Trending now: baking in your air fryer.

Also trending now: crustless, charred-top Basque-style cheesecake.

And what happens when trends collide? Basque-style cheesecake baked in your air fryer, of course!

I admit to some skepticism when I was introduced to King Arthur’s Basque-Style Cheesecake (Tarta de Queso) recipe. I looked at the photo — cheesecake with a deep mahogany-brown top crust, its edges charred black — and thought, “Uh, really?” Isn’t cheesecake supposed to be creamy, both in texture and color? Don’t you bake it oh-so-gently in a water bath just so that you can preserve its delicate finish? And you want me to BURN my cheesecake? Don’t think so.

Basque-style cheesecake PJ Hamel
Basque-Style Cheesecake is a slam-dunk hit baked in your air fryer.

The great thing about working at King Arthur all these years, though, is that I’ve learned to put aside my initial doubts about ANYTHING and just give it a try. So, blackened cheesecake made in an air fryer? Turns out, it’s more than just a clash of two trends. It actually makes for spectacular cheesecake that proves just how valuable a baking tool your air fryer can be.

With the air fryer’s use of convection (forced hot air), baked goods tend to brown quickly on the outside and bake much more slowly within — making this the perfect “oven” for this particular cheesecake. Here’s why:

  • Texture: Basque-style cheesecake features a blackened top crust and custardy interior; it plays perfectly to the air fryer’s “outside-in” baking process.
  • Flavor: This cheesecake’s charred top crust, a given when using an air fryer, is integral to the whole experience. The slightly smoky flavor of the crust perfectly complements the sweet, rich filling below.
  • Convenience: Your air fryer preheats in just a couple of minutes, compared to the 30 minutes (or more) it might take your regular oven to preheat to the requisite 500°F. So you’ll save time and use less energy baking cheesecake in your air fryer: win-win! 
Two slices of Basque-style cheesecake on plates, with forks, on a wooden counter. PJ Hamel
Surprisingly, the cheesecake's burnt top crust is neither leathery nor bitter, but rather delicate and nicely smoky tasting.

How to make Basque-Style Cheesecake in your air fryer

Here’s how to tweak our existing Basque-Style Cheesecake recipe to bake in your air fryer. Since all brands of air fryer bake slightly differently, you’ll want to take these tips and experiment to determine the optimum pan size, temperature, and bake time for your own air fryer.

For testing purposes, I used my Gourmia 6-quart fryer. (Heads up: At King Arthur, we only recommend the products that we, as bakers, truly love. When you buy through external links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.)

Basque-style cheesecake batter poured into a 6" x 2" round pan lined with parchment extending above the rim, for support. PJ Hamel
A 6" pan at least 2" deep is just the right size for half the batter of our Basque-Style Cheesecake recipe.

Select your pan

The original recipe calls for a 9” x 2 1/2” springform pan — which is fine if you have one of the larger air fryers. Since the maximum diameter pan my fryer will hold is an 8” round, I needed to figure a work-around. A bit of simple geometry led me to try two 6” round pans in place of the 9” — and it turns out that’s just perfect. Each 6” pan holds half the recipe’s batter.

Can you divide the recipe in half and make just a single 6” cake? Sure. But it feels a bit fussy to scale things back to half an egg, half a package of cream cheese, and 6 tablespoons of cream; why not just make two cakes? Trust me, you won’t have any trouble giving one away if you don’t want to enjoy both yourself. Note: If you only have one 6” pan and want to make a full batch of batter, simply bake the batter in batches.

Because this cake is delicate, a springform or removable-bottom pan makes successful de-panning less dicey. My choice is a 6” x 3” removable-bottom pan. If you only have a standard (solid) pan, though, go ahead and use it; it just may be a bit trickier getting the cake out.

6" x 2" round cake pan lined with parchment and filled with cheesecake batter, ready to be baked in an air fryer. PJ Hamel
For my first bake I lined the pan with a full sheet of parchment, trimming the edges. For subsequent bakes I cut back to a simple round of paper at the bottom of the pan and a 3 1/2" collar around the edge; or simply didn't use any parchment at all, which also worked fine.

Line the pan with parchment, or spritz with nonstick spray

Most Tarta de Queso recipes use copious amounts of parchment to line the pan, giving the cheesecake rough-and-ragged sides. For a smoother appearance, I tried lining one of my 6” pans with a minimal amount of parchment and leaving the other unlined with just a spritz of vegetable oil spray.

