This famous San Sebastian Cheesecake is the perfect combination of simple to make with just 6 ingredients yet memorable in flavour. Its creamy custardy centre and scorched caramelised outer crust are uniquely delicious.
San Sebastian Cheesecake is rustic-looking in appearance and goes against everything you're used to expecting from a baked or no-bake cheesecake. It has a signature burnt top, sunken middle and rustic scorched edges and has taken the world by storm and for good reason.
Its homespun and unassuming appearance masks an unbeatable texture and heavenly flavour. I implore you to make it. Its simplicity takes elegance to the max.
❓ What is San Sebastian Cheesecake?
Due to its burnt appearance this Spanish cheesecake is also known as Burnt Basque Cheesecake, Burnt Cheesecake or Saint Sabastian Cheesecake. It originates from a small Northern town in the Basque region of Spain, created by Chef Santiago Rivera for his bar-restaurant La Viña in San Sebastian.
He iconically through all the common perceptions of an even textured, smooth, dense, New York Style Cheesecake out of the widow. Forget water baths and the fear of a cracked non-perfect top.
Instead, Santiago created an egg and cream cheese forward filling and baked it directly into parchment paper, without a graham-cracker crust. The result is an exceptionally light cheesecake with a slightly under-done centre that's custard-like. The sugar within caramelises on the outside creating the scorched outer crust which imparts an incredible caramelised, créme brûlèe-esque flavour.
There's no doubt that this is an impressive dessert. It's a conversation starter - perfect for a dinner party. You are going to LOVE it!
🌟 Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Uses basic ingredients. 6 simple ingredients are all you need to create this sensational cheesecake.
- Easy method. Made in one bowl in only a couple of minutes- the method couldn't be any simpler. Plus it gets baked directly in the parchment paper and there's no worrying about a water bath.
- Unbelievable flavour. The aroma from the caramelised top is intoxicating. As the cheesecake cools, it infuses down into the creamy vanilla centre.
- It's meant to look rustic! Yes, the outside edges are ruffled and messy from the parchment paper. It's meant to look like that! The top will puff up and then sink whilst it cools and may even crack. Again it's meant to be.
🧾 Ingredients Needed
Traditionally cheesecake only uses cream cheese, cream, eggs, sugar and flour. I've included vanilla bean paste to compliment the caramel notes or the burnt top. But if you're a purist, leave it out!
- Cream Cheese - The hero ingredient in this burnt basque cheesecake recipe. You need to use full-fat cream cheese to achieve the correct texture, structure, and taste. A low-fat cream cheese has a high water content which won't work. I recommend using Philadelphia Cream Cheese in tub or block form.
- Eggs - 5 whole large eggs are used in this recipe. Sounds a lot but it's what gives the cheesecake taste and custardy texture.
- Cream - The fat content in the cream should be around the 35% mark. If based in the UK use double cream, the US use heavy cream and Australia use thickened cream.
- Sugar - Both granulated or caster sugar can be used but my preference lies with caster sugar as it dissolves better into the cream cheese.
- Flour - I've used plain flour (all-purpose flour) but you can also use cake flour. It helps with the structure once baked and prevents the cheesecake from 'weeping' as it cools down.
TIP: Use room temperature ingredients
Eggs, cream, and cream cheese must be at room temperature. Firstly it helps the sugar to dissolve but secondly, it also helps create that totally smooth texture by emulsifying well together.
As mentioned - traditionally vanilla isn't a core ingredient in a Basque Burnt Cheesecake. I just wanted to push forward those vanilla caramel notes.
- Sugar: Reduce the amount of sugar by ⅓ if you want the cream cheese flavour to be more prominent. But you still need some for the outside to caramelise.
- Lemon Zest or Orange Zest: Add in the citrus zest to lightly infuse the filling.
- Salt: Add in a teaspoon if you love that subtle salt flavour that sits in the back of your pallet.
- Whisky or rum: Add a tablespoon or two of alcohol.
