Manhattan Beach Baker Brings Basque Cheesecake to the South BayJul 24, 2021 08:23PM ● By Jeanne Fratello
Bashi Bakes owner Mercy Fabila
A Manhattan Beach baker began producing specialty Basque cheesecakes during the pandemic - and the demand for her cakes is growing almost as fast as she can keep up with new orders.
Bashi Bakes, a baking company founded by Mercy Fabila of Manhattan Beach, specializes in Basque "burnt" cheesecake, a special rustic cake that has a distinctive caramelized top and a creamy, slightly sweet interior.
Fabila's cakes started growing in popularity over the past year due to word of mouth. But increasingly her cakes have appeared at pop-up events (including the Manhattan Village's Village Market) where they have drawn a larger audience. Lately she has been filling large-scale orders, such as for an El Segundo Rotary Club meeting and for several upcoming weddings.
In her research on Basque cheesecake, Fabila had discovered that the delicacy was only available in two other locations in the greater Los Angeles area. "I thought, it‘ll be fun to have our own little special thing in our community that in other communities it is hard to find," she said.
A Pandemic Pivot
Fabila had a fast-paced career as a marketing consultant in the health and wellness industry, but when the pandemic hit, she temporarily lost nearly all of her clients.
She had always dreamed of being a baker, she said, but since she hadn't gone to culinary school, she felt that she couldn't make the 'perfect-looking things' that you might see in a traditional bakery. She found herself drawn to more rustic recipes, and the Basque burnt cheesecake fit right in with her style.
Fabila, whose father is Spanish although not from the Basque region, had learned about Basque cuisine while she was growing up. As she grew older, she began researching more about Basque delicacies such as cheesecake.
The Basque "burnt" cheesecake originated at a San Sebastian coffeehouse known as La Viña. It's crustless and baked in a hot oven so the tops and sides caramelize. It's not cold and dense like a New York style cheesecake; it's more light and creamy. "If you like crème brûlée, or if you love flan, this is right up your alley," promises Fabila.
When she started baking during the pandemic, she began researching and experimenting with different Basque cheesecake recipes and techniques. She got lots of feedback from friends, family, and fellow cheesecake enthusiasts until she settled on the perfect recipe.
Baking the cheesecake is a more complicated task than, say, baking cookies, she said. The cake needs to be rotated to ensure that it is baked evenly, and Fabila raises and lowers the temperature during the baking process.
"I definitely don’t cut corners," she said. "This is a very special cake."
Currently, Fabila takes orders on Monday and Tuesday, and schedules pickups and deliveries on Wednesday through Sunday.
The cakes are available in 10-inch, 8-inch, 6-inch, or one dozen "Mini BB" cheesecakes - the most popular size for her large catering orders.
Why Bashi Bakes?
The name "Bashi" is not Basque, nor is it Fabila's name. It's actually a nickname from a video game, Bishi Bashi, that Fabila and a friend began calling each other.
Fabila explained that when she was a marketing consultant, she and a friend went to a professional event that had an arcade featuring the Bishi Bashi game. She and her friend had so much fun, she said, she almost couldn't believe it was work. Fabila and her friend started calling each other "Bishi" and "Bashi" as a reminder that they should always have fun with what they are doing - a philosophy that clearly extends to Fabila's new baking journey.
For her next steps, Fabila is in talks with local restaurants about putting her cake on their menu and/or possibly doing her baking in one of the restaurant's kitchens. She's also putting the finishing touches on a gluten-free cheesecake variation. (The traditional recipe, although it doesn't have a crust, has a small amount of flour in the cheese mixture.)
Beyond that, she'd love to a coffee shop that features her own style of "rustic, slightly imperfect looking pastries and desserts."
To order, visit Bashi Bakes online or email firstname.lastname@example.org.