Tips for a perfect Basque Cheesecake
The most popular cheesecake of the moment is the Basque Cheesecake, one of the most popular cheesecakes in the pastry world. The social networks are full of lovers of what was originally called “La Viña” cheesecake. Under hashtags such as #basquecheesecake or #sansebastiancheesecake, numerous confectioners and bakeries around the world have imitated the famous Burnt cheesecake. Its rise to the Olympus of cheesecakes has been unstoppable and even in the New York Time, the prestigious food journalist Kim Severson, Pulitzer Prize 2018, called it the best flavour of 2021.
With just 5 ingredients, one of the reasons for the success of the Basque cheesecake is its voluptuous and tempting image: it is taller than other cheesecakes, very creamy on the inside and burnt on the outside. This last characteristic has given it the nickname of Burnt Basque Cheesecake.
In this article we will reveal the keys to a perfect Burnt Basque Cheesecake, review its origin and discover the best secrets about how to make the best Basque Cheesecake. We will also learn how to make the San Sebastian Cheesecake recipe and discover delicious variations and adaptations of the original recipe of this famous Cheesecake.
What is a Basque Cheesecake
A Basque Cheesecake is a baked cheesecake with few ingredients and an easy recipe.
The distinctiveness of the Burnt Basque Cheesecake is its simplicity. The list of ingredients of the Basque Cheesecake is short and simple as we will see below. It is a baked cake like the New York Cheesecake, but one of the distinctive features is that it does not have a biscuit base. Unlike other cheesecakes, there is no butter among its ingredients and it is not presented with the typical topping of jam or fruit that characterises the more classic cheesecakes. The ingredients are all mixed together at the same time, and the cake is baked directly in the oven without a bain-marie as is the case with some other cheesecakes. So what is its secret? The key to a perfect Basque Cheesecake is the way it is made.
The truth is that every detail counts to achieve the perfect Basque Cheesecake, soft and creamy on the inside and toasted on the outside. One of the key factors is the perfect baking temperature and baking time, or perhaps we could say, insufficient baking time.
The Basque Cheesecake should be taken out of the oven when it is not yet completely set inside to ensure a soft, almost fluid texture. Quite the opposite of the denser texture of the American cheesecakes that until now dominated the baked cheesecake world.
Unlike a conventional baked cheesecake, the outside of the Basque Cheesecake has to be very toasted. The beauty of the Burnt Basque Cheesecake lies not in the flawless, uncracked appearance of a conventional cheesecake, but in its imperfect, almost burnt surface. This step is what gives it that extra flavour, the slightly caramelised finish that is one of the main reasons why this cheesecake is so popular. This cheesecake, at high temperature, puffs up in the oven and then deflates to create that lovely caramelised surface.
The origin of the Basque Cheesecake
But where did the story of the famous Tarta de la Viña really begin?
The Burnt Basque Cheesecake originated in the city of San Sebastian in the region of the Basque Country in northern Spain. Its origins go back almost 30 years to the oven of the restaurant “La Viña”, a restaurant in the old quarter of the city located on the famous 31 de Agosto street. Open since 1959, this restaurant is appreciated for its traditional gastronomic offer of pintxos and classic dishes of the Basque cuisine. In recent years it has become world famous for its original cheesecake and people from all over the world make a pilgrimage to San Sebastian to try it.
Thanks to the undeniable gastronomic interest in Donosti, the influx of foreign journalists to San Sebastian, and with the help of the Internet and social media, the Burnt Basque Cheesecake has broken into many of the world’s most famous cheesecake rankings. Its fame has crossed borders to Japan, China, South Korea, the United States, Australia and even Turkey. In all these countries a surprising number of establishments and pastry chefs have wanted to imitate this recipe and it has already become the flagship of their business. Today we can find “La Viña” Cheesecakes, Basque Cheesecakes, or Burnt Cheesecakes all over the world.
The keys on how to prepare the perfect Basque Cheesecake
As we have already seen, this Cheesecake has not a long list of ingredients, as is the case with other cheesecake recipes. Its recipe is also available to everyone in hundreds of publications in many languages, both online and in baking books. So why does it still being so difficul for many professional and amateur bakers? Although the personal touch of the chef or pastry chef always plays a role, we have already said that the secret of how to make a perfect Basque Cheesecake lies in the preparation process.
Now we will go over all the key points on how to make the perfect Basque Cheesecake.
- The quality of the ingredients in the Basque Cheesecake
The quality of the ingredients we use to make any cheescake is fundamental, but in recipes where there are few ingredients, the ingredients need to be of the highest quality. There are no added flavourings such as vanilla or other spices to hide the flavour, so we need premium quality ingredients to ensure we get the texture and doneness we need.
Starting with the cream cheese, much more than a spreadable cheese. It is the main ingredient in the preparation of any cheesecake and has reached its peak of popularity, becoming one of its essential ingredients. Depending on the kind of cheesecake we want, there will be a more appropriate cheese for each case, but in all cases choosing a quality cream cheese will be essential to make the perfect cheesecake with a smooth, creamy texture. We will always look for cream cheeses that perform well in baked cheesecakes, as well as having a good flavour and a high organoleptic quality.
