This is not an authentic Basque cheesecake. It is an interpretation of a burnt Basque-style cheesecake with the addition of a vanilla cookie crust bottom.
The Basque region is situated between the border of France and Spain. The area is home to a mixture of different influences, cuisines, traditions, and peoples.
I was first introduced to Basque cuisine in culinary school with Basque cake. From then, my curiosity in the Basque region continued to flourish after watching Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown episode highlighting San Sebastian, Spain.
Burnt Basque Cheesecake
Basque cheesecake is a relatively new dish. It is said to have originated in 1990 in San Sebastian, Spain.The original recipe has a handful of ingredients: cream cheese, cream, sugar, eggs, and flour.
What is basque cheesecake? And, what makes it different from American cheesecake?
Basque cheesecake is often called “burnt” cheesecake due to its iconic rich dark surface. Unlike American cheesecake, Basque cheesecake does not have a crust.
American cheesecake is baked low and slow in a waterbath. Basque cheesecake, on the other hand, is baked high and fast.
This high temperature forms a caramelized exterior that serves as a natural crust for the cheesecake.
Not A Traditional Recipe
This is my adapted version. It takes elements of the burnt cheesecake and mixes it with my favorite part of American cheesecake- the crust!
If you would like to try a more authentic version, simply omit the crust part of the recipe.
What does this basque style cheesecake taste like?
To put it simply, it tastes like a caramelized cheesecake.The creamy filling has your standard vanilla flavor.
Meanwhile, the exterior parts (top and edges) are dark and rich with warm notes of molasses and caramel.
The vanilla wafer cookie crust plays on those caramelized flavors.The cooked butter in the curst brings out browned butter notes, making the crust taste like a hazelnut cookie.
- Use full-fat block cream cheese. Do not use whipped cream cheese or reduced fat cream cheese. It will not produce the same results.
- Let cream cheese sit at room temperature to soften for at least 30 minutes before mixing. This will allow the ingredients to mix together evenly.
- This recipe uses standard granulated sugar. I have not tested it using any other sugar or sweetener.
- Heavy cream (also labeled as heavy whipping cream) works best.
- However, whipping cream (which has slightly less fat than heavy cream) also works.
- Recipe calls for three large eggs. Large eggs are roughly 2 oz each.
Should you choose to use a different sized egg: extra large eggs are about 2.25 oz each and medium eggs are 1.75 oz each. Adjust recipe accordingly.
- I used standard all-purpose flour. You may also use cake flour, or half all-purpose flour half cake flour.
- The small amount of flour acts as a binder, helping to emulsify the ingredients together.
Vanilla & Salt
- Pure vanilla extract and kosher salt are added for additional flavor.
- Asides from vanilla, you may also add a touch of lemon juice or lemon zest or orange zest for a pop of brightness.
Suggested Cake Pan
I’m using this three inch deep 6-inch round cake pan with removable bottom. The recipe works best in a deep pan. Standard cake pans are 2-inches deep.
The baked cheesecake will rise above the cake pan rim. As such, it is important to use a cake pan at least 3-inches deep.
If you would like to use a larger pan (say 8-inch or 9-inch round), this recipe will create a short and shallow cheesecake. It will not produce the same rich and luscious cheesecake.
I suggest multiplying the recipe by 1.5 to accommodate for a 3-inch deep 8-inch round pan.
Lining the pan
- Line the entire cake pan with parchment paper.
- Use two sheets of parchment paper to ensure the batter does not touch the pan.
- Use a parchment paper lining even if you use a non-stick cake pan.
- Allow two to three inches of parchment paper to extend past the cake pan rim. The baked cheesecake will puff up and extend past the rim.
Vanilla Cookie Crust Bottom
The optional crust is made by combining ground vanilla wafer cookies (such as Nilla wafers) with melted unsalted butter and salt.
You could use graham cracker, but I highly recommend vanilla wafer cookies.
- Use a tart tamper or muddler (photographed above) to press cookie crust into the bottom of prepared cheesecake pan.
