Throw every cheesecake rule out the window and make this stunning San Sebastian Cheesecake right now! Also called a Burnt Basque Cheesecake, this unique, crustless cheesecake features a heavily caramelized exterior and a light, creamy custard inside. A cloud of sherry whipped cream is the perfect finish and my nod to the Spanish tradition of drinking sherry wine with dessert.
San Sebastian Cheesecake is characterized by its heavily browned exterior and light, creamy, custardy interior. It does not have a crust but the high heat creates a beautiful brown crust on the bottom and sides and a deep mahogany brown crust on top. It is the least fussy cheesecake you will ever make and another bonus is that it does not require a water bath.
Cheesecake is a distinctly Christmastime dessert to me thanks to my dad's cheesecake tradition (read about that here: Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake). But I think we should be enjoying cheesecake (especially when it's this easy to make) all year long!
Why is it called San Sebastian cheesecake?
Also called a Burnt Basque Cheesecake, Basque Burnt Cheesecake, and Donostia Cheesecake, the San Sebastian Cheesecake originated at La Viña restaurant in the Basque region of Spain (Donostia is the Basque name for San Sebastián, the capital city of Spain's northern coastal province of Gipuzkoa).
What to serve with San Sebastian Cheesecake
It is traditional to serve this dessert with some Spanish sherry wine, which is why I decided to make a sherry-infused whipped cream to serve with my San Sebastian Cheesecake. Pair this with any dessert wine you enjoy. It is also delicious with an espresso! (I won't pretend I haven't eaten a slice of this for breakfast.)
A simple list of everyday ingredients is all you need to make this San Sebastian Cheesecake.
- full fat cream cheese
- sugar - white granulated or pure cane sugar
- kosher salt
- lemon zest (optional and not 100% traditional but it adds a little something that I really love)
- vanilla bean paste - you know I love those little vanilla freckles but you can sub vanilla extract
- heavy cream - this is one of the ingredients that makes a burnt Basque cheesecake different from a regular cheesecake and also contributes to the magical custardy texture
See recipe card for quantities.
How to make San Sebastian Cheesecake: step-by-step photos
Place cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest, and salt in bowl of stand mixer
Mix well before adding vanilla bean paste and one egg at a time
scrape sides and bottom of bowl in between each egg addition
continue adding one egg at a time and scraping
after final egg is mixed in, scrape bottom and sides once more
With mixer on low, drizzle in cream
Sift flour on top of cheesecake batter and gently fold/whisk in.
Pour mixture into parchment lined springform pan and bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes.
After baking allow cheesecake to cool to room temperature before placing in refrigerator uncovered overnight (or for at least 6 hours). This is crucial to allowing the custard to set and to get clean slices.
Hint: Bake cheesecake on the top rack to ensure a deeply caramelized burnt basque cheesecake appearance.
I highly recommend a springform pan for this and all cheesecake recipes. You can find a decent, cheap springform pan almost anywhere these days including the grocery store. Here is a 9-inch springform pan I use.
I also recommend making this in a stand mixer but you can also use a hand mixer.
This post contains affiliate links, please feel free to check out my full disclosure policy
Leftovers of this cheesecake will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for one week. I do not recommend freezing this cheesecake.
- Line the springform with a large piece of parchment or even two. The cheesecake will puff up like a souffle in the oven so you want the paper to be a bit taller than the edges of your pan.
- Make sure your cream cheese, eggs, and cream are room temperature to avoid any lumps. BUT if you do have lumps, don't panic, you can pass the batter through a sieve to remove them.
- Allow to cool to room temperature for about 2 hours before popping in the refrigerator overnight. Do not unmold or try to slice/serve until the cake has chilled and set.
- I have no trouble getting a burnt top, but if you find yours is not dark enough at the end of cooking you can broil the top but keep a very close eye as it will scorch very quickly.
A burnt Basque cheesecake aka a San Sebastian cheesecake does not have a crust and it is baked at a high temperature without a water bath. These are the main differences between this style of cheesecake and an American or New York style cheesecake.
Besides being very easy to make, a Basque Burnt Cheesecake has a delightful light and airy texture around the outer edges and a super creamy custardy middle. That combined with the caramelized exterior create such a unique and flavorful cheesecake.
the main ingredients in a burnt basque cheesecake are cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and heavy cream. Optional flavorings include vanilla and lemon zest.
Looking for more sweet treats?
This cheesecake would be the perfect dessert to serve after any of these dinner recipes: