Basque Heroes, Spirits, and Burnt Cheesecake

Basque Heroes, Spirits, and Burnt Cheesecake

By Tim Hazell


Frankish King Charlemagne’s army was attacked from behind by a force composed mainly of Basques in the heavily wooded Roncevaux Pass on the evening of August 15, 778. Heavy weapons and armor put them at a disadvantage. Their legendary military commander was among the leaders killed in the ambush, to be immortalized in one of the greatest examples of Old French literature, “The Song of Roland.”


Basque mythology grudgingly survived the arrival of Pyrenees evangelization between the fourth and twelfth centuries. “Ama Lurra” (Mother Earth) provided sanctuary for all flora and fauna. “Eguzki Amandrea” (Mother Sun) bestowed rich or poor harvests. “Ilargi Amandrea” (Mother Moon) was considered to be the face of God.


“Lamiak,” a race of female beings with webbed feet, skulked about under cover of darkness for opportunities to kidnap children from their families. Before entering a protected dwelling, they had to count the number of petals of sacred wild thistles hung over the door, delaying them until sunrise.


Created in 1990 by chef Santiago Rivera of La Viña Bar in San Sebastian, Spain, Basque Burnt Cheesecake quickly became a global phenomenon! The center should remain gooey and slightly undercooked to be at its best.



Unsalted butter (for pan)

1 kilo cream cheese, room temperature

1-1/2 cups caster or dark brown sugar

6 large eggs

2 cups heavy cream

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

Sherry for serving (optional)

10” round springform pan



Place rack in middle of oven; preheat to 400˚F (200˚C). Butter pan, then line with two overlapping 16-by-12-inch sheets of parchment, making sure parchment rises at least 2” above top of pan on all sides. Because parchment will require pleating, a clean outer edge to the cake will be difficult to achieve but not to worry—unimportant! Place pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Beat cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a standard mixer fitted with paddle attachment, on medium-low speed. Scrape down sides of bowl, beating about 2 minutes until no lumps remain and sugar has dissolved. Increase speed to medium. Add eggs, one at a time, beating 15 seconds each before adding the next. Scrape down sides of bowl. Reduce mixer speed to medium-low. Add cream, salt, and vanilla. Beat until combined, about 30 seconds. Turn off mixer and sift flour evenly over cream cheese mixture. Beat on low speed until thoroughly incorporated, about 15 seconds. Give sides of bowl a final scrape. Continue to beat about 10 seconds or until batter is very homogenous and silky. Pour into prepared pan. Bake cheesecake about 60 minutes until top is deeply golden brown but still jiggles in the center. Let cool slightly (it will fall drastically), then unmold and continue to cool completely. Carefully peel away parchment from sides of cheesecake. Slice into wedges and serve at room temperature, preferably with a glass of sherry.


Note: Cheesecake can be made a day ahead. Cover and chill, allowing several hours to warm to room temperature before serving.