- The cookie crust makes enough to line the bottom of the pan. There will not be enough crust to line the sides of the pan.
Use Food Processor to Mix Filling
Easily mix together the cheesecake ingredients in a food processor machine. Alternatively, you may use a stand mixer or simply whip the ingredients together by hand.
Using a blade attachment, process softened cheesecake until smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
Add sugar and process until incorporated. Next, add eggs one a a time. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, salt, and about 1/4 cup of cream until a paste forms.
Slowly incorporate remaining cream, a little at a time, until mixture is smooth.Transfer smooth flour-cream mixture into food processor. Run processor for about 30 seconds until mixture is incorporated.
Pour the smooth cheesecake batter over prepared cookie crust bottom. The filling will rise nearly to the top of the cake rim.
As such, it is important to use a 3-inch deep cake pan! Otherwise, the batter will flow over.
The cheesecake will rise and puff in the oven. It will extend over the cake pan rim.
The excess parchment paper overhang will prevent the cheesecake batter from spilling over.
Traditional American cheesecake is baked low and slow, usually requiring at least an hour to bake.
This Basque-style cheesecake is finished baking in half the time. Remove from oven when the top is rich dark brown, yet the center of the cheesecake is still jiggly.
What kind of cheesecake texture do you want?
Soft Silky Custard
Immediately out the oven, the cheesecake will be jiggly and difficult to slice. Let the hot cheesecake cool at room temperature for about 60-90 minutes to allow cheesecake to set up.
Slice using a sharp warmed up knife.
Dense, Firm, and Creamy
Allow the cheesecake to cool at room temperature. Then, store in the fridge until cold.
The cheesecake filling will firm up to create a creamy yet firm texture.
According to Tasting Table, you should serve this cheesecake with a glass of Pedro Ximénez sherry.
Serve at room temperature or chilled. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.
More Cheesecake Recipes
- 130 grams (about 1 ¼ cup) ground vanilla wafer cookies or ground graham crackers
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- 85 grams (6 Tbsp) melted unsalted butter
- 454 grams (16 oz) cream cheese room temp
- 100 grams (½ cup) granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs room temp
- 1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 16 grams (2 Tbsp) all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 250 ml (1 cup) heavy cream
- Line 3-inch deep 6-inch round cake pan with removable bottom with 2 layers of parchment paper, allowing paper to extend about 2-inches above cake pan rim. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- In a medium bowl, stir together ground vanilla wafer cookie (or ground graham crackers), salt, and melted butter until mixture is well moistened.
- Transfer to prepared cake pan. Press into an even layer into the bottom of the pan. Use a tamper or flat bottom of a drinking glass (or measuring cup) to compact and smooth out the crust. Set aside while you prepare filling.
- Place cream cheese and sugar in a food processor fitted with blade attachment. Process until mixture is smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
- Add in vanilla. With the processor running, add eggs one at a time, ensuring each egg is incorporated before adding the next. Stop processor. Scrape down sides of bowl.
- In a small bowl, stir together flour, salt, and about ¼ cup of cream until paste forms. Slowly add remaining cream, a little at a time, until mixture is smooth and there are no lumps of flour.
- Transfer flour mixture to food processor. Add any remaining cream to food processor bowl. Run food processor for another 30 seconds until mixture is smooth and well incorporated.
- Pour mixture into prepared cake pan on top of crust. Use a mini offset spatula or the back of a spoon to spread filling into an even layer.
- Place filled cake pan on a baking sheet to catch any spills during baking. Place in center of preheated oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes until top is browned yet center is stilly jiggly. Remove from oven and cool in pan.
- Let cheesecake cool to room temperature before serving. Unmold cheesecake from pan. Enjoy at room temperature or chill overnight.*
- *See blog post regarding desired cheesecake texture- either soft silky custard or firm creamy.
- Reduce salt amount by half if using table salt.
- Store leftover cheesecake in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Alternatively, tightly cover with plastic wrap.