Alongside lasagne, sourdough and banana bread, Basque cheesecake became a surprise lockdown hit in Melbourne last year, in part, thanks to Attica’s Ben Shewry’s take on the burnished beauties. In fact, it was Shewry’s version that inspired young Adelaide chef Leo Loureiro to start making his own during our seven-day July lockdown.
“I was like, ‘I have too much time on my hands and I don’t want to be sitting down at home doing nothing like last lockdown,” says Loureiro, who had been catering events and weddings.
“Me and my fiance [Suzanna Nowosilskyj] thought, ‘Why don’t I start delivering something completely handmade, with a personal touch and deliver it. We did some trials that first week and ate a lot of cake. For breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
Loureiro moved to Australia from Brazil six years ago. He landed in Sydney, where he catered Events by Aria at the Sydney Opera House, before moving to Adelaide and working short stints at now-closed Orana and Sparkke at the Whitmore.
“I was always a chef, not a pastry chef. So when I said, ‘I’m going to do cheesecakes’, my fiance was like, ‘But you’re not a baker’. And I said, ‘Well now I am’.”
He expected to sell maybe 10 in the first week. But on the first day Leigh Street Wine Room co-founder Sali Sasi bought one and shared it on her Instagram. “It took off,” says Loureiro. Last week he and Nowosilskyj delivered 55 cakes all over Adelaide. This week he’s making 65. He’s now moving to a new kitchen facility to ramp up production.
For the uninitiated, Basque cheesecake – caramelised and glossy on the outside with a creamy, custard-like texture inside – originated in San Sebastian in Basque Country. It’s less sweet than its North American relative, the New York cheesecake, and lacks a biscuit-y base. It’s also fired at a higher temperature to create the blistered, cracked crust.
Loureiro’s version – silky smooth and alarmingly easy to devour – also has orange zest – a tip given to him by former Leigh Street Wine Room executive chef Nathan Sasi. “He messaged me saying, ‘Bro this is unreal’. And he was like, ‘When I make it I always add a bit of orange zest … try it and let me know’. So then I did a batch and ate more again and me and my family were like, ‘Wow, that little touch of orange at the end really brings things together’.” He's since introduced Biscoff and chocolate versions, too.
Loureiro takes orders through direct message on Instagram or via his website – then drops the cake to your door (on Saturdays – you can opt for pick-up on other days). And, unlike most delivery options, which are usually limited to a small radius around the CBD, Loureiro is travelling far and wide to get his cakes into people’s homes – and stomachs.
“Last week I went all the way to Hallet Cove,” he laughs. “It doesn’t matter. I’ve got the time on my hands, and I really like the connection. I’m not gonna lie, I’m a little bit tired. But I’m so happy with the first two weeks. It’s gone way beyond my expectations.
“Delivering and talking with people, it takes a little bit of extra time but we always have a chat … it doesn’t matter how big we grow, I don’t want to lose that personal touch. I’m selling a nice product, yes, but I want to sell an experience.”
The cakes are available as a six-inch (for $25) or "grande" 10-inch (for $60) and come wrapped in parchment paper inside a box tied with string featuring its individual batch number. There are also instructions to let it sit outside the fridge for 15 to 30 minutes for optimal eating temperature.