A picture of a light and airy burnt basque cheesecake with a slice taken out of it.

What is Burnt Basque Cheesecake?

Burnt basque cheesecake is a specialty dessert from the Basque region of Spain. Unlike New York-style cheesecake, which is pale, dense, and creamy, burnt basque cheesecake comes out super dark and caramelized. In fact, it almost looks burnt—hence its name! But don’t let its torched appearance fool you. This recipe makes a delightfully light cheesecake, with a texture halfway between a light and airy soufflé and creamy cheesecake.

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What does burnt basque cheesecake taste like?

Burnt basque cheesecake tastes like a very light cheesecake. Its texture is much lighter than New York-style cheesecake, with an airy, souffle-like cream cheese-based batter. I like to think of it as the halfway point between super airy and bouncy Japanese cheesecake, and super dense and creamy New York-style cheesecake.

Unlike New York-style cheesecake, burnt basque cheesecake typically doesn’t have a crust. That means that every bite is light and almost mousse-like. And unlike New York-style cheesecake, which has perfectly smooth sides, burnt basque cheesecake has wrinkled sides. This rustic look is thanks to the recipe’s unique technique of baking the batter inside several sheets of parchment paper.

And finally, don’t let its burnt appearance fool you! Despite its heavily blackened look, it doesn’t taste burnt at all. It simply tastes lightly caramelized, with a flavor similar to brown sugar.

Where is burnt basque cheesecake from?

The original burnt basque cheesecake recipe originated from La Viña, a pintxos bar in San Sebastián, Spain. Although their pastry chef invented the recipe in 1990, La Viña continues to serve the popular dessert today (check out all the Instagram photos of it!). You can learn more about the recipe’s origins in this Taste article. The restaurant is very generous and often shares their original recipe with whoever asks for it!

A few years ago, I myself was introduced to burnt basque cheesecake at Urdaneta, a Basque tapas restaurant in Portland, Oregon. Shortly afterwards, burnt basque cheesecake exploded into mainstream consciousness in the United States thanks to this Bon Appetit recipe. Now, because it is so easy to make, it is one of the most popular homemade cheesecake recipes!

Burnt Basque Cheesecake versus “Japanese-Style” Burnt Basque Cheesecake

To develop my own recipe to add to my collection of cheesecake recipes, I studied La Viña’s original recipe and compared it to other popular recipes on the internet. I quickly found that there were two different types of burnt basque cheesecake.

The former is similar to La Viña’s version: large in width (these recipes are typically made in a 9-inch or 10-inch cake pan), shallow in height, with consistent textures throughout each slice. I modeled my burnt basque cheesecake recipe after this version.

The latter varies slightly by being smaller in width (these recipes are typically made in a 6-inch cake pan), and taller in height. Although slices were soufflé-like and set around their edges, their centers were creamy and gooey. It looked a little bit like the cheesecake version of a chocolate lava cake. I noticed that these recipes were more popular in Asian countries—specifically, Japan. You can see a good example of this type of “Japanese-Style” burnt basque cheesecake recipe on Just One Cookbook, or even this “Japanese melty icebox cheesecake” from Lady and Pups.

Is burnt basque cheesecake gluten free?

No, burnt basque cheesecake is NOT gluten free. Most burnt basque cheesecake recipes—including my own—contain either all-purpose flour OR cake flour.

A picture of hands placing a light and airy burnt basque cheesecake on a tabletop.

Why You Should Make The Recipe

Here are all the reasons to make this burnt basque cheesecake recipe:

This burnt basque cheesecake is the easiest cheesecake recipe you’ll ever make.

Real talk: most cheesecakes recipes—Japanese, New York-style, whatever else—are a pain to make. These cheesecakes are known for their pristine appearances with light colors, smooth sides, and even smoother tops. Often times, the recipes instruct you to bake them in water baths, and provide complicated instructions on how to cool them properly. Without these measures, the cheesecakes come out too tough, too dark, and with giant cracks!

But you don’t need to worry about any of that with this burnt basque cheesecake recipe. To get its signature torched appearance, the cheesecake is baked at high heat WITHOUT a water bath. Burnt basque cheesecakes are also known for their craggy sides (thanks to a unique trick of baking the cake in parchment paper), and tops that are higher around the edges and sunken in the center. It’s an incredibly forgiving and easy-to-achieve look!

This burnt basque cheesecake only contains a handful of ingredients.

