Header image courtesy of @lavina.hk (via Instagram)
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, 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 somehow missed 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 but 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.
You may come to this neighbourhood Spanish restaurant for their modern tapas, but you absolutely cannot leave without tasting their signature Basque burnt cheesecake ($98). Helmed by Madrid-born head chef Antonia Oviedo, Ship 22 does the baked Spanish dessert 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 cake 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? This newly opened bakery 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. The bakery even shares the same name as the restaurant that invented the famous burnt cheesecake!
The three-inch cake ($46) is the perfect single-serving dessert, but you can also get the six-inch ($248) or eight-inch version ($338) if you are planning to serve a larger group (or just want more for yourself). For a sophisticated twist on the classic flavour, try their Earl Grey-infused spin-off ($48).
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 their off-the-menu Spanish cheesecake ($74) that holds the most allure for us. Taken 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. The raspberry sorbet served alongside cuts through the richness of the 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
Exclusively available during the weekends, this charming little coffee shop tucked away in a corner of Causeway Bay offers some of the most scrumptious Basque burnt cheesecakes in town. The cheesecakes here are made by the popular Instagram bakery shop Hemma, which boasts in using the finest ingredients across the globe to guarantee exquisite taste and mouthfeel. Choose between the original ($48) or the matcha burnt cheesecake ($48)—both are rich and velvety, yet not so sweet that you’ll get a toothache. Pair a slice with a cup of coffee (they make a fabulous Dirty) and you have yourself the platonic ideal of an afternoon treat. Their cheesecakes usually run out by the afternoon so come by early!
Artista Perfetto, 3A Sharp Street West, Causeway Bay
This hidden gem in Cheung Sha Wan stirs things up a bit with its menu of rotating speciality cakes, such as hojicha cake roll ($55), vegan Earl Grey cake ($52), and Basque burnt cheesecakes. While all their cakes impress, their espresso Basque burnt cheesecake ($58) is a must-try—and luckily, it’s a mainstay on the ever-changing menu. When you bite into the cake, you are hit with the strong coffee flavour mingling with the bittersweet notes from the deliberately burnt bits. 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 noodles restaurant might not be the most conventional place to find a Basque burnt cheesecake, but at $20 a pop, you really can’t beat the price. You will be tempted to go ham with the 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 their house-made burnt cheesecake. Their take on the Basque burnt cheesecake also draws from the Japanese-style cheesecake, with a less browned surface and a texture that feels delicate and light to the taste. Yet at the same time, you still get the caramelized flavour around the edges and a luscious, half-baked interior that is rich in cheesy flavour.
Homey Dumpling (家後), 211 Ki Lung Street, Sham Shui Po | (+852) 2397 8131
Cafe by day and cocktail bar by night, this oh-so-stylish coffee bar in Sham Shui Po is the brand-new 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 their one-of-a-kind cinnamon apple bacon toast, their 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
This quaint little treasure of a café has long been heralded for their legendary matcha cheesecake, and earlier this year they came out with a burnt cheesecake ($58) that is equally top-tier. While Basque burnt cheesecakes are usually made crustless, Teakha knows that traditionalists cannot have cheesecake without a good buttery crust. So they are giving us the best of both worlds by combining the biscuit crust of a traditional cheesecake with the burnt top, and soft, delicate texture of the Spanish variety—the result is an exceptionally indulgent dessert that you will love no matter which camp you belong to!
Teakha, Shop B, 18 Tai Ping Shan Street, Sheung Wan | (+852) 2858 9185
Don’t be fooled by their “ugly” exterior; the cheesecakes from this new Instagram bakery shop are actually decadent clouds of heaven in disguise. Specialising in Basque burnt cheesecakes, Ugly Cheesecakes offers flavours that far exceed the classics, including the likes of ube, pandan, and hojicha. While they like to keep it fun and exciting with a menu that changes every two months, rest assured that the quality is always consistent. All their cheesecakes are made with premium ingredients so you can really taste the care they put into ensuring a delicious product. You can order a four-inch cake ($280) for a small two-person celebration or a six-inch cake ($350) that feeds up to six people.