Even though it is not known how the creamy cheesecake that originated in a small bakery in Spain’s Basque region has become the main actor of Istanbul’s cafe menus, its fame deepens day by day in Türkiye
The San Sebastian Cheesecake, known as the burnt Basque cake as well, is one of the popular desserts consumed in Istanbul these days. Customers line up for minutes to buy a slice, and when they get it, they share it on social media on their triumph in eating one.
This San Sebastian frenzy got onto the radar of the Spanish press, El Pais, one of the country’s leading newspapers took the issue to its agenda in its news as the cheesecake adorns the menus of most bakeries and coffee shops.
“Basque cheesecake is taking Türkiye by storm,” El Pais’ title called. The cheesecake is a replica of the well-known cheesecake that a small bakery, “La Vina de la Parte Vieja,” in San Sebastian that has been preparing the famous dessert for more than three decades. The creator of the original cake, Santiago Rivera, is surprised by the international projection that his gastronomic jewel has achieved saying to El Pais: “We are very grateful. We have never done anything to make our cake so successful. Fame has grown as the public has wanted.”
Dubbed as “the busiest and most touristic streets of Istanbul,” those that lead to the Galata Tower, signs advertising the San Sebastian Cheesecake appear. In the establishments where they serve it, they have a very vague idea of the origin of the recipe, even having a hard time locating San Sebastian on the map, the article highlighted.
“They don’t know when or how the cheesecake craze came about, or that it’s a copy of an original recipe from Spain,” Rivera said.
As Rivera defines it as “a small wonder that has given me a lot of joy,” there are dozens of photos of the San Sebastian Cheesecake with the Galata Tower in the background on social media. For that reason, most chefs think that the sudden popularity of the Basque cheesecake is rooted in the fashion of sharing the photo, leading it to go viral rapidly.
“La Vina cheesecake created a style and later variants have been made all over the world. The one in Türkiye is a social phenomenon. In Japan, it is also very well-known. It works fine in the U.S. too. Also, I hear that it has reached Australia and that the French are enjoying it too,” 62-year-old Santiago Rivera said, emphasizing that it took three years to find the formula.
Chef Rivera said that he started trying the recipe in 1987 and added it to the menu three years later. “Our customers have made the dessert famous over time,” he also added. Starting with preparing two cakes a day, the number has reached to “countless” cakes as 20 cakes are already prepared at 7 in the morning.
Istanbul’s specific travel guides also include the addresses of the establishments where the San Sebastian Cheesecake can be bought. In most of the cake descriptions, it is dubbed as a “special” cake that “melts on the palate with its unique texture.”
Rivera stated that he has not tried any cake from abroad, but he is convinced that it does not taste the same, saying “they all coincide in 85%, but there is 15% that depends on small details.” In Türkiye, on the other hand, customers mostly prefer to eat it with a bath of melted chocolate, as well as with dried fruit jams.
The restaurant, La Vina, is to organize a workshop in 2023, as the increase in orders has forced the owners to spread the unique recipe of the imperfect creamy taste.
The Basque region in Northern Spain refers to a community with a cultural, linguistic and identity standpoint with 7,000 years of history. It is also one of the world’s top culinary destinations, with key gourmet centers, namely San Sebastian, Hondarribia and Bilbao.