This 6-inch mini basque cheesecake is the perfect small batch dessert for two. Flecked with bits of vanilla bean, its creamy center is so dang delicious!
Hello, hi! This is truly one of the easiest cheesecake recipes, and I'm so excited to share it with you.
History and Origins
Basque burnt cheesecake is a popular dessert originally developed by the restaurant La Viña in San Sebastián in the Basque region of Spain. It's likely gained popularity for two reasons: (1) it's absolutely delicious and (2) it breaks all of the rules of a traditional cheesecake.
Chef Santiago Rivera, the creator of this creamy cheesecake, shared his recipe publicly. While it features just a few simple ingredients, a lot comes down to technique and knowing your oven.
- Visually, the cheesecake has a burnished caramelized top, a self-formed crust if you will.
- Texturally, it has a luxuriously smooth interior. The center of the cake has an oozing, brie-like texture. As you move from the center of the cake outward, the texture becomes firmer, while still remaining creamy.
- Flavorwise, it's light and slightly tangy from the cream cheese, and the outer "crust" has a caramelized taste.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- A mini version of this delicious cheesecake is small enough to enjoy for a small dinner party or special date night.
- I conducted extensive recipe tests playing around with oven temperature, ingredient ratios, and batter technique to make this easy and as close to the original as possible.
- A short bake and a high oven temperature yield a burnished exterior with a creamy texture.
Recipe Development Process
Traditional Method vs. Mini Cheesecake
A traditional basque cheesecake is made in a 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan with a height of about 3 inches. Because of its height and volume of batter, it typically requires closer to an hour of baking at a temperature between 400°F and 450°F. For example, when I developed a large pumpkin basque cheesecake, I found it took between 45 and 55 minutes at 425°F.
The benefit of making the full-sized cheesecake is that a larger height to width ratio leads to more uneven heat distribution. With a basque cheesecake, this is ideal because the outside cooks more quickly (leading to a burnt top), while the inside takes longer to cook through (leading to a creamy center).
How to Achieve The Perfect Texture
With a mini cheesecake in a 6-inch x 2-inch cake pan, you're dealing with significantly less batter and a shorter cake that bakes very quickly.
And, because it has a smaller height (2 inches tall) to width (6-inches) ratio, it's likely to cook more evenly. As a result, I developed the following techniques to promote faster browning of the exterior without overcooking the middle.
- Bake at a higher temperature. At a higher temperature, the outside has a head start to brown more quickly than the interior.
- Bake on the top rack. Since hot air rises, the top rack is often consistently higher in temperature. I really want to ensure a brown top, so baking the cheesecake on the top rack increases that likelihood.
- Drizzle heavy cream on top. Just before baking, I like to drizzle a teaspoon or two of heavy cream all over the top to encourage even more browning.
- Philadelphia Cream Cheese: Philadelphia full-fat cream cheese has the the ideal texture and flavor for this cheesecake. That said, I have heard that the cream cheese used in Spain may be saltier, so I do add a bit more salt to mimic the flavor.
- Sugar: I prefer a slightly sweeter cheesecake than the original recipe. I recommend using about 80% of the sugar (80g) if you want something less sweet.
- Vanilla Paste: Lately, I have been LOVING using vanilla bean paste in my desserts, since it has real specks of vanilla bean. Can't find it? Substitute an equal amount of vanilla extract.
- Cornstarch: According to Nicola Lamb's Kitchen Projects, a thickener helps keep the cheesecake structurally sound, especially after the first day. So I add *just* a tad of cornstarch to the batter.
How to Make This Dessert
Step 1 - Set a rack in the top third of the oven and position another rack below it.
Preheat the oven to 500°F/260°C.
Step 2 - Spray a 6-inch cake pan with non-stick cooking spray (or grease with butter). Then line the pan with a 12-inch square piece of parchment paper so that the paper covers the entire bottom of the pan and sides of the pan AND comes up at least two inches above the sides of the pan. It's totally fine and very normal if it creases and appears uneven.
Step 3 - In a stand mixer (or using a handheld electric mixer), beat the cream cheese with the paddle attachment for 2 minutes until creamy and smooth.
Step 4 - Add in the sugar, and beat the whole thing for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
Step 5 - At this point, I actually like to switch to hand mixing if I'm using the stand mixer to prevent overbeating the batter. Personally, I find it easier to scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula (versus having the Kitchenaid paddle do this). I recommend alternating between your whisk to mix everything and using a spatula to scrape everything down.
Add both eggs, then whisk until smooth and creamy.
Step 6 - Pour in the salt, cream, and vanilla paste, and whisk that all together.
Step 7 - In a small bowl, add the cornstarch. Slowly pour ¼ cup of the batter into the bowl, whisking frequently, until the mixture is smooth and free of lumps.
Add the cornstarch mixture to the batter and whisk until everything is smooth and homogeneous.
Step 8 - Pour the batter into the pan. Drizzle the heavy cream over the top. Use a chopstick to poke out any air bubbles.
Step 9 - Bake: Bake the cheesecake in the oven for about 15 - 20 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the center of the cheesecake measures 150°F (66°C).
Don't have a thermometer? Here's what you should be looking for:
1. The cheesecake should be at least golden brown on top, ideally dark brown.
2. The cheesecake will still be quite wobbly in the center (this is what gives it a really cream texture!) but set at the edges.
Finishing Broiler Method
If your cheesecake is cooked through, but the top isn't brown enough, you can put it under the broiler for a minute (this only works if you have a top broiler). To do so, first, remove the cheesecake from the oven. If you have any tall pieces of parchment sticking up the sides (more than 2 to 3 inches), trim them with scissors to prevent them from burning.
Switch the oven to 'BROILER' on high. Once you see the broiler element is on, place it in the lower rack of the oven that we positioned. Broil in 30-second increments for up to 2 minutes until nicely browned.
Step 10 - Chill: Cool the cheesecake on a wire rack for at least one hour until it no longer feels hot. Chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours before serving.
Tips and Tricks
For best results, follow my tried and true tips and tricks!
- Use a scale: Use a kitchen scale for the most accurate results.
- Use room temperature ingredients: The eggs and cream cheese need to be at room temperature or the batter will be lumpy. To quickly warm cream cheese to room temperature, place the unwrapped block on a microwave-safe plate and microwave for 10 - 15 seconds until it warms up.
- Don 't overbeat the batter: Over mixing the batter can cause the cheesecake to crack. You still want a smooth and creamy batter -- but don't feel like it needs to be super airy!
- Get to know your oven: This is the most important rule for basque cheesecakes. All of our ovens behave differently, especially if your oven runs hot or cold. Visual cues and a thermometer will help you adjust the temperature or position of your cheesecake to ensure a perfect result. For example, if you find that your cheesecake is browning too quickly, move it to a lower rack. If it's not browning enough, bake it a little longer.
Above all else, accept that all bakes are unique! Even at La Viña, the basque cheesecakes come out differently bake to bake.
Store leftover cheesecake in a sealed airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.
How to Serve This Cheesecake
You can serve the cheesecake chilled or at room temperature (the latter is the preferred serving temperature. To serve at room temperature, remove the cheesecake from the fridge and warm to room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
Enjoy directly from the pan and scoop bites of cheesecake with a couple of spoons. Or, remove the cheesecake from the pan by carefully lifting up the parchment from the pan. Transfer to a serving plate and unpeel the parchment from the cheesecake. Slice and serve.
This cheesecake is delicious as is on its own, so I don't recommend any toppings here. However, it is often enjoyed with a glass of sherry wine!
A standard cheesecake almost always has a separate crust and batter, and the batter cooks evenly at a lower temperature with the help of a water bath.
A basque cheesecake breaks all of the rules of a standard cheesecake. It bakes at a high temperature, forming a browned, exterior crust from the batter itself; crustless cheesecake. The center of the cheesecake is gooey, while the outer edges are firmer.
You absolutely can! You can use a springform pan, or even ramekins. Just keep in mind that a different pan size will require a different amount of batter, so you will need to play around with oven temperatures and timings.
For example, if you use a 6-inch by 3-inch round cake pan, you will need to multiply the recipe by 1.5. Why? The volume of a cake pan is πr²h. So, a 6-inch by 2-inch cake pan is π*(3^2)*2 = 56.54. The volume of a 6-inch by 3-inch cake pan is π* (3^2)*(3) = 84.82. 84.82/56.54 = 1.5.
P.S. In the future, since you end up dividing pi by itself, π* (NEW PAN RADIUS)^2 * NEW PAN HEIGHT / π* (OLD PAN RADIUS)^2 * OLD PAN HEIGHT, you can just remove it from the equation for easier math 🙂
Additionally, because a 3-inch cake pan is deeper, it's going to take longer to bake in the oven. So I might reduce the oven temperature to 475°F and add 3 - 5 more minutes to the bake time to start.
Pour the batter through a fine mesh sieve. Any lumps can be pressed through the sieve and smoothed out with a spatula or the back of a spoon.
Definitely underbake! The cheesecake is done when the edges are set but the inside is still quite wobbly. It will look undercooked even if it's actually finished baking!
For even more cozy recipes, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter.Happy eating! Love, Karishma
Mini Basque Cheesecake
- 1 6-inch x 2-inch metal cake pan
- Instant Read Thermometer, optional
- 8 ounces Philadelphia Original Cream Cheese, softened to room temperature
- 100 grams granulated white sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- ½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, use half the amount if using Morton's Kosher Salt, sea salt, or table salt
- 80 grams heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla paste, or vanilla extract
- 9 grams cornstarch
- 10 grams heavy cream
- Prep the oven: Set a rack in the top-third of the oven.Preheat oven to 500°F/232°C for at least 30 minutes. Spray a 6-inch cake pan with non-stick cooking spray (or grease with butter). Use a large 12-inch square of parchment paper to line the bottom and sides of a 6-inch cake pan, ensuring that the parchment comes up at least 2 inches above the the sides of the pan.Note: When the cheesecake bakes, it will rise, so the extra parchment paper will prevent any overflow. Because this is a large amount of parchment paper, it will not sit perfectly flush in the pan and will appear creased and uneven -- this is by design.
- Beat the cream cheese and sugar: To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add 8 ounces Philadelphia Original Cream Cheese. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add 100 grams granulated white sugar, then beat on medium speed for 3 minutes until light, fluffy, and doubled in size.Turn the mixer off, then scrape down the sides of the bowl with a flexible spatula and beat for another 10-15 seconds until the mixture is homogeneous.Note: You can also use an electric hand mixer for this!
- Switch to hand mixing: Remove the mixing bowl from the stand mixer and switch to hand mixing to prevent overbeating. Add 2 large eggs, and whisk until combined. Whisk in ½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, 80 grams heavy cream, and ½ teaspoon vanilla paste.Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a flexible spatula, then whisk until smooth and creamy.
- Add the cornstarch: In a small bowl, whisk 9 grams cornstarch and ¼ cup of the batter until completely smooth -- there should not be any clumps. Add the cornstarch batter back into the mixing bowl, then whisk for about 1 minute until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl one last time -- if you see any lumps, continue whisking until smooth.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Use a spoon to drizzle 10 grams heavy cream all over the top of the batter. Note: If there are any large bubbles, you can poke them with a chopstick to remove them.
- Bake the cheesecake: Transfer the cheesecake to the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the surface of the cheesecake is deep brown and the edges of the cheesecake look set, but the center is still quite jiggly. A thermometer inserted into the center of the cheesecake should register 145°F - 150°F. If your cheesecake is cooked through, but the top isn’t brown enough, you can put it under the broiler for a minute (this only works if you have a top broiler):To do so, first remove the cheesecake from the oven. If you have any tall pieces of parchment sticking up the sides (more than 2 to 3 inches), trim them with scissors to prevent them from burning or catching fire from the flame of the broiler. Switch the oven to ‘BROILER’ on high. Once you see the broiler element is on, place the cheesecake in the lower positioned rack. Broil in 30-second increments up to 2 minutes until nicely browned.Note: It's okay if the top isn't evenly browned; a layer of brown spots is totally fine here!
- Remove the cheesecake from the oven and set on a wire cooling rack. Cool for one hour, or until the pan is at room temperature.
- Chill the cheesecake: Transfer to the fridge. Chill for at least 3 hours, uncovered, before slicing and serving.
- Serve: Serve the cheesecake chilled or at room temperature.To serve, you can either enjoy directly from the pan and scoop bites of cheesecake with a couple of spoons. Or, you can remove the cheesecake from the pan by carefully lifting up the parchment from the pan. Transfer to a serving plate and unpeel the parchment from the cheesecake. Slice and serve. Note: The preferred serving temperature is room temperature. You will want to remove the cheesecake from the fridge and warm to room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
- Use a scale: For the most accurate results, use a kitchen scale.
- Use room temperature ingredients: The cream cheese and eggs really need to be at room temperature or you will get lumps in the batter.
- Remove any lumps: For the smoothest texture, you will want to remove any lumps in the batter. In addition to using room temperature ingredients, make sure to frequently scrape down the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl to incorporate any streaks of cream cheese.
- Don 't overbeat the batter: Over mixing the batter can cause the cheesecake to crack! I also recommend switching from a stand mixer to hand mixing halfway through to reduce the chances of overbeating.
- Get to know your oven: This is the most important rule for basque cheesecakes. All of our ovens behave differently, especially if your oven runs hot or cold. Visual cues and a thermometer will help you adjust the temperature or position of your cheesecake as needed to ensure a perfect result. For example, if you find that your cheesecake is browning too quickly, move it to a lower rack. If it's not browning enough, you can leave it in for longer as long as it hasn't reached an internal temperature of 150°F (66°C).
- Broil, if you must! If your cheesecake is already cooked in the center (it has reached the internal temperature listed above), you can move it to the lower positioned rack and broil it for 30 seconds to a minute to finish browning the top.
For even more cozy recipes, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter.Happy eating! Love, Karishma