Basque burnt cheesecake is a food trend that is sweeping the nation. Yes, burnt cheesecake. I know what you are thinking: Isn't the point of learning to cook NOT to burn things?! We do try to avoid burning our foods - most of the time!
However, this burnt cheesecake recipe will not only provide you with a creamy, decadent delight, but it will sweep you away to the beautiful Basque country. With cherries steeped in a reduced rioja sauce and drizzled over the top, you will feel like you are in a café in San Sebastián, living your best life.
The Basque Seal Of Approval
Before COVID-19 closed us into our homes for what seems like forever (we are still not 100% open as I write this), my husband and I participated in a monthly Supper Club.
Two of my girlfriends from high school and their husbands would get together with us once a month. We would decide on a theme for our meal and split up the menu. Each couple would provide either a cocktail, entrée/sides, or dessert. It is so fun and we look forward to the day we can reconvene.
One of our friends in our Supper Club is from the Basque country. He grew up in Ibarra/Tolosa in Spain. When I told him I was going to work on a blog about the Basque cheesecake, he was so excited and supportive.
For a few weeks, I researched and tested. Once I finalized the recipe, I packed up half of a cheesecake with a bowl of cherry rioja sauce and delivered it to my friend.
The feedback I received from him was everything I could have wished for and more. He got this nostalgic look in his eyes and told me that the cheesecake brought back many memories from childhood. The cake tasted just like the ones he used to eat in Spain. He also loved the cherry rioja sauce. He said it had just the right amount of sweetness and balance.
So, there you have it! This is a Basque recipe approved by an actual Basque native. You really must try this recipe!
What Is Basque Cheesecake?
Basque cheesecake is a crustless cheesecake that has a rich, caramelized top and a gooey, sweet cheesecake center. It is not like a typical cheesecake. You don't cook it in a bain-marie (water bath). It also has a very creamy texture and its flavor intensifies over time. It is a perfect make-ahead cake!
Basque burnt cheesecake is from the Basque Country, a region that is located in both northeastern Spain and southwestern France. The original Basque cheesecake was created in the 1990's in a little café in San Sebastián, called La Viña. The La Viña cheesecake has taken the world by storm. People from all over the world travel to this café to experience the original La Viña cheesecake.
When I decided to do a riff on the burnt Basque cheesecake, I wanted to be sure to remain authentic to the original recipe. When you do a variation on a classic recipe with simple ingredients, like the Basque cheesecake, you don't want to bog it down with too many different flavor combinations that distract from the beauty of the original recipe. Therefore, I only added a couple of peripheral ingredients (vanilla extract, almond extract, and salt) to the original cake recipe. These ingredients enhance the flavor of the cherry rioja sauce.
What Does Basque Burnt Cheesecake Taste Like?
When I first tasted the cheesecake, warm out of the oven, it reminded me of a custard tart more than a cheesecake. However, it tasted more like cheesecake after being refrigerated overnight.
The top almost takes on the same nuttiness of a brown butter or a dark caramel sauce. If you taste the top alone, it has a slight bitterness to it. However, the bitterness balances with a whole bite.
One thing I adore about this burnt cheesecake recipe is that it isn't super sweet. I sometimes feel like cheesecake tastes like a sugar bomb. The Basque cheesecake is definitely not cloying in any way. I think the brownness of the top helps to balance out the sweetness.
Let's Talk About Cherries And Rioja
Rioja wine and cherries are both popular in Spain, especially in the Basque country. When I was developing the cherry rioja sauce recipe, I considered many options. I thought about making a strawberry/basil/balsamic topping, but decided it would likely read Italian. Next, I considered making it a "Florida-inspired" Basque cheesecake with key limes. Finally, I thought about making a Basque cheesecake with a s'mores twist. But hey, this isn't the Cheesecake Factory (their s'mores cheesecake is amazing, though!).
The trouble is, I wanted the sauce recipe to feel like it was inspired by the beautiful part of the world in which this cheesecake recipe was conceptualized.
The flavors of sweet cherries and dark, fruity rioja will tickle your tastebuds. The acidity is a perfect foil for the thick, creamy cheesecake. When you eat this cake, you will be experiencing Basque in all of its beautiful glory.
Since we are still stuck at home as I write this - why not take a trip to Spain from the comfort of your home? Your family will be so happy to experience the rich culture of Basque country safely. Who knows? You may add it as a destination on your travel bucket list once it is safe to travel abroad again. ¡Salud!
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All of my posts contain my recommendations for essential tools. I have researched these tools. Many of them are already in my kitchen. I do the research so you don’t have to and I only recommend high-quality tools.
If you are just starting to furnish your kitchen with tools or if you are looking to expand your kitchen toolkit, be sure to reference Expert Guide: Equip Your Kitchen for Less Than $200. This guide contains links to all of the equipment items I recommend for a basic kitchen set up.
My essential tools when making this Basque cheesecake recipe include the following:
Basque Burnt Cheesecake with Cherry Rioja Sauce
For the Cheesecake
- 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
- 2 ¼ lbs. cream cheese at room temperature
- 5 large eggs
- 2 cups heavy cream
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- ¼ tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. pure almond extract
For the Cherry Rioja Sauce
- 1 lb. fresh cherries pitted and halved
- 1 cup rioja wine You can use other red wines for this recipe, but rioja is more traditional in Basque culture.
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- ½ tbsp. corn starch
- ⅓ cup hot water
Basque Burnt Cheesecake AKA La Viña Cheesecake - Adapted from Basque Country by Marti Buckley
- Preheat oven to 400°F/200° C. Grease a 10-inch springform pan and line it with parchment paper, leaving 2-3 inches overhanging the top of the pan.
- In a large bowl using a hand mixer or in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the sugar and cream cheese until smooth. Add the salt and mix.
- Incorporate the eggs one at a time and mix until fully incorporated.
- Whisk in the cream, vanilla extract, and almond extract.
- Sift the flour into the mixture and fold it in gently using a spatula.
- Pour the batter into prepared springform pan.
- Bake for 50 minutes, or until it is browned and almost burned-looking on top. The center will still be quite jiggly, but the cake is ready. Remove from the oven and cool.
Cherry Rioja Sauce
- While the cheesecake is baking in the oven, begin the cherry rioja sauce.
- In a saucepan over medium high heat, combine cherries, rioja, sugar, and cinnamon.
- Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce to a simmer over medium low heat. Use a spoon to gently crush some of the cherries.
- In a measuring cup or a bowl, dissolve corn starch into hot water, making a "slurry." Add the slurry to the saucepan.
- Simmer sauce on medium low heat for 15-20 minutes, until it is reduced by about a third. Remove from the heat and cool.
Serve the Cheesecake
- Gently remove the springform and peel the parchment paper away from the cheesecake. Cut slices and serve on a plate with cherry rioja sauce drizzled on top. Enjoy!
This is so delicious! The cherry rioja sauce is perfect with the creaminess of the cheesecake! Magnificent!
Thank you so much! I'm glad you like it! 🙂
Planning on making this recipe for a Xmas gathering. No ripe cherries at this time of year. Would it work to use frozen or dried cherries. Thanks.
Hi Ellen! Great question! I would recommend using thawed, frozen cherries. Their texture will be similar to the texture of fresh cherries. Although dried cherries reconstitute somewhat in liquid, they don't have the same luscious texture as fresh or thawed frozen cherries. Good luck with the recipe - it is one of my favorites to make at the holidays! I would love to hear how it turns out! 🙂