Honey Is Key For Perfectly Browned Cheesecake Without Over-Baking

Basque cheesecake is not your regular ol' cheesecake. Hailing from a cafe called La Viña in a resort town in the Basque region of Spain, the crustless Basque could be categorized more towards the consistency of the soufflé family as opposed to the smoothness of the New York cheesecakes we're accustomed to. With a burnt and caramelized top reminiscent of crème brulée — in addition to its gooey center — this cheesecake harnesses its power from polarizing textures, which provide an impressive depth.

The key to achieving the ideal Basque-style cheesecake lies in browning the top past the point of perfection — and not over-baking the rest of the dessert; you want to keep that center nice and moist. The secret around this? That can, rather surprisingly, be found in the science of honey. Because the type of sugar in honey caramelizes at 230 degrees Fahrenheit — which is much quicker than that of granulated sugar — you'll begin to notice that fabulous burning forming on the top of the Basque rather soon, which means the outside is cooking before the center has had the chance to catch up.

When it comes to swapping honey for granulated sugar in baking, most experts advise against using a 1:1 ratio because honey is considerably sweeter, while also invoking an array of floral, nutty, fruity, and earthy notes, which can be great in moderation. It's generally recommended to use only two-thirds of a cup of honey for every cup of granulated sugar a recipe calls for.

Achieving complexity in Basque cheesecake

Exactly what else is in a Basque cheesecake that makes honey such a top contender swap? Our La Viña cheesecake recipe is a Basque cheesecake that features only six simple ingredients: sugar, cream cheese, eggs, salt, heavy cream, and flour. With such a mild and unassuming mixture, replacing the sugar with honey can help amplify this sweet treat even further. The floral notes of honey can add a certain delicate aspect to an indulgent dessert, as well as some grounded earthiness. Just remember to only use two-thirds of a cup of honey for every cup of granulated sugar.

What's more, honey gives you some room to play up its flavor profile. For example, reaching for a flavored honey like lavender or rose can lend to an expanded floral palate, so adding in dried lavender or rose can give the honey an extra boost. Vanilla is another spice that pairs exceptionally well with honey, so consider adding vanilla extract or a bit of vanilla bean paste for additional warmth to the overall taste of the cheesecake.

Because Basque cheesecake famously puffs up in the oven and deflates upon its removal from heat, the concave center makes it ideal for spooning on fruits and other toppings. When mindfully selecting fruits that are most often paired with honey like berries, peaches, and plums, you can lend to the honey's fruity notes, while at the same time balancing the juiciness of the fruit with the honey's caramelized state.