According to Taste, most burnt basque cheesecake recipes only contain five ingredients: cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and heavy cream. My recipe is similar, but with the additional ingredient of all-purpose flour and kosher salt. And if you’re a frequent baker, it’s likely that you already have everything you need to make my burnt basque cheesecake recipe!

This burnt basque cheesecake is easily customizable.

If you read the paragraph above, you might be wondering about the cheesecake’s lack of flavors like vanilla, lemon, and salt. That’s because the original recipe from La Viña doesn’t use these ingredients! It turns out that Spanish cream cheese is more flavorful and salty than American cream cheese.

That being said, it’s easy to customize this cheesecake with those flavors. Check out the FAQ section below on how to do so! You can also customize the way you serve the cheesecake. Burnt basque cheesecake can be served slightly warmed, at room temperature, or chilled. These different temperatures will affect the taste and texture of the cheesecake somewhat.

A picture of a burnt basque cheesecake unwrapped from its pan.

Ingredients and Substitutions

Now that I’ve convinced you to make this perfectly light and airy burnt basque cheesecake, here’s your shopping list for the recipe:

Shopping List for Burnt Basque Cheesecake Recipe

  • cream cheese
  • granulated sugar
  • large eggs
  • heavy cream
  • all-purpose flour
  • kosher salt

And let’s talk about some key ingredients and any potential substitutions:

Cream Cheese

You need 4 (8-ounce) boxes of cream cheese to make the cheesecake.

Can I use low-fat cream cheese instead of regular cream cheese in this burnt basque cheesecake recipe?

Technically yes, but I don’t recommend it. Using low-fat cream cheese leads to a less flavorful cheesecake.

Heavy Cream

You need 1 ½ cups heavy cream to make the cheesecake.

I don’t have heavy cream. What can I use instead?

In a pinch, you can also use light whipping cream or whole milk. However, I do not recommend using low- or nonfat milk. If you do, it’s likely that the cheesecake won’t set properly. You’ll also likely end up with a less flavorful cheesecake. That being said, I really recommend sourcing heavy cream for the recipe. It makes it so much better!

Can I use a non-dairy alternative for the heavy cream?

Yes! You can substitute the heavy cream out with the same amount of full fat canned coconut milk.

Note that there are many types of coconut milk available in grocery stores. You can buy shelf-stable coconut milk in cans, or perishable coconut milk in cartons in the refrigerated aisle. For baking and cooking, it’s best to stick with canned coconut milk. Canned coconut milk is usually what recipes mean when they call for “coconut milk”. Be sure to shake the coconut milk can well before using in the recipe!

A picture of individual burnt basque cheesecake slices with the entire burnt basque cheesecake in the background.

How To Make Burnt Basque Cheesecake

Here are the basic steps to make burnt basque cheesecake from scratch:

First, prep the oven, pan, and ingredients.

  1. Bring the cream cheese, eggs, and cream to room temperature. (Passive Time: 1 hour)
    For this recipe, it’s especially important to bring the cream cheese, eggs, and cream to room temperature before using in the recipe. Cold ingredients don’t mix together easily, creating a lumpy cheesecake batter prone to cracking.

    I like to set my ingredients out at room temperature an hour or two before making the recipe. However, if you’re pressed for time, check out the Baker’s Tips section below on how to bring the cream cheese, eggs, and cream to room temperature quickly!

  2. Preheat the oven for a long time. (Passive Time: 1 hour)
    Although this isn’t a strict requirement, I like to preheat my oven for an hour before baking the burnt basque cheesecake. I find that doing so ensures that the burnt basque cheesecake comes out evenly burnt!

  3. Prep the 9-inch springform cake pan. (Prep Time: 5 minutes)
    Lightly spray a 9-inch springform cake pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with two sheets of parchment paper, making sure that the paper sticks up 2 inches above the sides of the pan. Resist the urge to fold it down! The cheesecake rises past the pan’s sides during the baking process. If you fold down the parchment paper, some batter might spill out of the pan!

    Note that the parchment paper won’t lie flat against the sides of the pan. This is by design, too. In fact, this quality creates the cheesecake’s signature craggy sides!

Next, make the burnt basque cheesecake.

  1. Make the burnt basque cheesecake batter. (Work Time: 10 minutes)
    Once your ingredients, oven, and pan are ready to go, make the burnt basque cheesecake batter. First, beat the cream cheese until soft and creamy. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl after doing so.

    Once the cream cheese is silky smooth, add the sugar, then the eggs, heavy cream, all-purpose flour, and salt. You’ll need to scape down the bottom and sides of the bowl after adding each ingredient since the cream cheese REALLY likes to get stuck at the bottom of the bowl.

