Silky and rich, this easy San Sebastian cheesecake recipe is made from just 5 ingredients. With it’s caramel flavour from the distinctive burnt top, this simple baked cheesecake is a delicious Spanish dessert.
What is san sebastian cheesecake?
San Sebastian cheesecake, also known as Basque cheesecake or La Viña cheesecake, was invented in the beautiful Basque Country city of San Sebastian by the chef, Santiago Rivera, in the restaurant La Viña in 1990. This simple baked cheesecake is smooth, creamy, and one slice is never enough! With it’s silky creamy centre and distinctive ’burnt’ top creating a caramelised layer – similar to the morish top of an old fashioned baked rice pudding – this Spanish cheesecake is very different to a New York style baked cheesecake or no bake cheesecakes like my passionfruit cheesecake and Biscoff cheesecake.
Why we love this recipe
- This creamy no crust cheesecake is a simple baked cheesecake – if you are nervous of baking a cheesecake, this forgiving recipe is for you!
- You can alter the texture and enjoy it oozy and custard-like, or firmer – the cooking times I’ve given is for a firmer cheesecake so cook 5-10 minutes less if you want the centre to be oozing, however be warned that it won’t slice as neatly.
- If you want to serve the cheesecake in slices, this Spanish cheesecake is delicious the next day, making it a great make ahead dessert. We actually prefer it chilled, it reminds us of a cheesecake we would buy from the supermarket when we lived in Spain.
- The melt in the mouth texture of this San Sebastian cheesecake is light rather than rich and dense.
- Serve it for dessert following eggs piperade and poulet Basque / Basque chicken for a delicious Basque meal.
- Or serve it following a tapas spread, with patatas bravas, ajillo mushrooms (garlic mushrooms), Spanish chickpeas, Spanish orange salad.
Ingredients notes and substitutions
- Cream cheese – Philadelphia cream cheese, use block cream cheese if you are in Australia. In the UK use full fat Philadelphia cream cheese. La Viña is said to use Philadelphia too.
- Cream – if you are in the UK, use double cream. In Australia I use thickened cream. In American use heavy cream. You need to use a cream that has a minimum of 35% fat.
- Flour – plain flour or all purpose flour. This helps the cheesecake set. You can leave it out to make a gluten free Basque cheesecake, however flour helps the texture, especially if making the cheesecake ahead as it can ‘weep’ without the flour.
- Sugar – caster sugar. This dissolves quicker and provides that silky texture.
How to make burnt cheesecake
For full detailed recipe please scroll to the recipe card below.
- Preheat the oven to 200˚C fan / 392˚F convection.
- Line a round baking tin with dampened baking paper.
- TIP: Make sure the baking paper sticks up 2-3 cm above the top of the tin.
- In a large mixing bowl beat the cream cheese until soft.
- Add the sugar and beat with electric beaters.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate them.
- TIP: I like to switch to a balloon whisk here as you don’t want to add too much air.
- Once all the eggs are mixed in, whisk in the flour
- Then add cream. Whisk until no lumps remain.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
- TIP: Knock the tin a couple of times to remove any air bubbles.
- Place in a preheated oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is a deep brown colour and the middle is still wobbly. It will be puffed up (as in the image below) but will collapse as it cools. This is OK and what it is meant to do!
- Leave to cool in the tin.
- You can serve Basque cheesecake at room temperature or place in the fridge to firm up.
A Basque cheesecake is lighter than a New York style cheesecake, which is heavy and dense in texture. The iconic burnt top which provides a delicious caramel flavour to the San Sebastian cheesecake does not appear on a normal cheesecake.
Condensation can build up on the bottom and sides of the cheesecake which can cause the cheesecake to become wet. The centre of the cheesecake is supposed to be a softer than the edges however.
If your oven is at the wrong temperature and not hot enough then the Basque cheesecake can be cooked without the top becoming burnt. If this happens you can place the cheesecake under a hot grill / broiler to caramelise the top – but watch it closely as it can burn easily.
My recipe tips
- Use a deep baking tin, the cheesecake does rise so use a deep tin and / or make sure the baking paper sticks out above the top of the tin by 2-3 cm / 1 inch. You will see from the video that this is the method I use.
- Dampen the baking paper before lining the tin – this makes it easier to remove the paper from the baked cheesecake without it sticking.
- Make sure the cream cheese is at room temperature, this helps you to mix it properly with the sugar.
- Use a hand whisk and slowly add the ingredients to achieve the distinctive silky texture.
- Fresh out of the oven the cheesecake will look like a souffle, however it will sink slightly as it cools – this is OK and how it is meant to be!
- The cheesecake will be firmer once it has been in the fridge for a couple of hours.
- If your cheesecake is cooked but doesn’t have that distinctive burnt top you can use a blowtorch to scorch the top of the cheesecake or place under a hot grill – watch carefully as it can burn!
- With a glass of sweet sherry.
- With roasted fruit.
- Brandied sultanas or raisins (pictured below) – I mixed 3 tablespoons of sultanas with 2 teaspoons of brandy and left them to soak for half an hour or even better, for a couple of hours.
- Fruit coulis or compote (pictured below)
- Gluten free – to make a gluten free cheesecake you can simply leave out the flour. Although if making the cheesecake in advance it can ‘weep’ without any flour, so it is safer to make it with flour. You can also use cornflour / corn starch for a gluten free firm Basque cheesecake.
- Other flavours – I love to keep the cheesecake simple, however you can add the following: 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract, 1 orange zest, 1 lemon zest or a spoonful of honey.
More delicious dessert recipes
San Sebastian Cheesecake
- 20 cm round baking tin with removable base / springform tin
- 600g (21 oz) Philadelphia cream cheese, in blocks, room temperature ($12.00 / £3.60)
- 300ml (1¼ C) cream – minimum 35% fat ($2.60 / £1.35)
- 4 eggs, size large ($1.40 / £0.72)
- 180g (¾ c) caster sugar ($0.40 / £0.29)
- 1 tablespoon plain flour ($0.02 / £0.01)
- Preheat the oven to 200˚C fan / 220˚C / 392˚F convection / 428˚F.
- Line the baking tin with baking paper scrunched up / wrinkled then quickly run under the tap to dampen slightly. Make sure the baking paper sticks up 2-3 cm above the top of the tin.
- In a large mixing bowl beat the cream cheese until soft and smooth.
- Add the sugar and beat with electric beaters / whisk for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate them. I like to switch to a balloon whisk here as you don’t want to add too much air.
- Once all the eggs are mixed in, whisk in the flour, then pour in the cream.
- Whisk with a balloon whisk until no lumps remain.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
- Knock the tin a couple of times to remove any air bubbles.
- Place in the preheated oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is a deep brown and the middle is still wobbly (the cheesecake will firm up as it cools down)
- Leave to cool in the tin for 3-4 hours.
- Can serve at room temperature or place in the fridge to firm up more. You can bring to room temperature before serving if you prefer.