This Earl Grey Basque Cheesecake is infused with the scent and the delicate flavor of earl grey. The graham cracker crust adds a delightful tickle of honey flavor.
I remember the time when I first became… Well, not exactly obsessed, but maybe infatuated with trying out all sorts of basque cheesecake flavors. Much as I loved the classic Basque Burnt Cheesecake I made, the curious-recipe-nut in me simply refused to let my cheesecake adventures end with just that. Funnily enough, around this time was also when the sushi bake trend literally EXPLODED into the scene. And I remember it distinctly because it became incredibly hard to buy cream cheese anywhere. I had to put my cheesecake escapades on hold for a bit because I could not get my hands on the brand that I like.
(I never thought I’d write about a cream cheese shortage, to be honest with you.)
Now I’m not saying that because I’m being brand-conscious on purpose. It’s just that I’ve learned over the years that while there are ingredients that are okay to scrimp on because they won’t make that huge of a difference in the end result of the dish; likewise, there are some ingredients that are non-negotiable. In cheesecakes especially, the cream cheese brand you use does matter.
After trying out a few brands, my top pick is still Philadelphia cream cheese, followed by (surprise, surprise) Magnolia cream cheese. I personally think that Philadelphia still has the most robust flavor among the brands I’ve tried. It also has a really nice savory undertone that’s kind of addictive in a cheesecake. Frankly, I’m not as picky when it comes to cream cheese for frosting or cooking, but in a cheesecake, where you can usually taste all the nuances of the cream cheese you used, it’s worth shelling out the bucks. And as this Earl Grey Basque Cheesecake proved, it was also worth the wait for the restock. (It took a really long time, mind you.)
Earl grey is one of my favorite flavors in a dessert. I especially love it with chocolate! I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to make a cheesecake with it early on, but the issue has been officially rectified with this Earl Grey Basque Cheesecake. It’s got that signature creamy decadence of a classic Basque Burnt Cheesecake, but with a delicate earl grey scent and flavor.
The graham cracker crust is not typical to this type of cheesecake, but I thought the honey flavor of the graham complemented the earl grey tones of the cheesecake really nicely. The idea from the crust comes fromThe Little Epicurean blog, where this recipe is mostly adapted, but the idea of the earl grey infusion comes from The Gastronomy Girl blog.
The main challenge with any tea-infused dessert is getting the tea flavor to come out in the finished product. Based on personal experience and from reading different tea-infused recipes online, I find that there are two factors that affect this the most: Choice of tea leaves, and the steeping time. (Disclaimer: This is not a scientific finding so feel free to correct me.)
For this recipe, I used 5 Earl Grey teabags and steeped for only 10 minutes. I should’ve done 15 minutes to maximize the infusion, because I found that the flavor isn’t immediately obvious when the cheesecake is fresh. It does come out more as the cheesecake rests though, so this is a “gets better with age” type of dessert.
At the earliest, I recommend letting this Earl Grey Basque Cheesecake rest overnight in the fridge before slicing in. As days pass, it also starts to smell decidedly more earl grey as the flavors are given time to intensify. (I love opening the cake container and having that earl grey smell waft out!) Initially it just has a sweet floral smell you can’t immediately place. It’s a delicious smell though. You can certainly rest assured it tastes FABULOUS.
By the way, I paired this Earl Grey Basque Cheesecake with a Chocolate-Earl Grey Tea Latte, the recipe of which I’ve shared in the recipe box below. It’s a really simple concoction that’s actually pretty good with this cheesecake. It’s essentially lightly sweetened earl grey tea with cocoa and milk. Hope you enjoy the pairing!
- Use good quality earl grey tea and infuse it properly. I used 5 teabags of Lipton Earl Grey for this recipe, submerging them in a separate vessel with 1/4 cup of the total 1 cup cream, warmed in the microwave until scalding. It’s kind of like making an earl grey cream concentrate, I suppose you can say. Make sure you have enough liquid to submerge the tea leaves, not necessarily the entire bag, but the leaves, for at least 15 minutes. Squeeze out the cream from the teabags to get more of that Earl Grey liquid gold. As an alternative, you can use 4 to 5 teaspoons loose leaf Earl Grey for a stronger flavor.
- Use a 6-inch springform pan that’s also at least 3 inches high. This recipe is meant to yield a 6-inch cheesecake that’s fairly thick or high. (To be fair, the cheesecake does kind of sink back and become a little more compact. Still quite thick though.) The batter will fill the pan pretty much to the brim. Even if you properly line the pan with 2 overlapping pieces of parchment, a pan with high sides will still provide better support.
- Place the springform pan inside a baking sheet. Primarily, this is to make transporting the pan into the oven a lot easier, considering it’s quite full. However, the baking sheet can also catch any batter that might accidentally spill over the side of the pan while the cheesecake is baking. This shouldn’t happen if you properly lined your pan. Make sure the parchment extends at least 2 inches above the pan’s rim and you should be fine.
- Crust can be omitted or halved to make it thinner. Personally, I love the combo of the honey flavor of graham crackers with the earl grey so I do recommend it!