  2. Bake the burnt basque cheesecake. (Bake Time: 50 minutes)
    The cheesecake needs around 50 to 55 minutes in the oven. When done, the edges of the cheesecake will be set. However, the center should still wobble slightly. The cheesecake should also have a super torched and burnt appearance to live up to its name!
A picture of individual burnt basque cheesecake slices.

Recipe Troubleshooting and FAQ

FAQ: Serving Burnt Basque Cheesecake

How To Serve Burnt Basque Cheesecake

Burnt basque cheesecake can be served slightly warm, at room temperature, or chilled from the refrigerator. It’s really up to you! My personal preference is to serve mine at room temperature—that way, you can really taste how distinct this cheesecake is compared to its Japanese and New York-style counterparts!

To serve, unlatch the springform pan and lift the sides of the pan away from the bottom of the pan. Use a hot knife to slice and serve—learn more in the Baker’s Tips below!

Do you eat burnt basque cheesecake cold?

You can! But if you want to be traditional, I recommend serving it at room temperature. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the folks at La Viña serve their slices at room temperature or slightly warm, with a glass of sherry on the side.

What’s the serving size of this burnt basque cheesecake recipe?

This burnt basque cheesecake recipe makes a 9-inch cheesecake. A 9-inch cheesecake is typically sliced into 12 even slices, making it perfect for 12 people. However, you can slice the cheesecake more thinly and create 16 even slices.

FAQ: Baking Equipment To Make Burnt Basque Cheesecake

Baking Equipment To Make Burnt Basque Cheesecake

In addition to standard equipment like a stand mixer and rubber spatula, you need the following equipment to make this recipe:

  • parchment paper (enough for 2 large sheets)
  • a 9-inch springform cake pan

Its cooking method is baked—you bake the cheesecake in the oven without a water bath.

Do I really need to line my pan with parchment paper? Can I make burnt basque cheesecake without parchment paper?

Technically yes, but I don’t recommend it. Why? Although some burnt basque cheesecake recipes instruct you to bake without the parchment paper, I don’t recommend skipping it for my recipe.

Without the parchment paper, there’s a chance that the cheesecake batter can seep out of the springform pan since there’s no crust to “seal” it in. I’ve also found that this recipe tends to get overly burnt (leading to odd textures at the bottom and sides of the cheesecake) without the parchment paper. So for best results, use parchment paper!

Help! I don’t have a 9-inch springform pan. What can I use instead?

In a pinch, you can use a regular 9-inch cake pan. For best results, I recommend using a 9-inch cake pan with at least 3 inch tall sides. Possibly even 4 inches. Because without those tall sides, the cheesecake batter might overflow out of the pan and into the bottom of your oven as it bakes!

That being said, you can get away with a 9-inch pan with 2 inch tall sides. Simply line the pan with parchment paper—however, instead of making sure that the parchment paper goes 2 inches above the pan’s sides, make them taller! I recommend a height of at least 4 inches or so.

But please listen when I warn you: the parchment paper does NOT make up for the fact that your cake pan has short sides. Because this is a hack, I cannot guarantee that the batter won’t overflow. I would place the cheesecake on a sheet pan as it bakes to catch any potential overflow.

FAQ: Customizing Burnt Basque Cheesecake

Can I add pure vanilla extract to this burnt basque cheesecake recipe?

Absolutely! If you love the taste of vanilla in cheesecakes, I recommend adding 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract to the cheesecake batter. Add the extract right after adding the heavy cream.

Can I add lemon to this burnt basque cheesecake recipe?

Absolutely! I would add lemon in two ways.

First, I would use fresh lemon zest and add it the same time I instruct you to add the sugar to the cream cheese.

I would also add 1 Tablespoon of freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice OR 2 teaspoons lemon extract OR 2 teaspoons lemon oil. I recommend the lemon oil—that’s what will give you the most intense lemon flavor. Add the juice/extract/oil after adding the heavy cream.

FAQ: Burnt Basque Cheesecake Recipe Results

Help! My burnt basque cheesecake didn’t brown as much as yours. What did I do wrong?

In the section on “How To Make Burnt Basque Cheesecake” above, I recommend preheating the oven for at least 1 hour before baking. Although you can get away without this long preheat time (that’s why the recipe doesn’t explicitly instruct you to do so), you may need it if you have an large, older, or generally unreliable oven with hot spots. The longer preheat guarantees the signature burnt look of the cheesecake.