- Make it gluten-free: Leave out the flour or use corn flour/starch to make this Basque baked cheesecake gluten-free. Note, the cheesecake may 'seep' once it cools down. Just something to be aware of.
👩🏻🍳 How to Make
Now's my chance to show you just how simple this burnt cheesecake recipe is to make. I make mine in my stand mixer with the whisk attachment. But you can also use the paddle attachment, use an electric hand mixer, or make it by hand with a whisk.
I've even seen others add all the ingredients to a food processor and whizz it up in one go. I've not tested this - let me know how you go if you try it!
In this post, I've broken down the process with photos so that you can see the texture at every step of the way. You'll also find useful tips to help you to perfect your San Sebastian Cheesecake.
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
Prepare the Pan
STEP 1. Prepare your pan. Line a 20cm (8-inch) pan with 2 layers of parchment paper. Ensure the paper overhangs the pan by at least 5cm (2 inches) and points upright, as the San Sebastian Cheesecake does puff up in the oven and this helps prevent any overflow (Images 1 & 2). (Notes in FAQ section if you want to bake it in a 23cm (9-inch cake pan).
TIP: What type of pan should you use?
I prefer to use a spring form pan so that once it's cooled I can unclip it but still use the paper to lift the cheesecake out.
Ultimately any cake pan, with a removable base, or without will work perfectly as the parchment paper is used like a sling.
STEP 2: Preheat the oven to 200C (390F) for a minimum of 20 minutes. If you can preheat it for double that time the better! This helps you get that scorched top.
Make the Filling
STEP 3. Whisk cream cheese. Add the cream cheese and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and whip on medium-low speed until the sugar has dissolved and the cream cheese is smooth (Images 3 & 4).
STEP 4. Mix in the eggs. Add the eggs, one at a time, and make sure that after each addition the mixture is homogenous before adding in the next one (Image 5 & 6).
STEP 5. Add the cream. Add the vanilla bean paste (if using) and room-temperature cream and whip on low until smooth. Make sure to scrape down the base and sides of your bowl at this point and mix briefly again (Images 7 & 8).
STEP 6. Add flour. Make sure to sift in the flour to remove any lumps and mix on low speed until it's just combined. You definitely don't want to over-mix at this point. The cheesecake batter should be lovely and smooth. If it isn't and you see lumps, then pass the mixture through a sieve to remove them (Images 9 & 10).
Bake the San Sebastian Cheesecake
STEP 7. Pour into the tin and bake. Pour all the filling into the prepared tin and level off with an offset spatula (Images 11 & 12). Tap the pan a couple of times to release any air bubbles. Bake for 45-55 minutes until the top is dark brown, the sides are set but the centre is still wobbly (Images 13 & 14 below). You'll think it's under-baked but trust the process!
TIP: Bake Times
The amount of time in the oven will impact the resulting texture of the cake. Bake it to your preference.
- 35-45 minutes: The centre is oozing and gooey - apparently how La Vida prefers to serve it.
- 45-55 minutes. The centre is creamy and a touch soft.
- 55-65 minutes. The centre is firm and will hold its shape when cut at room temperature.
The cheesecake in these images was baked for 50 minutes - it's how my kids prefer it - and they voted against my usual love of it being a bit runnier. Either way- it takes the same and is utterly delicious!
What if You Don't Get a Burnt Top?
If your oven runs hot and the cheesecake bakes before the top has caramelised fully, don't panic. Simply finish off the cheesecake under a broiler/grill to get the appropriate dark colour.
🥣 How To Serve
The Basque cheesecake cools fully whilst left in the pan at room temperature. You'll notice the puffed-up centre will deflate and the top will sink and possibly crack. Don't worry about this, it's natural.
Once cooled, release the spring form and then peel the paper from the sides. Leave the cheesecake on the paper to serve though- it adds drama and authenticity and looks so beautiful!
Whilst I prefer to serve this cheesecake at room temperature, others prefer to chill it for a couple of hours to help set the inside. Go with what you prefer because both options are good!