Another of the key ingredients that contribute to the creaminess of the perfect “La Viña” cheesecake is the use of a cream with a high fat content. For professional chefs and pastry chefs, it is common to find creams or whipped creams on the Horeca market with a high percentage of fat, above 35.1% and even up to 38%. If you are a non-professional user, you should never go below 35%, which is the whipping cream you can usually find in any supermarket.
As an additional but no less important fact, all the ingredients must be tempered before starting the process of preparing our Basque Cheesecake.
- Do not whip the Basque Cheesecake batter too much.
It is important to respect not only the measurements of the ingredients but also the mixing times. Excessive whipping of the ingredients would lead to the introduction of too much air and would favour the appearance of cracks during baking.
- The type and time of baking makes the difference in a Basque Cheesecake
The way we bake our Burnt Basque Cheesecake will be what makes it different from other baked cheesecakes. The bain-marie method, which is so suitable for other cheesecakes, is not recommended here. We don’t want a homogeneous baking, but the opposite. And instead of using long cooking times at medium temperature, we will use a high temperature in less time so that the outside of the cheesecake caramelises and the inside remains soft and creamy.
This burning process is the one that causes the most misgivings among bakers and pastry chefs who are used to making cheesecakes with a more classic execution, such as the New York Cheesecake or the fluffy Japanese cheesecake. When we first think about preparing a Basque cheesecake, the usual is to think that when the surface is burnt, the taste will be bitter and smoky. But quite the opposite and surprisingly, this part of the baking process brings out a sweet caramelised flavour that is delicious and perfect!
Also make sure the oven is at the right temperature before putting the cheesecake in (you can use a special oven thermometer to be more precise). Bake straight through for 20 minutes. At this point in the baking time, it is time to switch to the grill function and bake for a further 5 minutes to achieve the characteristic caramelisation of the Burnt Basque Cheesecake. Once baked, it is important to leave the cake in the oven turned off and with the door closed for another 5 minutes. Be careful not to exceed the appropriate baking time, depending on the size and power of the oven, as this would result in a dry and grainy texture, totally the opposite of the liquid core effect.
- The important chilling process of the Basque Cheesecake
This is another key point that will guarantee a perfect Basque Cheesecake. Once the entire baking time is over, we must leave it to temper in the oven with the door open. From there we move it to the fridge and keep it cold for at least 4-6 hours.
Don’t forget, however, that once this cooling process is complete and when the cheesecake is ready to be eaten, it should be taken out of the fridge in advance (1 or 2 hours beforehand), to temper and serve at room temperature. It is important to highlight that if we serve it cold, we would lose the creamy and almost liquid inside that makes it so famous.
This whole process and temperature game will guarantee a high creaminess of our cheesecake. This step will also allow us to make the cleanest cuts possible (as far as such a creamy texture allows) to serve to the customers in the restaurant.
- Be gentle with your Basque Cheesecake
The Burnt Basque Cheesecake looks like a solid and stunning cake, but be careful, the inside is very soft and can break easily. Once unmoulded, place it on a serving plate from which you will cut the different portions. When you proceed to the cold rest after baking, do so with a solid cover on top to avoid scratches or bumps that could spoil its appearance.
- Basque Cheesecake without jam
To fully enjoy the delicious and characteristic flavour of the Burnt Basque Cheesecake, it is better to serve it on its own than with the usual fruit jams or whipped creams that are usual in other types of cheesecake with a more balanced flavour. We want to perceive all the intensity of flavours of our Basque cheesecake, that smooth and creamy flavour of the inside in contrast with its caramelised crust. Therefore, to fully enjoy its essence we strongly advise against any interference that would prevent us from enjoying all the flavours and aromas of a perfectly baked Basque Cheesecake. Although, of course, variations are allowed according to taste.
- Depending on your business the way you serve the Basque Cheesecake will be different
Depending on the type of catering business you will have to consider how to serve our Burnt Basque Cheesecake.
In a restaurant or café it is easy to take the cake out to temper after the cooling process and always serve it at room temperature. It is possible that by the time all the lunch, snack or dinner orders are finished, we will have consumed all the portions of the cheesecake. This will prevent us from generating waste, as this type of cheesecake, once it has reached serving temperature, it is not advisable to chill it again.
However, this may be difficult to do in a sweet shop or pastry shop without table service or in a restaurant that wants to include this cake in its delivery service. If the core is left as creamy as possible, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for the cake portions to retain their structure during transport. The characteristics of the Basque cake make it much more appropriate to sell it in this type of establishment in its whole format without portioning. It would also be advisable to tell customers that if they are not going to serve it immediately, they should keep it cold and temper it before serving it directly.
Otherwise, it would be advisable to move away from the more standard way of serving by curdling it a little more to make it easier to cut into portions and to serve it.