Although it may be tempting to crank up the heat in the last few minutes of baking to get the burnt look, I don’t recommend it. Doing so puts you at risk for overcooking your cheesecake, leading to a curdled, lumpy batter!

Help! My burnt basque cheesecake cracked. What did I do wrong?

Incorporating too much air into cheesecake batter also causes cracks in the cheesecake. If using a KitchenAid stand mixer, only mix the cheesecake batter on speed “2” or lower after adding the eggs to the batter. Doing so prevents overbeating and/or overmixing the cheesecake batter.

Help! My burnt basque cheesecake has weird white lumps in it. What did I do wrong?

The white lumps are typically small lumps of cream cheese that didn’t mix properly with the rest of the ingredients. To prevent them, make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature. Check out the Baker’s Tips below for my best tricks to bring cream cheese, eggs, and cream to room temperature quickly! And by room temperature, I mean between 65° and 70°F—so if it’s a cold winter’s day, you may need to go even warmer than room temperature!

Additionally, you’ll need to scrape down the bottom and sides of your bowl a LOT when making the cheesecake batter. The cream cheese has a tendency to clump in the bottom of the bowl. If you pour these clumps into the pan, they’ll show up as the white lumps in your baked cheesecake. So make sure you are scraping the bottom and sides of the mixer bowl repeatedly as you make the batter! Don’t forget to scrape down your paddle attachment, too.

Help! My burnt basque cheesecake tastes lumpy and has the texture of cottage cheese. What did I do wrong?

Uh-oh! An oddly textured cheesecake usually means one thing: you’ve overbaked the cheesecake. As a result, its filling has curdled. It’s better to pull out the cheesecake before its done-done. Its center should wobble and jiggle ever-so-slightly when gently shaken.

FAQ: Storing Burnt Basque Cheesecake

How To Store Burnt Basque Cheesecake

The burnt basque cheesecake can be kept at room temperature, under a cake dome or a large bowl turned upside down, for 1 day. After that, place any leftover slices in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Can you freeze burnt basque cheesecake?

Yes! 

You can freeze in the following ways:

Option 1: Freeze the whole cheesecake.

Cool the baked cheesecake in its pan completely on a wire rack. Unlatch the springform pan and lift the sides of the pan away from the bottom of the pan. Place the cheesecake on a plate, uncovered, and freeze until solid, 1 to 2 hours.

Once solid, tightly wrap the cheesecake in two layers of plastic wrap. If storing long term (that is, for longer than 1 month), wrap in a layer of aluminum foil. The aluminum foil helps prevent the cake from absorbing flavors and odors in the freezer. Freeze for up to 6 months.

When ready to serve, transfer the cheesecake to the refrigerator to thaw overnight. Before serving, unwrap the cheesecake and thaw at room temperature for 30 minutes before slicing.

Option 2: Freeze individual slices of the cheesecake.

Tightly wrap any leftover slices of cheesecake in two layers of plastic wrap. Freeze for up to 3 months. Follow the instructions above to thaw and enjoy!

Best Recipe Tips

Best Ingredient Tips

  • Make sure that all your ingredients are at the temperatures specified in the recipe before starting any of its steps. Cold ingredients don’t mix together easily, creating a lumpy cheesecake batter prone to cracking.

  • To bring cream cheese to room temperature quickly, slice the cream cheese into 1- to 2-inch cubes. Place the cream cheese cubes in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 10- to 15-second intervals until the cubes have softened. It should take around 1 minute or so. Perfectly softened cream cheese should still be slightly cool to the touch. If you want to be technical about it, use a digital thermometer— a thermometer inserted into the center of a cream cheese cube should read between 65° and 70°F.

  • To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, fill a small bowl with warm water. The temperature of the water should feel like a warm bath (one that’s not too hot—you don’t want to accidentally boil the eggs!). Carefully place the eggs in the water and let them sit for 5 to 10 minutes. I like to do this at the beginning of prepping my ingredients since the eggs will be at room temperature right when I finish prepping and measuring everything out.

  • To bring cream to room temperature quickly, pour the amount needed for the recipe into a microwave-safe liquid measuring cup like these ones by Pyrex. Heat at 10- to 15-second intervals until the cream has warmed to room temperature. Be careful not to heat unattended for longer periods—when warmed, cream has a tendency to foam up and out of its container!

