By Kazuki Kuraoka
When you think of local gourmet food in Yokosuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture, the first thing that springs to mind is probably “Yokosuka Navy Curry” [Imperial Japanese Navy origin] followed by the “Yokosuka burger.” It is, however, not widely known that “Yokosuka Cherry Cheesecake,” a New York cheesecake “directly handed down from the U.S. Navy,” is served at about 10 restaurants in the city.
Yokosuka Cherry Cheesecake was born in 2010. The recipe was “handed down” to the city from the U.S. Navy Yokosuka base the year before as part of a food culture exchange program.
It features the lavish use of cream cheese, compared with fresh cream, in the ratio of “7 to 1,” according to the official recipe. The cake is very cheesy. The crust is savory graham cracker, and the top is covered with cherries, reminiscent of Japanese cherry blossoms.
For a cake to be named “Yokosuka Cherry Cheesecake,” it must be certified by the city. When an application is received, several city officials visit the establishment to learn how it is made and to taste it. Only then do they make a decision on certification. A bakery is allowed to use its discretion to some extent with regard to the amount of ingredients, etc. Ms. Minami Misaki of the city’s Tourism Division says, “The taste of the cake reflects the individuality of the bakery, including the origin of the cream cheese and the use of liqueur. I recommend tasting different cakes,” she said.
The number of certified bakeries has doubled from 6 to 12 as of the end of February this year. The cheesecake at the Mikasa Cafe (Honcho district) has an impressive seared caramelized surface. It has a smooth, gentle mouthfeel. A sour cherry sauce poured over the cake and the accompanying ice cream complement the flavor. Manager Masumi Ichimoto says, “We can’t make many because it takes a lot of time and effort, and some days we sell out.”
On the other hand, the cake at “Yokosuka Navy Curry Honpo” (Wakamatsu-cho, Yokosuka City) has an exceptionally strong cream cheese flavor. Manager Mika Yokoo said, “I make the cake faithfully without any changes to the recipe. It tastes just like the real thing,” she said. It is served with ice cream, and you can choose between vanilla and curry flavor.
Ten years have passed since its birth. Yokosuka Cherry Cheesecake caught the attention of Yamazaki Baking Company’s Yokohama Factory No. 1 (Totsuka Ward, Yokohama City), which commercialized the cake last year. “Yokosuka Cherry Cheesecake Tart,” supervised by TSUNAMI restaurant (Honcho, Yokosuka City), is sold at convenience stores mainly in the Kanto region. Sales to date total 100,000 cakes.
The city has created a “Guidebook to Yokosuka Cherry Cheesecake” and hopes that the cake will become the third local specialty after the city’s curry and hamburger. “Yokosuka is not only about curry,” said Hiroshi Omichi, assistant manager of the Tourism Division. “We want people to be aware of the new charm and potential of Yokosuka,” he said with enthusiasm.