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Image: Rika Hoffman

Basque cheesecake: A cherry blossom dessert for your next hanami


This sakura cheesecake recipe has all the hallmarks of a burnt Basque cheesecake: deeply burnished surface, rustic crinkled edges and a no-crust, no-fuss attitude. With the addition of freeze-dried sakura, this classic dessert becomes fit for your next hanami (flower-viewing) picnic.

A dollop of sakura-scented whipped cream brings the fragrant, frothy fun of springtime to an otherwise dense dessert. Meanwhile, the cherry (blossom) on top is salt-pickled sakura, which offers a palate-cleansing burst of salty-sour flavor in between decadent, creamy bites.

Sakura Basque Cheesecake Recipe

Image: Rika Hoffman

While developing this sakura cheesecake recipe, I baked four different versions until achieving my preferred taste. Like other floral flavors, sakura can be challenging to successfully incorporate into baked goods. After a bit of “research” (i.e. snacking), I’ve found that the types of sakura sweets I prefer are often quite understated, with a subtle floral aroma and a hint of brininess that recalls the flavor of the pickled sakura leaves in which sakura mochi is typically wrapped.

To achieve this taste, the recipe below uses three different sakura ingredients.

  • Salted cherry blossoms: While this ingredient is an essential garnish to give this cheesecake “the look” of a sakura dessert, its use is not solely an aesthetic choice. Salted cherry blossoms are commonly used in a variety of sweet and savory Japanese food and beverages, from seasonal onigiri to the traditional sakura tea served at weddings in Japan. Also known as “salt-pickled cherry blossoms,” they are made by preserving freshly-harvested cherry blossoms in salt and ume (Japanese plum) vinegar, which contributes to its tart flavor and enhances the pink hue of the flower buds.
  • Freeze-dried sakura powder: This sakura powder is mixed into the cheesecake batter and can optionally be used as a garnish in lieu of salted cherry blossoms, as it contains the same exact components: cherry blossoms, salt and ume vinegar. Its inclusion in this recipe negates the need for additional salt.
  • Sakura flavor: Used sparingly, this food-grade sakura flavoring is used in the cheesecake batter to enhance the aroma of sakura, and also gives a sweet, floral quality to the whipped cream. A light hand is essential, as it can quickly become cloying.

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© Savvy Tokyo

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