Beyond/ Cake/ Dessert

San Sebastian Cheesecake, 28th Birthdays and China

This light and fluffy, crustless cheesecake with an almost burnt top, is said to be a cross between a New York slice and a flan. Coming from Spain, where this San Sebastian cheesecake is famous, it is served with a glass of sherry.

San Sebastian Spanish Cheesecake

So today my kids are 28. Happy Birthday Alex and Zoe! I baked them a Spanish San Sebastian cheesecake to celebrate, but I think they will be celebrating in abstentia. I guess that means we eat the cake. Hard to believe but I have no recipe for cheesecake on this blog, so I decided it was  time to change that. When Alex was young he had issues with lactose, so this was not something I would have made. Birthdays always involved heirloom chocolate fudge cake and my Ilse’s nut cake. Often we had linguini with clam sauce, and in the later years I think they preferred steak.

What is a Spanish San Sebastian Cheesecake?

I don’t often make cheesecake but I do remember the kids loving an Oreo cheesecake that I made a few times. THIS  Spanish cheesecake has no Oreo’s and  some might call it a plain cheesecake. However, it is anything but plain. Folks stand in line in San Sebastian, Spain just to get a slice of this rich, fluffy, no crust cheesecake. Five ingredients that combine to make pure heaven. Well, that is if you love cheese. This is a cheesecake that is a bit like a flan, a bit like a NY slice, and a top that is supposed to be almost burnt.  One is supposed savor this cheesecake with a glass of port or sherry, which seems perfectly acceptable to me.  So cheers to my children’s birthday and to the day that we get to celebrate it together again.

And now it’s back to China. It has been two years and I’ve never concluded our trip. I’m getting a bit sentimental thinking about it. Our trip to China was incredible and  I would do it again in a heartbeat…but maybe in the cooler months! China was hot and crowded, and coming from dry Colorado I found myself sweating all the time. Even when it was considered cool, the humidity still made me sweat. That being said, to summarize what everyone has always asked me about China…

San Sebastian Cheesecake

Thoughts on China !!!

No, we didn’t get sick and we ate everywhere…however we did have a great guide! And he spoke the language. Yes, it was crowded, but we felt safe. Of course our great guide gave us ample warning of what was safe and what wasn’t. Yes, I think one needs a guide because all signs are in Chinese. However if you get a guide who proclaims to speak English you probably shouldn’t believe them. Don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path, but always have where you need to get back to written in Chinese, and have the front desk plug their phone number into your phone…just in case you need a cab to get back. Cabbies do not speak English. And cabbies are not afraid to take you for a ride. So be aware.

Taxi Driver license Fu, King Man

For the most part we found bathrooms in hotels, museums, shopping malls and airports just fine. Yes, all toilets are not Western toilets but that doesn’t mean they aren’t clean. But some aren’t.  Chinese 5 star hotels are very good, but often no one speaks English. The larger hotel chains are used to accommodating Westerners, but even then their English is not great. We stayed in a combo of places and really enjoyed the smaller ones. The Great Wall? Just might refer to the fact that it is hard to connect to IG or Facebook or Pinterest. However if you are in a Western hotel, somehow you can magically get through. And the China Daily English newspaper is state owned, so realize the news may be a bit slanted. Better to keep your thoughts to yourself if speaking with the Chinese.

The Chinese are very nice people. Remember you are a stranger in a strange land. They will stare. But so will you. That’s OK. Just smile. If you need service in a restaurant, it is not impolite to stand and yell Fu yen. They will come running. Bring your own napkins. Good food is often in malls. On the top floor. Weird, but true. Bakeries are in all the big cities. Congee for breakfast was not my thing. All of China is not 1st world. I like to think that is its charm. It has evolved fast. Give it time. And make sure no one pushes you out of line. Stand with your elbows out. Really. These folks are used to crowds! Bargain everywhere, but especially the markets. Take 2/3 off and start there. Don’t be afraid to walk out. You will probably find the same thing down the road. As Alex says…it is important to save face. This, when he wanted to save 75 cents on a bunch of prayer beads! I would have bought them, but not Alex Odie San China Boy!

