Philacatessen | Basque Cheesecake, Tarta de Queso ‘La Viña’

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tarta de queso
Photo by Keri White

My neighbor Irene recently traveled to Spain. While there, she took a cooking class taught by a local chef and learned to make this iconic cheesecake.

The recipe was created by Santi Rivera, the famous chef/owner of the bar “La Viña” in San Sebastion, and dates to 1959.

It is the typical “pintxo dessert.” “Pinxtos” are equivalent to tapas — locals amble from bar to bar nibbling on these small plates as part of a wonderful Spanish culinary and social culture.

The recipe is a delight — simple and delicious, rich and creamy, really, everything a dessert should be. Unlike many other cheesecake recipes, this one doesn’t require a crust, so it saves a time-consuming step.

The version below makes an 8-inch cake, and Irene purchased a springform pan for the purpose. Depending on how you slice it, you will have four, six or eight servings. It’s wonderful plain, but it was also delicious with my homemade cherry sauce.

Try it with drizzled chocolate, caramel, fresh fruit, jam or compote. The uber-traditional version lets the top scorch a bit, and it appears to burn; that may not play well stateside.

Irene said, “I didn’t want people to think I burned the cake, so I backed the cooking time down from 35 to 30 minutes, and it works just fine. But for people who have had the cake in Spain and like the semi-burned top, they can leave it in the oven a few minutes longer.”

Irene brought the cake to dinner at my house recently and I just had to have — and share — the recipe. Gracias, amiga.

Tarta De Queso “La Viña”

Serves 4, 6 or 8

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons flour

Line an 8-inch springform pan with parchment and heat your oven to 425 degrees.

Mix all ingredients using a beater or immersion blender.

Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 30 minutes. The middle will be jiggly.

Cool the cheesecake to room temperature and serve. (It can also be served chilled.)

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