Serve along with a drizzle of chocolate ganache, caramel sauce or coulis. Or simply serve it with fresh berries and a glass of sweet sherry.
💭 Recipe Pro Tips
- Ingredients must be at room temperature to achieve a smooth texture.
- Bake and serve directly on parchment paper.
- Mix the filling until smooth and glossy, but if you have any lumps simply pass it through a sieve to remove them.
- The cheesecake does puff up past the top of the cake pan - so you definitely need the parchment paper to reach above the cake pan edge to prevent the filling from overflowing.
- If the top isn't dark enough once the cheesecake is baked, then grill it for a couple of minutes.
- Let the cake cool completely before you remove it from the cake pan.
📋 Recipe FAQs
The edge of the cheesecake will be set but the centre will still be jiggly making you believe that the cheesecake is not baked sufficiently. This is in fact perfect as the cheesecake will continue to set as it cools.
Carefully peel the parchment paper from the sides of the cheesecake. Heat a sharp knife under hot water, wipe it clean, and slice through the cheesecake. Repeat the process for each slice.
Yes, you can, however, the bake time will need to reduce as it won't be as thick. I would take off 10-12 minutes from the total time and go from there.
❄️ Storage and Freezer Instructions
To store: Store any leftovers in an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to one week but bring to room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
To freeze: Once San Sebastian Cheesecake is fully cool, refrigerate for a couple of hours before removing the parchment paper. Wrap the cheesecake well with plastic wrap and store it in a zip-lock bag. Freeze for 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and bring to room temperature before serving.
🍰 More European Recipes
If you tried this San Sebastian Cheesecake Recipe or any other recipe on my website, please please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you go in the 📝 comments below. I love hearing from you!
San Sebastian Cheesecake (Burnt-Basque) Recipe
- 800 g Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature (3 ½ tubs)
- 250 g caster sugar (superfine), or granulated
- 5 large eggs, room temperature
- 360 ml double cream (heavy cream), room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
- 60 g plain flour (all-purpose)
- Prepare the pan. Line a 20cm (8-inch) spring-form pan with two pieces of parchment paper. Lay the two pieces on top of one another but slightly askew and press the paper over the base and up the sides of the pan. The paper will look all creased on the sides but don't worry, this is how it should be! Do not fold it over, it should stick straight up. It should overhang the top by at least 5cm (2 inches) to prevent the filling from overflowing.
- Preheat the oven to 200℃ (390℉) for a minimum of 20 minutes. Longer if you have the time.
- Beat cream cheese and sugar. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream cheese and sugar on medium to low speed until smooth and the sugar has dissolved.
- Add in the eggs one at a time making sure the mixture is homogenous before adding in the next egg. Scrape down the base and sides of the bowl.
- Add the cream and vanilla bean paste and whisk on low speed until combined. Scrape down the base and sides of the bowl again.
- Sift in the flour and whisk on low speed until just combined. The filling should be smooth and glossy. If you see any lumps then I suggest passing the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove them.
- Pour filling into the prepared pan, level with an offset spatula, and tap the pan on the countertop a couple of times to remove any air bubbles.
- Bake in preheated oven (making sure the parchment paper is up and not folded down) for 40-45 minutes. Do not open the door during the baking. The cheesecake is ready when the top is golden brown, the sides are set but the middle is still jiggly. If the top doesn't look 'burnt' enough then you can grill/broil the cheesecake for 1-2 minutes. Keep an eye on it though as it 'turns' quickly.
- Cool to room temperature. Remove the pan from the oven and set on a wire rack. Let the cheesecake cool completely to room temperature in the pan without unmolding it. This can take approximately 4 hours. Serve by releasing the springform pan. Gently peel the paper from the sides of the cheesecake. Leave it on the parchment paper and slice it.If not serving the same day then refrigerate in the paper and springform pan.
All recipes are developed and tested in Metric grams. I strongly recommend that you bake using digital scales for a more accurate result. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.