Header image courtesy of @lavina.hk (via Instagram)
Originally published by Beverly Ngai. Last updated by Catharina Cheung, Alisa Chau, and Gabriella Lynn.
In a world where exquisite platters and over-the-top desserts tend to grab the most attention on social media, it says a whole lot when a humble and burnt ugly duckling of a cake—known as the Basque burnt cheesecake—blows its extravagant competitors out of the water and gets crowned the hottest dessert of 2019.
In case you’ve missed the explosion of burnt cheesecakes galore all over Instagram, let us set you straight—this is no ordinary cheesecake. Originating from a restaurant in San Sebastian, Spain, the Basque burnt cheesecake has a gooey, custard-like centre and a near-blackened burnt top that imparts a deep, caramelised flavour. It’s rustic in appearance and you will typically find no crust nor fancy toppings here—just sunken centres and uneven edges. It defies all the rules of a traditional cheesecake in the best way possible!
Check out our top picks for Basque burnt cheesecakes in Hong Kong and see for yourself what the hype is all about. It’ll be difficult to go back to regular cheesecakes after this!
You may come to this neighbourhood Spanish restaurant for its modern tapas, but you absolutely cannot leave without tasting the signature Basque burnt cheesecake ($98).
Ship 22 does the baked Spanish dessert exactly right. Charred to a crisp on the outside, soft and fluffy near the exterior, and delightfully molten in the centre, it’s a textural masterpiece that awakens all your senses. To enhance the flavour, the dessert even welcomes the addition of Idiazabal cheese, which provides not only an intense cheesy flavour but also a subtle hit of smokiness that beautifully compliments the charcoal top.
22 Ships, 22 Ship Street, Wan Chai | (+852) 2555 0722
Longing for a taste of the original Basque burnt cheesecake from San Sebastian? La Viña in Central recreates the original recipe so you don’t have to make the pilgrimage to Spain.
Its recreation of the OG hits the mark in every way possible, from the marriage of the rich cream cheese flavour with the slight bitterness from the caramelised top to the contrast between firm edges and a gooey, melt-in-your-mouth interior. La Viña even shares the same name as the restaurant that invented the famous burnt cheesecake.
Its three-inch cake ($52) is the perfect single-serving dessert, but other sizes include a six-inch ($308) or eight-inch version ($438) if you are planning to serve a larger group.
La Viña, Shop 3, 23 Graham Street, Central | (+852) 9612 0988
Decked out in brick walls and rustic wooden décor, Pica Pica’s lively and warm ambience easily makes it one of the best Spanish tapas bars in town. However, it’s the Basque burnt cheesecake ($78) served with a raspberry sorbet that holds the most allure for us.
Served straight from the oven onto the plate, the cheesecake comes piping hot, with its filling so wonderfully ooey-gooey that the cake nearly collapses onto itself. On the side, the raspberry sorbet cuts through the richness of the molten dessert and creates an addictive hot-and-cold contrast that keeps us coming back for more.
Pica Pica, G/F, Kai Tak Commercial Building, Shop G & H, 317–321 Des Voeux Road Central, Sheung Wan | (+852) 2811 9880
A hidden gem in Cheung Sha Wan, this café stirs things up with its menu of rotating speciality cakes, such as the hojicha cake roll ($55), vegan pastries, and Basque burnt cheesecakes. While all of its cakes impress, the Iron Buddha-infused Basque burnt cheesecake ($58) is something you must try before it leaves the ever-changing menu.
When you bite into the cake, you are hit with the strong tea flavour mingling with the bittersweet notes from the deliberately burnt outer layers. Combined with the tanginess of the cream cheese, the components come together in harmony, creating a well-rounded flavour profile and taking the modest Basque burnt cheesecake to new heights.
Lucy Coffee & Food, Shop C1, G/F, Block C, Merlin Centre, 55 Po On Road, Cheung Sha Wan | (+852) 5508 8318
A Chinese dumpling and noodle restaurant might not be the most conventional place to find a delicious Basque burnt cheesecake, but at under $30 a pop, you really can’t beat the price. You will be tempted to go overboard with ordering dumplings when you see the supremely affordable menu at this Sham Shui Po neighbourhood gem, but the savvy diner will know to save room for the house-made burnt cheesecake ($28).
