Most cheesecake recipes yield the same results: a layer of cream cheese-based cake on top of a graham cracker crust. I don’t dislike the dessert, but it does get a little old after a while; so I decided to try turning this ordinary sweet treat into something more spectacular. Usually, when you revamp a recipe, you add more ingredients. But in this case, taking away ingredients proved just the ticket. Enter Basque cheesecake, a crustless cake that’s burnt on top; removing the crust and allowing it to char might sound like a recipe for disaster — but it’s the best cheesecake I’ve ever made. Here’s the backstory on this unique dessert, plus my experience recreating it at home.
The Origins of Basque Cheesecake
This dessert can be traced back to 1990, the year when it was developed by chef Santiago Rivera of La Viña restaurant in Spain. Inspired by Basque cuisine, the crustless cheesecake has a deeply brown exterior and light-colored interior. When Basque cheesecake was invented, its intentionally burnt appearance made it look (and taste) like one of a kind. The dessert’s sweet and creamy flavors are meant to complement its toasty shell.
Over the years, the cheesecake gained popularity and earned a permanent spot on La Viña’s menu under its Spanish name “Tarta de Queso”. Stateside, Basque cheesecake began cropping up on dessert menus at restaurants, including the popular chain Cheesecake Factory. If you’re unable to find a pre-made version of this cheesecake anywhere, don’t worry — making one is very easy.
How To Make Basque Burnt Cheesecake
Chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph’s recipe for Basque cheesecake requires six ingredients and no water bath during baking (which is typically used to thoroughly cook the cake’s center). The result is a smooth-textured cheesecake that doesn’t need a crust in order to shine. Here’s how to recreate this delectable dessert at home.
- 36 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 ⅔ cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 6 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Active: 20 mins
- Total time: 1 hrs 20 mins
- Servings: 12 to 14
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 10-inch springform pan with 2 large pieces of parchment paper so they overlap in middle, pressing and creasing to fit snugly in pan and leaving at least 2 inches of overhang around all edges. Set aside.
- Combine cream cheese and sugar in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Begin beating on low speed and gradually increase speed to high, beating until mixture is smooth and creamy, 4 to 6 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl as needed. Whisk together heavy whipping cream and flour in a medium bowl until mostly smooth; add to cream cheese mixture. Beat on low just until incorporated. Add eggs and egg yolk, individually, beating on medium-low speed until combined after each addition. Add vanilla extract, and beat on low speed until blended. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
- Bake in preheated oven until top is dark brown and center is still very jiggly, 30 minutes or more depending on your oven. Transfer to wire rack to cool to room temperature, about 3 hours. Chill, uncovered, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.
- When ready to serve, remove sides of pan, and carefully peel back parchment paper. Let stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours before serving. (Note: Cheesecake can be refrigerated uncovered up to 3 days.)
My Taste Test
Burnt foods are often associated with having a bitter taste — but this cheesecake was definitely not bitter. In fact, it had a nice toasted caramel flavor to balance its sweetness and tanginess. The cake is rich, so I didn’t need to eat a huge slice in order to satisfy my sweet tooth. Serving this dessert plain allowed me to savor the flavors in all of their glory — but next time, I’ll probably pair the cheesecake with in-season berries that’ll provide it with a fresh and fruity kick.
Ultimately, Basque burnt cheesecake tops any other cheesecake I’ve made or tried. It’s easy to prepare and more than worth the hours-long wait before you can dig in — my kind of dessert!