

This looks amazing! Do you have any suggestions for substitutions for the animal crackers?

hungryrabbit April 25, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Hi B, you can simply use vanilla wafers. Animal crackers give it a sturdier base. Happy Baking. -Ken

fro January 5, 2014 at 5:17 am

Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe and pictures. May I know how to avoid side of the cake from turning dark in baking? The side of my baked cheesecakes never look as clean as yours.

hungryrabbit January 5, 2014 at 8:59 am

Hi Fro, use baking strips, http://bit.ly/KrtXoZ , when you bake your cake, they will make the cake layers more even. You can also try to bake them in a water bath, but because these are small cakes, it could be difficult to avoid water splash onto the cake batter. Hope this helps. -Ken

fro January 5, 2014 at 10:17 am

Hi Ken,
I didn’t know the existence of baking strips! Thanks so much!!! I’ll try to find them here in hong kong.

Btw, I tried out this recipe today. Everything is great except that I can probably fix the side burning issue next time :)

Your other cake recipes all look gorgeous. I’m going to try out many of them. Thanks again for all these detailed recipes and lovely sharing.

Have a nice day!

Michelle May 25, 2015 at 12:07 am

Hello! I would love to try this recipe. But…instead of having 4 inch pans i have a 9 inch pan. How would I have to change the recipe to make one standard sized cheesecake?

hungryrabbit May 25, 2015 at 4:47 pm

Hi Michelle, you can do the entire recipe in a 9-inch springform pan, you just have to extend the baking time slightly. Happy Baking! -K

Michelle May 28, 2015 at 8:11 pm

Okay thank you! And if I wanted to make the batter the night before and then bake it the next day would it still be okay?

hungryrabbit May 28, 2015 at 10:06 pm

I’ve never tried it before, so I can’t tell you if it’ll work or not. Perhaps you can just prep all the ingredients ahead of time? -Ken

Michelle May 29, 2015 at 11:30 pm

Okay I will try that. Should I extend baking time to one hour for a 9′ springform pan?

Karen August 3, 2015 at 2:13 am

This recipe looks so good, I can’t wait to try it!

Matcha Tea September 11, 2015 at 7:53 am


We love this recipe and wanted to know if you are working with any Matcha Brand because we would love to work with you own your next recipe that uses green tea matcha, please let us know if you are interested in our organic culinary matcha.

Robert Cruso
Enzo’s Private Selection

Sabrina November 8, 2015 at 10:31 am

Hi Ken!

I love baking and this was a great dessert. Thank you for this lovely recipe! I made it a week ago for my family and everyone thought it was amazing! They loved it so much they requested this cake again for thanksgiving. Even my brother in law who doesn’t like sweets thought this dessert was amazing. The flavors worked out so well for this cheesecake with the nutty taste of the crust from the toasted sesame to the sweet cheesecake part! Thanks for sharing this!

hungryrabbit November 11, 2015 at 7:31 pm

Hi Sabrina, I’m glad your family enjoyed it and want it again for TG. Enjoy and have a great holiday season. -Ken

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