Explainers

Mat Lindsay’s guide to making a Basque cheesecake

A smoky-sweet cake with a tell-tale scorched top. The Ester chef shows how it's done.
John Paul Urizar

Hailing from the north of Spain, Basque cheesecake is the perfectly imperfect dessert with a tell-tale burnt exterior. Credited to chef Santiago Rivera, his creamy creation made its début in 1990. There’s a pillowy centre hiding underneath a scorched top, no pastry crust, and a smokiness that offsets the cake’s sweetness. It’s hard to believe that such complexity in texture and flavour is the result of just a few simple ingredients.

Where Ester’s Mat Lindsay uses the flames of his wood-fired oven to bake his blackened version, you can recreate it at home by baking in a domestic oven at a high temperature.

Words by Grace Mackenzie, recipe by Mat Lindsay

Ingredients

  • 1kg cream cheese, at room temperature

  • 500 ml pouring cream

  • 270 gm caster sugar

  • 1 tsp fine salt

  • 20 gm plain flour, sifted

  • 20 gm cornflour, sifted

  • 2 egg yolks

  • 5 whole eggs (about 60gm each), at room temperature

Temperature matters

Bring ingredients to room temperature before mixing for a silky texture without incorporating air. The first high-temperature cooking stage will develop a deeply caramelised top, while the lower one is to cook the cake until it has just a slight wobble in the centre, or reaches 68°C on a digital thermometer. If chilled after cooking, bring to room temperature before eating.

How to make a Basque cheesecake, step by step

Step 1 Preheat oven to 240°C fan-forced. Line base and side of a 22cm springform tin with two pieces of baking paper.

To do this, tear off two 30cm x 45cm lengths of baking paper. Place one sheet over the tin, then place the second sheet across the first. Press paper down firmly to cover the base and sides of the tin, then fold the overhanging paper – about 5cm – slightly over the rim.

The creases in the paper will add character to the sides of the cooked cheesecake, while the excess paper on top will prevent the cake from overcooking.

Step 1.

(Photo: John Paul Urizar)

Step 2 Beat cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth. Gradually beat in pouring cream until just combined, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add caster sugar and salt; beat for 2 minutes. Add plain flour, cornflour and 2 egg yolks; beat until incorporated. Add whole eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition, until just combined (3 minutes).

Step 2.

(Photo: John Paul Urizar)

Step 3 Sieve mixture into prepared tin and level. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven until top is deeply caramelised (40-45 minutes). Reduce temperature to 150°C and bake until cheesecake is cooked but has a slight wobble in the centre (15 minutes). Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before slicing.

To serve, ease the baking paper away from the sides of the cheesecake and cut with a hot dry knife, wiping between cuts.

Step 3.

(Photo: John Paul Urizar)

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