Homey Dumpling’s take on the Basque original also draws from the Japanese-style cheesecake, with a less browned surface and a texture that feels delicate and light to the taste. At the same time, you still get the caramelised flavour around the edges and a luscious half-baked interior that is rich in cheesy goodness.
Homey Dumpling, 211 Ki Lung Street, Sham Shui Po | (+852) 2397 8131
Café by day and cocktail bar by night, this oh-so-stylish coffee bar in Sham Shui Po is the sister branch of the popular speciality coffee shop The Brew Job. Honing a modern industrial vibe with its high ceilings, tall windows, and cool interior décor, it’s an excellent space to unwind, sip on coffee, and indulge in a slice of cake.
In addition to its one-of-a-kind cinnamon apple bacon toast ($80), the Basque burnt cheesecake ($50) is not to be missed. Firm enough that so the centre does not come oozing out, yet still smooth and creamy, it’s a toothsome bite that satisfies.
Slash Coffee Bar, G/F, 107 Ki Lung Street, Sham Shui Po
Don’t be fooled by its “ugly” exterior; the cheesecakes from this Instagram bakery are actually decadent clouds of heaven in disguise. Ugly Cheesecakes offers flavours that far exceed the classics, including the likes of ube, pandan, and hojicha. While the shop likes to keep it fun and exciting with a menu that changes every two months, rest assured that the quality is always consistent. All of its cheesecakes are made with premium ingredients and you can order a six-inch cake ($450) that feeds up to six people.
Just when you think there can’t be any more cheesecake flavours, Soulgood Bakery dishes up over 10 different spins on the classic Basque burnt cheesecake. Crowning the cakes with mouth-watering ingredients like sticky mango mochi (starting from $520), crème brûlée taro (starting from $560), and matcha strawberry mochi (starting from $520), Soulgood brings a unique Asian flair to the Spanish recipe. If desserts sound like a big no-no to the health nuts out there, keto options (starting from $520) are also available.
Soulgood Bakery, Shop B201-39, B2/F, K11 Musea, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Cakes, Custards & Pies by Lady D is a small local business which specialises in homemade desserts. Apart from items like chocolate cake and leche flan, its signature is the Basque burnt cheesecake, which comes in six-inch ($259) or eight-inch ($359) sizes. If you want to jazz up those flavours a bit more, they also offer a matcha Basque burnt cheesecake (starting from $279) and a taro Basque burnt cheesecake (starting from $319).
What we love about these cakes is that they are incredibly dense—enough to feed the entire Localiiz office—so they are very much value for money! Simply send a direct message on Instagram detailing the cake you would like if you want to put down an order.
Basquebaked is a little Instagram business that does small production runs each day. Choosing not to mess with the inherent goodness of Basque burnt cheesecakes, the shop adds different toppings on its six-inch or eight-inch confectionaries instead, and boy, do the cheesecakes look good. Amongst its many flavours, we prefer the original (starting from $258) and Ferrero Rocher (starting from $318). Yes, cheesecake topped with whole Ferrero Rocher pieces! Basquebaked also offers gluten-free options at no extra charge.
We’re usually here for the wines, but these guys do have some tricks tucked up their sleeves. Curated by Twins Kitchen, Interval offers some top-notch small bites and set lunches, but it also does a limited quantity of housemade Basque burnt cheesecake ($108) each day. Make sure you also order a nice cup of coffee to complement the cake’s soft richness.
Although its name stands for “Joy of Missing Out,” there’s really no joy to be had if you miss out on JOMO’s cakes. With its bakery factory tucked away in Yau Tong and a large café located in Tseung Kwan O, these guys do a stunning range of homemade cakes and vegan pastries to order, including a commendable Basque burnt cheesecake.
Get them in one of two sizes—$380 for the six-inch and $480 for the eight-inch cake—but rather than the original flavour, we much prefer the slightly smokey and fragrant hojicha version. Orders need to be placed three days in advance, so plan ahead.
JOMO, Shop G01, G/F, Monterey Place, 23 Tong Chun Street, O’South Coast, Tseung Kwan O