Kitchn Love Letters

This 4-Ingredient Cheesecake Is Arguably the Best Dessert I’ve Ever Made

published May 25, 2023
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photo of a whole basque cheesecake on parchment paper
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Debbie Wee

Although I’ve always enjoyed the occasional slice of cheesecake, it’s never been a favorite dessert. So when Basque cheesecake started trending a handful of years ago, I sort of just skipped over it. How could it really be that much different from New York-style cheesecake? 

It took a trip to Spain to realize how wrong I truly was. Every morning in Barcelona, we walked across the street from our rented apartment to Funky Bakery, where we fueled ourselves with cortados and their rotating treats. I couldn’t resist trying their Basque-style cheesecake one afternoon and I became a convert with a single bite. The crustless, burnt-on-the-outside, ridiculously creamy-on-the-inside slice was a revelation. Once home, I searched far and wide for a recipe that would live up to what I tasted. It was King Arthur Baking Company’s version that assured me I wouldn’t have to fly back to Spain to satisfy my sweet tooth. I’ve been making their perfect recipe ever since.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Debbie Wee

Why I Love King Arthur Baking Company’s Basque-Style Cheesecake

This Basque-style cheesecake is a four-ingredient (five-ingredient, if you count salt) wonder. Unlike New York-style cheesecake, there’s no need for a water bath when baking it. You simply bake it at a fiery 500°F, which causes the cheesecake to rise and fall almost like a soufflé while the exterior caramelizes and becomes crust-like. The original Basque cheesecake is credited to ​​Santiago Rivera, chef and owner of La Viña in San Sebastian, Spain. His recipe is in metrics and calls for a 10-inch springform pan, which doesn’t compute with standard U.S. pan sizes, so King Arthur Baking Company spent months fiddling with the recipe to perfect it in a standard 9-inch pan and ensure success for the home baker. 

While I am not gluten-free myself, I particularly love that while Rivera’s original recipe includes a little bit of all-purpose flour, King Arthur Baking Company figured out a way to leave it out completely. To me, that means there’s nothing standing in the way of sweet, custard-like cream cheese.  

How to Make King Arthur Baking Company’s Basque-Style Cheesecake

The most brilliant part about this recipe is you don’t need to wait for cream cheese to come to room temperature. Simply toss three 8-ounce packages of cream cheese straight from the fridge into a food processor and blend with 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 5 large eggs, and 3/4 cup heavy cream until a lusciously smooth batter forms.

After lining a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper, pour the batter into the pan and bake at 500°F until the top is deep golden-brown and caramelized, the edges are just set, and the center is still a bit jiggly, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool the cheesecake completely in the pan before unmolding it and serve it at room temperature or chilled.

If You’re Making King Arthur Baking Company’s Basque-Style Cheesecake, a Few Tips 

  1. Use an instant-read thermometer. This is the secret to baking an ethereal Basque cheesecake — removing it from the oven too soon will result in a runny center, but pulling it too late means you’ll miss out on its just-set texture. Starting at the 25-minute mark, insert an instant-read thermometer 1 inch from the edge and 1 inch down. Once it just barely reads 185°F, it’s done.
  2. Don’t hesitate to bake it ahead of time. Not only is this cheesecake a showstopper at dinner parties and gatherings (everyone I’ve baked it for has proclaimed it’s one of the best desserts they’ve ever tasted), but it also stores exceptionally well. Don’t hesitate to bake it a day or two ahead of time and store it right in its pan, wrapped tightly with plastic wrap. When ready to serve, unmold it and let it come to room temperature, or serve it with a slight chill. 
  3. Serve it simply. Basque cheesecake is traditionally served without adornments, and that’s exactly how I prefer it. This is a dessert that’s a lesson in simplicity, and to me, berries or a dollop of whipped cream muddy that.