Best Technique Tips

  • To make the cheesecake, you need to line the springform pan with 2 large sheets of parchment paper. Press the parchment down into the bottom of the pan, making sure that it sticks up at least 2 inches taller than the pan’s sides. That’s because the cheesecake will rise significantly over the pan’s sides as it bakes. The parchment paper prevents the cheesecake from overflowing out of the pan! Don’t fold the parchment over the pan; it won’t be able to catch this rising batter if you do. Note that the parchment paper won’t lie flat against the sides of the pan. This is by design, too. In fact, this quality creates the burnt basque cheesecake’s cheesecake’s signature craggy sides!

  • If your burnt basque cheesecake doesn’t look “burnt” enough after the recommended Bake Time of 50 to 55 minutes, try broiling it! Right after baking, broil the cheesecake for 1 to 2 minutes to toast its top. Just watch it carefully—you don’t want to overdo it!

Best Serving Tips

  • To get straight edges and smooth sides when you slice the cheesecake, use a hot serrated knife. Fill a tall, heatproof glass with VERY hot water. Place the blade of the serrated knife in the water for 20 seconds. Use a kitchen towel to dry the knife. Use it to slice the cheesecake, dipping the knife into the water and drying it ever so often, especially if the filling starts sticking to the blade.

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Get the Recipe: Perfectly Light and Airy Burnt Basque Cheesecake Recipe

This post will teach you how to make perfectly light and airy burnt basque cheesecake. This detailed guide is full of tips, tricks, and FAQs to help you succeed at making this lighter-than-New-York-style cheesecake. The best part? The recipe doesn't require a water bath; it really is one of the easiest cheesecake recipes you'll ever make!
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Ingredients

For the Burnt Basque Cheesecake

  • 4 (8-ounce) boxes cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups (10.5 ounces or 298 grams) granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups (12 ounces or 340 grams) heavy cream, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup (1.15 ounces or 33 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Equipment

  • a 9-inch springform pan OR a 9-inch pan with at least 3 inch tall sides
  • parchment paper

Instructions
 

For the Burnt Basque Cheesecake

  • Prep your oven and pan. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Lightly spray a 9-inch springform cake pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with two sheets of parchment paper, making sure that the paper sticks up 2 inches above the sides of the pan. The parchment paper won't lie flat—that's totally okay, I promise!
  • Beat the cream cheese and sugar. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium until soft and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce the mixer to low and add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary.
  • Add the eggs and the cream. With the mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time, adding the next egg only after the previous one has been fully incorporated, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition. Slowly pour the cream down the side of the bowl and beat until combined, about 1 minute.
  • Add the flour and salt. With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour and salt and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl once more, and beat on low for an additional 30 seconds.
  • Prep for baking. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Pick up the pan and whack it a few times on your kitchen counter to allow the batter to fill the the pan more evenly.
  • Bake the cheesecake. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the edges of the cheesecake are set but the center still wobbles slightly. Cool completely in its pan on a wire rack before slicing.
  • Serve and store. To serve, unlatch the springform pan and lift the sides of the pan away from the bottom of the pan. Use a hot knife to slice and serve. Serve slightly warm, at room temperature, or chilled from the refrigerator. The burnt basque cheesecake can be kept at room temperature, under a cake dome or a large bowl turned upside down, for 1 day. After that, place any leftover slices in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Notes

  • Make sure that all your ingredients are at the temperatures specified in the recipe before starting any of its steps. Cold ingredients don’t mix together easily, creating a lumpy cheesecake batter prone to cracking.
  • To make the cheesecake, you need to line the springform pan with 2 large sheets of parchment paper. Press the parchment down into the bottom of the pan, making sure that it sticks up at least 2 inches taller than the pan’s sides. That’s because the cheesecake will rise significantly over the pan’s sides as it bakes. The parchment paper prevents the cheesecake from overflowing out of the pan! Don’t fold the parchment over the pan; it won’t be able to catch this rising batter if you do. Note that the parchment paper won’t lie flat against the sides of the pan. This is by design, too. In fact, this quality creates the burnt basque cheesecake’s cheesecake’s signature craggy sides!
  • If your burnt basque cheesecake doesn’t look “burnt” enough after the recommended Bake Time of 50 to 55 minutes, try broiling it! Right after baking, broil the cheesecake for 1 to 2 minutes to toast its top. Just watch it carefully—you don’t want to overdo it!
  • To get straight edges and smooth sides when you slice the cheesecake, use a hot serrated knife. Fill a tall, heatproof glass with VERY hot water. Place the blade of the serrated knife in the water for 20 seconds. Use a kitchen towel to dry the knife. Use it to slice the cheesecake, dipping the knife into the water and drying it ever so often, especially if the filling starts sticking to the blade.
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Weeknight Baking:
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