What is a burnt Basque cheesecake and where can you get it in Dubai?

Move over banana bread and focaccia, this is the baked treat that’s now in the spotlight

Burnt cheesecakes have risen in popularity in 2020. Courtesy of Luma's Cakes Dubai
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Baking has been big in 2020. From banana bread to focaccia to "quarantine cakes", a number of baked treats stole hearts and social media feeds as many people stayed at home. The latest to have gained food-trend status is the now ubiquitous burnt Basque cheesecake.

But what is it? The creamy, fluffy creation, with a distinguishable “burnt” outer layer and a creamy interior, is believed to have originated from La Vina, a restaurant in San Sebastian, in Spain’s Basque region (which is why it also sometimes goes by the name San Sebastian cheesecake).

According to YouTube’s data team, there was a 60 per cent increase in searches for the cheesecake between March 15 and July 21, as compared to searches between January and early March.

One reason for its popularity may be that it's a cheesecake that "breaks all the rules" – it has no crust and is baked at a high temperature for a shorter period, which is what gives it that burnt look. The overall effect is a dessert with an almost caramelised crust, while its interior is creamy, fluffy and sometimes even molten.

Luma Makhlouf, Dubai chef and entrepreneur, says it's easier to make than traditional cheesecake, too. "You can 'burn' it as much as you want – it can get black on top and it will still taste as good. It's a very easy cake to make, and that's the reason behind the phenomenon. Normal cheesecakes can be tedious, you have to make the crust, then set it. But the beauty of this cake is you can mix all the ingredients together and dump it in the tray."

Makhlouf and her husband have been baking the cake for years but decided to launch Luma's Cakes Dubai this year when she started getting orders after she posted pictures of the dessert online. Since the official launch in May, she says she gets between five to seven orders a day, and has recently sold her 400th cake.

“The first night I put up a post about these cakes, I got five orders in under three hours. The demand has been very high here,” she says.

She's not the only one to realise the potential of these cakes in the UAE. Husband and wife duo Mhon Lee Limun and Christa Perez, who launched online shop The Kakao Guy a year ago, expanded their offering to include cakes and others sweets while having to stay at home. Their burnt Basque cheesecakes are a bestseller, and they deliver anywhere from 20 to 25 on a weekday, with more orders over the weekend.

Whether it's the simplicity of preparation or the intriguing texture, there are plenty of reasons to give it a try. As Dubai food blogger Haiya Tariq of Pass Me The Dim Sum put it, "it's indulgent and unpretentious both at once. I love a no-fuss dessert that's still made from scratch and tastes decadent and that's exactly what this is."

5 places to get burnt Basque cheesecake from Dubai

The Kakao Guy

The business may have started selling the cakes only a few months ago, but it’s already accumulated quite the following. Apart from the original burnt Basque cheesecake, the online delivery shop has a range of flavours including chocolate, matcha and lemon. It also has a keto version of the baked treat, and regularly has new creations for its “flavour of the month” (think milk tea or mocha burnt Basque cheesecake).

Cost: A classic solo cheesecake (250g) costs Dh35. Orders can be made via Instagram

Luma’s Cakes Dubai

While all cheesecakes require a healthy amount of cream cheese, Luma says her recipe also throws some high-quality Italian cheeses in the mix. The rest of the ingredients are a secret for now, the but the cakes are still a hit.

Cost: Three mini cheesecakes are available for Dh125. A 10-inch cheesecake costs Dh245 (for pick-up) and Dh260 for delivery. Orders can be made via Instagram

Roseleaf Cafe

Located within the Dubai Garden Centre on Sheikh Zayed Road, Roseleaf Cafe has always been a little oasis for those seeking a cake break amid greenery. Fans of the quaint spot will be glad to know that it also houses the very much on-trend dessert.

Cost: An 8-inch cake is Dh180. A 10-inch cake is Dh310.

8am-10pm; Dubai Garden Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road; 04 399 1662; www.roseleafcafe.com

Nightjar Coffee

The eclectic coffee shop in Al Quoz does more than pour speciality drinks. Customers can also purchase coffee-making equipment and baked treats, including a Basque cheesecake. Tuck right in.

Cost: An 8-inch cake is Dh180. A 10-inch cake is Dh310.

10am-9pm; Nightjar Coffee; Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz; 04 330 6635; www.nightjar.coffee/contact

TJ Bakery and Deli

The Business Bay bakery has slices for those who want to try it without committing to an entire cake. You can always opt for the original, but they also have a cherry flavour for those looking for something extra.

Cost: A slice is Dh26

7.30am-10.30pm; Bay Avenue, Business Bay; 04 580 9955