- Add the eggs into the batter one at a time, beating well after each addition. In my experience, adding in all the eggs at once will make it difficult if the mixture to absorb everything. This can sometimes result in an “eggy” tasting cheesecake. It’s best to beat the eggs in one at time, allowing them to incorporate into the mixture fully before adding the next.
- You can strain the batter to get rid of lumps. The mark of an excellent basque cheesecake is its smooth and creamy texture. Because we added some flour into the batter, you may have encountered some lumps in the batter. If you want to be completely sure that the cheesecake comes out smooth, you may pour the batter through a strainer and straight into the prepared pan. I skipped this step and found that my Earl Grey Basque Cheesecake had no issues at all.
- Make sure the cheesecake comes out of the oven jiggly. This Earl Grey Basque Cheesecake is baked for 35 to 40 minutes. To make sure it’s done, you want the sides of the cheesecake to be set, but the center should still be quite jiggly. This will result in an extra creamy, almost melt-in-the-mouth sort of cheesecake. If you bake it longer for whatever reason, the cheesecake will become firm all the way through. You won’t have that super creamy interior, but hey, it’ll still be cheesecake and it’ll still taste amazing.
- Turn on top heating during the last 5 minutes of baking to give the cake a nice browned surface. This is most especially true for ovens that primarily use bottom heating, like mine. I like to turn on the top heating element about 5 minutes before the cheesecake is supposed to be done. At the risk of over-baking, I removed the cheesecake once it had a nice dark golden hue on top and just a bit of darker spots.
- Give the cheesecake time to cool completely before un-molding and serving. I find that this cake starts tasting even better after being refrigerated overnight, giving some time for the earl grey flavor to mature and intensify. I find that the cheesecake is incredibly creamy whether you eat it at room temp or cold, but of course it’s a softer kind of creamy at room temp.
- Enjoy the cheesecake with Chocolate-Earl Grey Tea. It’s a pretty straightforward recipe for an earl grey tea-based drink, with cocoa and milk added in to make it interesting. If you love earl grey and love mixing it up, try this drink!
Earl Grey Basque Cheesecake with Graham Crust with Chocolate-Earl Grey Tea
For the crust*
- 130 grams (about 1¼ cups) graham cracker crumbs
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 85 grams (6 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
For the cheesecake
- 5 earl grey tea bags**
- 250 ml (1 cup) heavy cream
- 454 grams (two 8-oz bars) cream cheese, softened at room temperature
- 100 grams (½ cup) granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 16 grams (2 Tablespoons) all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
For the tea (serves 1)
- 1 cup very hot water, about 200°F
- 1 teaspoon loose leaf tea or 1 teabag
- 1 Tablespoon cacao powder
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey, or more to taste
- ¼ cup milk, more or less to taste
Prepare the earl grey infusion
- From the 1 cup of heavy cream, pour out 1/4 cup into a narrow bowl or small mug. (Make sure you’ll have enough cream to completely submerge the tea leaves inside the teabags.) Microwave the smaller cup of cream for about 15 seconds, until steaming hot. Steep the earl grey tea for at least 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, line a 6-inch round springform pan that’s at least 3 inches deep with 2 overlapping sheets of parchment. The paper should extend about 2 inches above the pan’s rim so it will catch any possible spills. Place pan on a baking sheet. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C) and place oven rack in the middle.
Make the crust
- In a medium bowl, add in graham cracker crumbs, salt, and melted butter. Stir until mixture is well moistened and resembles wet sand.
- Transfer mixture into prepared cake pan, then press into an even, compact layer using a flat-bottomed object.
Make the filling
- In a bowl, beat together cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Scrape down sides of the bowl whenever necessary. Mix in vanilla. Add in eggs one at a time, mixing until each egg is incorporated before adding the next. Slowly mix in the 3/4 cup cream until smooth and combined.
- Squeeze out excess liquid from the teabags, then add the earl grey-infused cream to the mixture, beating until mixture is smooth. Mix in the flour and salt until incorporated and mixture is lump free.
- Pour mixture into springform pan over the prepared crust. You’ll probably end up filling it almost to the brim and that’s fine. (If you want to be completely sure that the cheesecake is smooth, you may pour it through a strainer.) Tap on the counter a few times to even out the surface, or use a spatula.
- Bake the cheesecake inside the baking sheet for 35 to 40 minutes, until top is browned but center is still quite jiggly. (I tend to turn my top heating on during the last 5 minutes of baking to give the cake a nice dark surface.) Once it’s done, the cheesecake will have risen a lot. The sides of the cheesecake will look set, but the center will jiggle as if it isn’t cooked through. This is what you want.
- Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before un-molding and slicing. This cake starts tasting even better after being refrigerated overnight, giving some time for the earl grey flavor to mature and intensify. I find that the cheesecake is incredibly creamy whether you eat it at room temp or cold, but of course it’s a softer kind of creamy at room temp. Enjoy with Chocolate-Earl Grey Tea.
Make the tea
- Steep tea in hot water for 3 to 5 minutes. Strain as necessary. Stir in the cacao powder and sweetener until completely dissolved, then add in the milk. Add more sweetener and milk as desired. (If you have a difficult time melting all the cacao powder into the drink, you can strain it for a “cleaner” cup, or melt separately with a bit of very hot water.) Eat with the cheesecake to intensify the earl grey tones.
Watch how it's made
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