Recipe for the perfect Basque Cheesecake
Once we know the keys on how to make a perfect Basque Cheesecake, it’s time to put all this knowledge into practice. Our culinary team has developed a step-by-step basic Basque Cheesecake recipe. In this recipe you will only need 6 ingredients and a 16 cm diameter round detachable mould. The preparation and baking process will take approximately one hour.
The ingredients for a perfect Burnt Basque Cheesecake of approximately 1 kg with a yield of 8 portions are as follows:
500 gr. of Regular Quescrem
200 gr. of cream 35% M.G.
200 gr. of white sugar
4200 gr. of eggs / 4 eggs.
25 gr. of wheat flour.
Once we have all the ingredients, we move on to the preparation of the perfect Basque Cheesecake.
First of all, we preheat the oven to 225º C. Prepare a 16 cm diameter round mould with baking paper. To line our mould well, we will take a size of baking paper that sufficiently covers the walls of the mould, crumpling it and moistening it in advance. Stretch the paper, dry it and adapt it well to the inside of the mould. Finally, cut out the paper, leaving about 1 cm overhang.
Soften the cream cheese with the paddle attachment of the mixer or a rubber spatula. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix with a turmixer, trying not to get any air in.
Pour the mixture into the mould, leaving a 2 cm margin so that it does not come out when it rises. Bake in the lower part of the oven for 20 minutes. After this time, put the oven on the grill mode and bake for another 5 minutes. After this time, turn the oven off and leave it for 5 minutes with the door closed. Finally, leave the cake to cool in the oven with the door open.
As we mentioned before, it is important to refrigerate the cake for at least 4 to 6 hours before serving it in order to make the cleanest cuts possible, and it should be served at room temperature so that the result is much creamier.
Basque Cheesecake Recipe Versions
The Basque Cheesecake is also suitable for different versions. You can add other cheeses, such as blue cheese or idiazabal, and you can also add other flavours, to make your own version of the most famous Basque cheesecake in the world.
Our culinary team has developed two recipes with very special flavours, one with blue cheese and the other with chocolate. Let’s take a look at the differences in the preparation compared to the original.
Recipe for Burnt Basque Cheesecake with blue cheese
This new version of Basque Cheesecake incorporates a well-balanced touch of blue cheese that will delight lovers of this type of flavour. The recipe is easy to make using the basic Basque Cheesecake recipe above as a reference. To make this delicious version of the Burnt Basque Cheesecake we only need to replace 200 gr. of Regular Quescrem with the same amount of Quescrem Cream Cheese with Blue Cheese and follow exactly the same method of preparation and cooking as in the original recipe. Discover this delicious recipe in the following link.
Recipe for Chocolate Basque Cheesecake
For those who love chocolate, our culinary team has created a version of the classic Basque Cheesecake, adding the unmistakable colour, aroma and flavour of dark chocolate. This recipe maintains the texture and the absence of a biscuit base but differs in its baking method from the original one, as we will not apply the external caramelisation method on the grill mode. To the basic ingredients we will add 120 gr. of melted dark chocolate. You can see all the particularities of this recipe for Basque Chocolate Cheesecake in the following link.
Your ally for a perfect Basque Cheesecake
At Quescrem we produce with the best milk from Galicia, cream cheeses designed by and for professionals that are perfect for making the Burnt Basque Cheesecake. Its creamy texture, lactic flavour, quality ingredients and culinary functionality make Quescrem the best cream cheese for this type of cheesecake.
With our Regular Quescrem, which is ideal for making the San Sebastián Cheesecake due to its creaminess, baking stability and smooth dairy flavour. Our flavoured cream cheeses are also perfect for cheesecake recipes, just replacing part of the Regular Quescrem. This way there are a lot of possibilities.
This is the case of Quescrem with Blue Cheese that we use in the recipe with blue cheese that our culinary team has made for the Basque Cheesecake, and also Quescrem with Goat Cheese Log, which provides a delicious goat cheese log flavour with the advantages of cream cheese (without having to manipulate the cheese, discard the rind, and melt it beforehand in order to use it).
Since our beginnings, at Quescrem we have worked closely with chefs and pastry chefs to design the best recipes using cream cheese and other innovative dairy products. Our culinary team has a wide experience in gastronomy in general and a specialisation in Basque gastronomy. As a result of all this expertise, we have spent several years designing resources around the Burnt Cheesecake, analysing which cream cheeses perform best in the preparation of the Basque Cheesecake, improving the preparation processes and creating recipes inspired by “La Viña” cheesecake adapted to all kind of production facilities, from food industry to artisan pastry.
As we have seen throughout this article, the secret to making the best Burnt Basque Cheesecake does not lie in cooking techniques or sophisticated ingredients. However, despite being an apparently simple cheesecake, any version of the “La Viña” cheesecake that wants to reach perfection requires a know the elaboration technique and the use of high quality ingredients.
If you have any specific needs to start making the Basque Cheesecake, we will be delighted to help you adapt the recipe. Contact us and our panel of chefs and pastry chefs will provide you with the solution for your specific case.