The result? Both methods worked fine. A round of parchment in the bottom of one pan along with a cut collar of parchment pressed flat around the pan’s perimeter yielded cheesecake that released easily and offered light gold, fairly smooth sides. Cheesecake from the other (unlined but greased) pan released just as easily; its sides were darker gold and smoother than those of the parchment-lined pan.

If your pan is nonstick, you probably don’t need to consider parchment at all, though I’d still grease the pan (just before adding the batter) to be safe.

Baked Basque-style cheesecake on a cooling rack next to a Thermapen digital thermometer. PJ Hamel
Have your Thermapen (or another digital thermometer) handy! A fast, accurate thermometer is key for pulling your cheesecake out of the fryer at just the right moment.​

Adjust temperature and time

Recipes for Basque-style cheesecake will typically call for an oven temperature of 450°F to 500°F or even higher. My Gourmia air fryer’s maximum temperature is 400°F, so I needed to do some fiddling to figure out the optimum bake time.

After a couple of tests, I determined that a 25-minute bake (once the fryer is preheated to 400°F) produces just the right combination of blackened top and baked (but just barely so) interior. Now, this assumes the batter is at room temperature when I bake it. If you use cream cheese, eggs, and cream cold from the fridge, you'll want to increase the baking time — how much depends on your fryer and just how cold your batter is, so watch the cake carefully starting around the 26- or 27-minute mark.

How could I tell when the cake was done? I followed the recipe’s cues: It looked jiggly in the center, and a digital thermometer inserted 1” deep, 1” from the pan’s edge registered 185°F.

Along the way I found out that it’s just a matter of a minute or two for the cake’s temperature to go from 180°F to 195°F, so pay close attention and have your thermometer ready on your first baking attempt. You don’t want to underbake the cake; it won’t be set in the center. But don’t worry, if you bake it a bit too long it’ll still be delicious, just not quite as creamy.

Two Basque-style cheesecakes out of the pans on a cooling rack, pans in the background. PJ Hamel
Both pans — either lined with parchment, or spritzed lightly with non-stick spray — released the cheesecake intact, without a problem. The cheesecake with darker sides was baked without parchment. 

Finish by turning the cake out of the pan

The finished cake will be quite delicate, so let it cool a bit before transferring it from its pan to a cooling rack. Use a butter knife to loosen the cake from the pan’s edges after about 3 minutes. Then wait another 30 minutes or so (up to 60 minutes) to carefully turn the cake out onto a rack to finish cooling before refrigerating. This additional time in the pan ensures that it’ll be set enough to emerge without breaking.

How exactly do you get the cake out of the pan? If you’re using a springform pan, simply release the sides of the pan and remove them. A removable-bottom pan is similarly easy; just put your hand on the bottom of the pan and push the cake up and away from the sides.

If your 6” pan is solid, let the cake cool to lukewarm after loosening its edges. Then loosen the edges again, place a flat plate or cooling rack atop the cake, and carefully turn everything over so the cake drops onto the plate or rack. Place another rack atop the bottom-up cake and turn everything over again, so the cake’s top is now facing upward. The only downside to this method is you’ll probably lose some of the blackened top crust, as it’s brittle and prone to flaking — another reason to use a springform or removable-bottom pan.

Wedge of Basque-style cheesecake on a plate with a fork, another plated cheesecake in the background, air fryer behind that. PJ Hamel
Basque-Style Cheesecake baked in a 6" pan makes eight smallish servings, perfect for a snack or dessert after a meal.

And that’s it: ultra-creamy Basque-Style Cheesecake baked in your air fryer. If you love cheesecake and have a fryer, give it a try. Jot down your pan size, temperature, and time and you’ll always be just 30 minutes or so away from delicious air fryer cheesecake.

Oh, and we encourage you to share details of your bakes in the comments section below, including what brand of air fryer you use. Let’s all help one another bake our best Basque-style cheesecakes ever — in an air fryer!

What else can you bake in your air fryer? Chocolate chip cookies, for one. And yeast-raised doughnuts (after a fashion). For further illumination, read Everything you ever wanted to know about baking in an air fryer.

Cover photo by Rick Holbrook.

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About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was an award-winning Maine journalist (favorite topics: sports and food) before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. Hired to write the newly launched Baker’s Catalogue, PJ became the small but growing company’s sixth employee.PJ wa...
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