How to make the perfect Basque cheesecake

Jill Dupleix's Basque-style baked  cheesecake.
Jill Dupleix's Basque-style baked cheesecake. Photo: William Meppem

With its caramelised crust and creamy heart, it's little wonder this cheesecake is such a social media star. And who knew it was so easy to make?

INGREDIENTS

  • 1kg Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 200ml sour cream
  • 300ml thickened cream
  • grated zest of 2 lemons
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp plain flour, sifted

METHOD

  1. Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature. Heat your oven to 200C fan-forced (220C conventional) at least 20 minutes beforehand.
  2. Line the bottom and sides of a 23cm springform cake tin with baking paper so that it extends 5cm above the top of the tin. Place a smaller cake tin inside to weigh down the paper.
  3. In a food processor, or an electric mixer, blend the cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, thickened cream, lemon zest and salt for 2 to 3 minutes until smooth, scraping down the sides once or twice. Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly, then add the flour, and beat until smooth.
  4. Remove the weight from the springform cake tin and pour in the batter. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes on the centre rack of the oven until it is browned on top, but still quite jiggly in the centre. It will set as it cools. If the top of the cake is still pale, raise the heat by 10C, move the cake to an upper rack and bake for a further 5 minutes until browned.
  5. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin for four hours or more to cool completely.
  6. To serve, remove the springform mould, gently peel the paper away from the cheesecake, and cut into wedges.

Serves 8-12

Need to know

  • This spectacular cheesecake was first made 30 years ago by Santiago Rivera at La Viña, a bar in San Sebastian, Spain. 
  • The crust forms because milk solids in the cream cheese caramelise under high temperature. It doesn't taste burnt unless, of course, you leave it too long in the oven.
  • The cheesecake rises in the oven like a souffle, then subsides. It will probably crack but don't panic, it's all part of the act.
  • One thing bears repeating: the cream cheese, sour cream, cream and eggs must be at room temperature or they won't blend smoothly.
  • To line the springform tin, use two sheets of baking paper, the second at right-angles to the first, so that the edges extend past the rim of the tin by 5cm. This guides the cheesecake as it rises, and makes it easy to remove. 
  • Place the tin on a baking tray so you can move it in and out of the oven easily.
  • Be brave, and take the cheesecake out of the oven while the middle still moves when jiggled.
  • It is a beautiful canvas for fresh berries but for a very special pairing, serve with Spain's raisiny sweet pedro ximenez sherry.

Each month, food writer and cook Jill guides us through the making of a classic dish.