For the first time since early 2020 (which feels like a decade ago by now), I made my way to the second home of coffee enthusiasts: Starbucks. Walking into the store and admiring the rows of decadent cakes that are displayed next to the cashier was a moment I relished. This visit was short, as I did a takeaway to taste one of their special cakes on the seasonal menu. Having tasted a few of their unique cakes (one of my favorites is last summer’s watermelon mousse cake), I was intrigued with one of the latest additions to their baking repertoire. It didn’t take long for me to contemplate on my selection.
This cake has been a firm member of the cheesecake realm for three decades, and it has risen the ranks to become a breakout star by being inducted as one of 2020’s food trends, along with the likes of dalgona coffee and cloud bread. I came to this conclusion when it began popping into menus at large coffee chains in the Lion City. Through my usual sleuthing, I learnt that countless recipes of this treat have been developed and shared online while the world was in lockdown. Who (more like what) is this mysterious cake that I’m talking about?
“It’s burnt.” These are two dreadful words that bakers never want to hear. That, and “It’s raw.” Basque Burnt Cheesecake pushes the limit to prove that a burnt cake isn’t necessarily bad. Hailing from the Basque Country in Northern Spain, this cheesecake is anything but plain – its rustic ‘look’ in a Spanish vacation backdrop spells H-O-M-E-L-Y.
In the cheesecake family, Basque Burnt Cheesecake is the “cool kid” who lives its life without conforming to labels and the status quo. It may have an edgy, gothic-ish wardrobe à la Wednesday Addams, but it is friendly, has a heart of gold, and relays an important message to the world: “never judge a book by its cover”.
There are a few elements that make Basque Burnt Cheesecakes unique:
- The top, which caves slightly in the middle, is actually over baked, hence the ‘burnt’ effect. When I first caught sight of this cheesecake online (pre-sliced), I thought it has a resemblance to baked camembert that is overdone.
- When you slice into it, you’ll be greeted with a stark contrast from an aerial view. The cake looks over baked on the outside, but it is absolutely perfect in the middle.
- Typically, there isn’t a base layer (although some bakers choose to add an additional layer), such as crushed graham crackers. A solo cheesecake ‘batter’ takes the stage and demonstrates its versatility.
Executing a perfect Basque Burnt Cheesecake is undoubtedly an art, as balancing between two contrasting elements in one cake is crucial to create this fabulous cheesecake.
Back in the comforts of home, I was so ready to unbox my cake and dive into it. I didn’t have to hop on-board a flight to visit La Viña in San Sebastian, Spain for a cheesecake fix! La Viña, one of San Sebastian’s most notable restaurants, placed the Basque Burnt Cheesecake on the foodie world stage – and now, I can enjoy something similar to that in the Lion City!
Starbucks’ version of Basque Burnt Cheesecake incorporates green tea, which is pretty unique. Being a fan of Starbucks’ matcha frappe for the longest time (it’s my go-to order, regardless of the city I’m located in), I was excited to taste their green tea spin on this cheesecake.
The top is well and truly burnt, but not to the extent of being as hard as a rock and inedible. In a closer peek, it has a crater-like appearance. With that thought, an image of E.T. devouring a slice of chilled cheesecake crossed my mind. From its side, the cake resembles baked cheesecakes, but with a much bolder hue. The mid-section comprises of a blend of two cheesecake batters: green tea cheesecake and regular cheesecake. That’s a matcha made in cheesecake heaven!
From my very first forkful, I couldn’t identify major clues that pointed to burnt cake taste-wise. Slicing into the cake, I noticed that the top has the texture of a ‘crust’, while the middle section is exactly what I’d expect from regular cheesecake. The clue that points to the ‘burnt part’ comes alive through texture, as its not-too-crusty crust’s consistency weaves into a familiar creamy, smooth and dense touch. To my taste buds, the crust is pretty mild when it’s eaten with the cake’s middle part.
A more pronounced ‘burnt taste’ arose upon tasting the burnt layer on its own – it quite literally tastes like something that’s been sitting in the oven for a long time. As someone who avoids chomping on almost every burnt element if there’s ever partially-burnt food on a plate, I’m glad that the ‘burnt cake’ flavor doesn’t pop out as boldly when it’s combined with the mid-section.
The mid-section is similar to New York-style cheesecake. To me, the green tea-to-cheesecake ratio is balanced, as neither of the two co-stars overpower each other. My taste buds detected matcha’s (green tea’s) delicate presence, partnered with good old cheesecake’s flavor. It has been executed well, and I reckon it appeals to both matcha fans (like me!) and cake-lovers who aren’t very acquainted with matcha. The cheesecake isn’t too sweet either, which is perfect for my palate.
I’m elated to welcome the Basque Burnt Green Tea Cheesecake into the world of interesting cakes on the blog. It’s always great fun to taste different cakes, create memories and share the experiences along the way. I wonder what’s next!