Recipe: Basque Burnt Cheesecake

The first time I sent a photo of this Basque cheesecake to my mum, she exclaimed: “What is THIS? It’s so ugly and burnt!”

It took some persuading and a Google image search for her to accept that this famous dessert is *supposed* to be burnt.

The Basque cheesecake (“Tarta de Queso”) originated from a restaurant called La Viña in San Sebastián, which is the capital city of the Basque region of Spain. 

The recipe is surprisingly simple: cream cheese, caster sugar, eggs, cream, with no fancy technique or equipment needed. The cheesecake is baked in high heat, resulting in an undercooked center and a burnt, blackened top. The caramelised top adds that bitter, toffee-flavour kick to the cheesecake, a juxtaposition against the sweet, mellow, creamy center.

I have made this cake 3 times over the past few months at home. The first 2 times I kept it original, experimenting with the almost-negligible amount of flour of the recipe (which I proved adding 5g or 10g had no effect at all). The third time I added a shot of rum and some vanilla paste and holy it tasted incredible!

You don’t need to line the cake tin perfectly. Use a whole sheet of baking paper and press down towards the bottom of the tin and the paper should fold to the shape of the tin. It’s the creases gives the cake so much character!

When you remove the cake from the oven, you will notice that the cake is very jiggly – almost like it’s raw! Don’t worry because the batter will cook and set while the cake is cooling down.

While you can serve the cheesecake at room temperature, I recommend chilling the cake for at least 3 hours in the fridge. This makes the cheesecake even more creamy, almost like ice cream!

Basque Burnt Cheesecake
Makes a 6-inch cake
250g cream cheese
90g caster sugar
2 eggs
125ml double cream
5g plain flour
Optional: 30ml dark rum and 1tsp vanilla paste or extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C. Line a cake tin with a whole sheet of parchment paper, leaving at least 1 inch of paper extending out from the top edge of the tin.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the cream cheese and caster sugar with together with a whisk until no visible sugar crystals.
  3. Add one egg at a time, and mix until well incorporated.
  4. Add the double cream (also rum and vanilla if using) and mix. Try not to whisk too vigorously because you do not want to incorporate too much air into the batter.  
  5. Sift the flour and mix with a spatula until no visible lumps.
  6. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 18-20 minutes until the top is dark brown. 
  7. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool down on a cooling rack until room temperature and serve. Alternative put the cheesecake in a sealable bag and chill for at least 3 hours.

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