Basque cheesecake has a burnt top on purpose. There is no crust, no water bath needed, and cracks and deflating are expected. It’s exceptionally creamy, with the burnt top lending a slight umami flavor to each bite. I wanted to make it with ube, the flavor of my youth, the taste of home.
It was a late Thanksgiving dessert, and this is a late Thanksgiving blog post.
Rewind to September. A couple of hours after I pressed “publish” on my last post, my husband Matt and I found out that my father-in-law has passed. It was devastating, to say the least. He and I had a special relationship, and we immediately clicked when we first met each other at their home in upstate New York. We shared a love for the same foods (cheese! sausages! liverwurst!) and he would often send me and Matt articles about restaurants and their best dishes. I beamed with so much pride when he would say, “you did good” – when I published a well-written blog post, or when I sent them some homemade treats. He was the best father-in-law I could have wished for and I already miss him terribly.
Since then, I have been avoiding posting on my blog. I had so wanted him to read the last post: very lengthy, but filled with memories about summer and travel. I wanted to spend more holidays with him, and send him some of his favorite spiced crackers. I wanted to do so many more things, but we all know how life goes.
This past Thursday, for Thanksgiving, it was just me and Matt in our apartment. No big get togethers, no traveling to New York, no family visiting from the Philippines, no Friendsgiving potluck. We were sad, yes, and grieving, but we also know that his dad is in a better place. We miss the rest of our families, very deeply, but we also know that we are much closer to getting a vaccine and soon we’ll be able to see and hug and celebrate in person again. We ate non-traditional Thanksgiving food: we ordered too much Chinese food, so that we also had leftovers for the next day (and the next). And I made cheesecake. A non-traditional cheesecake for a non-traditional celebration.
Basque burnt cheesecake is the alter ego to the classic New York-style cheesecake, as Bon Appetit has succinctly explained. It has a top so caramelized, it looks burnt. It is a crustless cheesecake, intended to look rustic. It’s very creamy, and tastes lighter than a classic American cheesecake. It is said to have originated from San Sebastian, Spain and I’ve been seeing it in more and more restaurants and Instagram feeds over the last couple of years.
I wanted to try my own spin on this, so I made it in a cake pan (instead of a spring form pan), making the cheesecake more dense. I also added ube, with a double whammy of ube jam and ube extract. It turned out delicious, and something I would definitely be making again. It gave me comfort, and it reminded me of home. I think if my father-in-law had tried this, he would have said “you did good.” And you know what? I think I did.
Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving. xo
Ube Basque Burnt Cheesecake
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
1 lb (2 blocks) cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup ube halaya (ube jam)
1 teaspoon ube extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 drops violet gel food coloring (optional)
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon butter, melted (for buttering pan)
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Brush the cake pan with melted butter, and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper.
- Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar on medium-low speed. Mix well until smooth and creamy, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, about two minutes.
- Increase speed to medium, and add in eggs one at a time, mixing until well-incorporated.
- Add in cream, ube jam, ube extract, salt, and food coloring (if using). Continue beating on medium speed until well-blended.
- Turn off mixer, and add sifted flour and cornstarch. Beat on low speed, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary, until the mixture is lump-free and silky.
- Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until deeply golden brown on top ("burnt") and the center is still jiggly. Cool completely (expect it to deflate). I recommend chilling in fridge overnight before cutting and serving.
Ube jam, or halaya, is made with mashed purple yam, plus a sweetener (sugar or condensed milk) and something to make it a little creamy (like coconut milk or butter). I used a brand that only has ube and sugar, which I purchased from Amazon. Ube jam is available at Filipino grocery stores, but most other Asian grocery stores also carry jars of it.