Basque cheesecake is a rule breaker. It’s silky, eggy, sunken in the center, and proudly burnt. This funky-looking cheesecake has a rich caramelized crust that boasts a browned butter-like flavor.
This cheesecake recipe is also foolproof. Rather than a delicate water bath, it’s baked in a nifty parchment paper-lined pan at a super high temperature. The result is its signature rustic look. Plus, no need for graham cracker crumbs here—in fact, it doesn’t even have a base crust!
Basque cheesecake is one of the speediest and easiest desserts to whip up. It does benefit from a night chilling in the refrigerator, so plan to spread the project over two days.
The Origins of Basque Cheesecake
Basque cheesecake originates from a tiny restaurant in San Sebastián called La Viña. San Sebastián is in northwestern Spain, on the coast of Bay of Biscay, called Basque. Both the town and the restaurant are known for savory pintxos, skewers of olives, cheeses, anchovies, and other regional foods.
When Chef Santiago Rivera took over the restaurant founded by his parents, aunt, and uncle, he thought the menu could use something sweet. The kitchen was small and the appliances were few, so the recipe had to rely on pantry ingredients, a fast prep, and hands off cooking time. Chef Rivera’s cheesecake was burnished and caramelized, a compliment to the tangy cream cheese. Genius and forgiving, that’s how this famous cheesecake was born.
The Key Ingredients for Basque Cheesecake
I kept the ingredients as traditional as possible. Here is what you will need:
- Don’t use anything fancy here. Stick with blocks of regular cream cheese. They will give you the best texture and flavor. In Spain, they simply refer to it as “Philadelphia.” Low-fat or fat-free cream cheese have a higher moisture content, so you will need to add more flour to soak it up. The cheesecake won’t be as creamy as it’s supposed to be.
- This recipe calls for large eggs, which weigh about 2 ounces each. If all you have are jumbo or medium eggs, you’ll need 10 ounces. While it is fun and sort of relaxing to beat in the eggs, resist the urge to over mix the batter once you add the eggs. It will incorporate too much air into the batter, causing it to rise too high, overflow, and make a burnt mess in your oven.
- Granulated sugar guarantees that stark golden crust on the top and bottom.
- This recipe calls for a small amount of all-purpose flour to help bind the batter and give it a bit more structure.
- The heavy cream will help keep the cheesecake airy-light and creamy.
- Although not traditional, vanilla brings out the sweetness of the sugar and boosts the tanginess of the cream cheese.
Key to Success: Room Temperature Ingredients
It is important for the ingredients to be at room temperature. The batter will combine more easily and it’ll be smoother, without lumps of cream cheese. Cold ingredients will make the cream cheese seize, resulting in a dense and lumpy cheesecake.
I often forget to take things out of the fridge in advance. Avoid waiting what feels like FOREVER to bring the ingredients to room temperature by following these smart shortcuts:
- Eggs: Fill a bowl with hot tap water, add the eggs, and let them sit for 10 to 15 minutes until they feel warm to the touch.
- Cream cheese: Carefully pour boiling water into a large heatproof bowl. Let it heat the bowl for 5 minutes. Place the unwrapped cream cheese on a plate surface. Discard the water and flip the hot bowl over the cream cheese to cover it, making sure no air gets in. Let it sit for about 15 minutes.
- Heavy cream: Microwave the heavy cream in a heatproof bowl in 10 to 15 second intervals, stirring between each one, until it comes to room temperature. It should not feel hot.
Line the Pan Like a Pro
A springform pan is best because it is the easiest way to remove the cheesecake from the pan. You can use a round cake pan—make sure the sides are at least 3 inches tall.
Line the pan with parchment paper, which should come 2 inches above the top of the pan. This keeps the batter from spilling out—the cheesecake rises quickly.
Start by spraying the pan with nonstick cooking spray. This will act as the glue for the parchment paper to stay in place. Line the bottom and sides with two 13 x 18-inch pieces. Perfectionists beware: The parchment paper will not be smooth. It will have a lot of creases and folds—exactly what you want to create the iconic crinkly look of Basque cheesecake.
A properly baked Basque cheesecake has almost burnt, golden brown top and edges. The edges are firm and set, but the center jiggles when pulled from the oven—it will firm up once chilled.
Something doesn’t look quite right? Here are two troubleshooting tips:
- Oh no! It’s SO dark. Dark is what we’re going for here. The tops and sides will look burnt. If you fear that it’s getting too dark too quickly, place some foil on top.
- Eek! It isn’t “burnt.” Our ovens are different, and hot and cold spots are common, especially in older ovens. But this is the cheesecake that is hard to mess up, remember? It’s okay if it’s not evenly dark. If your cheesecake is cooked through but you’d like darker, place it under the broiler for about 1 minute. It’s important that the oven rack is far enough away from the broiler so the parchment paper doesn’t catch on fire. Don’t walk away! Keep a close eye on it so that it doesn’t char or overcook.
Cheesecake can be frozen! Here is how.
Imperfectly Perfect Slices
For clean slices that look smooth and to keep the cheesecake from sticking to the knife, use a hot serrated knife. Carefully dunk the blade into very hot water for 20 seconds and use a clean dish towel to dry it between slices.
Our Favorite Cheesecake Recipes
- Banoffee Cheesecake
- Triple Chocolate Cheesecake
- Lemon Cheesecake
- Crème Brûlée Cheesecake
- Pumpkin Cheesecake
The cheesecake takes about 1 hour to prepare and bake. It will need to chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours before serving, so plan accordingly.
Special equipment: 10 x 3-inch round springform pan or cake pan, parchment paper
Nonstick cooking spray, for the pan
2 pounds (904g) cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups (400g) plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1/4 cup (34g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 large eggs, at room temperature
Preheat the oven and line the pan:
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 450°F.
Lightly spray a 10 x 3-inch round springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the pan with 2 overlapping sheets of parchment paper, each about 13 x 18 inches. Make sure they go up least 2 inches above the top of the pan all the way around. There will be lots of crinkles and creases and that is okay.
Make the batter:
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the cream cheese, sugar, heavy cream, flour, vanilla, and salt. Beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until smooth, airy, and fluffy.
Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed to make sure the cream cheese is fully incorporated and to reduce any lumps.
Add the eggs:
With the mixer running on medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, until just combined, about 1 minute after each addition. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Resist the urge to overmix the batter. You’ll incorporate too much air.
Bake and cool:
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Evenly sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar on top. Place the pan on a large baking sheet. Bake until the top is a deep golden brown and still jiggly in the center, 45 to 50 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if your cheesecake is cracked—it is supposed to crack and look burnt.
Let it cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Loosely cover it with a clean dish towel and refrigerate until completely cool, no longer jiggly, and sunken, at least 6 hours.
Slice and serve:
Unclasp and remove the springform rim and peel the parchment paper down from the sides. Slice the cheesecake and serve cold or at room temperature.
Basque cheesecake can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or foil before doing so.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 10 to 12|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 61g||78%|
|Saturated Fat 36g||178%|
|Total Carbohydrate 46g||17%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
|Total Sugars 41g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||1%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|