You will see things you probably don’t want to see. Appreciate your life. And then appreciate their’s. They’ve come a long way  since 1978. Go to the parks. Drink tea in the park. So much happens in the park. Remember living spaces are teeny. Socializing takes place in the park. Enjoy. Life is an adventure. Go for a massage. Get a recommendation on where to go. It is relaxing at 10PM, after a long day. They serve you tea and fruit and it is just the best way to end your day.  Book your in country flights here. It is cheaper. Trains are good. Really transportation is good, but expect air travel within the country to always be delayed. Hey! They give you free drinks and meals if they are. Not that those are any good. And be prepared to schelp through the airports. When you think you are at the gate, you probably have another escalator to get on. Really, leave plenty of time.

Boy on Subway


And that’s it! Now  for some photos. From Guilian we headed to Shenzhen by bullet train. Shenzhen was a sleepy village in the 80’s across the river from Hong Kong. Now it has over 15m people. We primarily went there to meet with Manservant’s old business partner who is called the General. We will never know! His hospitality was without bounds. We began at a seafood restaurant where everything was fresh in the tanks. His wife ordered at least 10 dishes with lobsters and shrimp and clams and scallops and giant oysters arriving to our private dining room. This, I’m told was a casual restaurant, not a fancy one. Though we couldn’t eat all of that, she sent Alex, Zoe and I down to pick out more. It was quite an operation!

3 people

Chinese Oysters

Chinese Lobster

Garlic Scallops

Chinese Fish Restaurant

Boy holding two lobsters

Restaurant Kitchen

After that we went back to the hotel and decided to peruse Dongmen, a hustling shopping area near our hotel. This is where Alex Odie San China Boy’s safety warnings came into play. While he was at McDonald’s getting soft serve, Zoe decided she needed a manicure. She and I were quickly led down the escalator under the plaza. It was jam packed with vendors and people and one could not see how far this giant underground mall went on. Follow me. Follow. We followed, while up above Manservant and Alex were panicking. Turns out cell phones don’t work down below and this is where trafficking is said to take place. All I know is that when we got to the manicure booth Zoe decided she didn’t need the manicure and then it was up to us to find our way out. Luckily Zoe has a good sense of direction. At the top of the escalator were our two men, with the younger one ready to blow a gasket. Do you know how stupid you were he screamed at us. Well, I guess we didn’t. And with that Zoe stomped angrily back to the hotel. Luckily most nights were much calmer!

The next morning found us taking a taxi out to Mission Hills to see the General.  By noon we were having sushi and another gigantic meal along with Baijo shots. They went easy on us as this stuff is quite deadly. We didn’t have to finish the bottle and the rest was sent home with Zoe. I think it is probably still taking up space in her liquor cabinet. With full bellies we continued to the Mission Hills Golf Club where the General’s sister in law is an avid golfer. It is there we women were parked to have tea while the men went off to look at the General’s newest business. Somehow we managed to fit a few sweets into our expanding waistlines. And a few hours later it was time for an abrupt goodbye (which is very Chinese) while we were thinking hope to see you again soon!

Tiger Woods hand prints

Ladies in front of orchids

Hong Kong

Soon we were off crossing the border to Hong Kong. That day was spent seeing the flower and bird markets and eating dimsum at Tim Ho Wan. We did fall in love with their BBQ pork pineapple bun. OH my. I’d venture to NYC just to have another where they finally opened another outpost. I have attempted to make these and though I got the flavor of the dough right, I couldn’t quite conquer the texture.

Tim Ho Wan bbq buns

Tim Ho Wan Michelin Restaurant

That night was spent on a boat viewing the lights of the city.

Hong Kong Skyline

The next day we took the tram up Victoria Peak and hiked and sweated. Unfortunately the skies were hazy but we got the idea. It is a gorgeous bay.

Hong Kong from Victoria Peak

Then it was on to the escalators, yes they have escalators that run throughout the center of the city because of all the hills.

Escalators with people in HK

We rode them, I’m not sure why, except that it seemed like the thing to do and then Zoe and I left the men and quickly cleaned ourselves up while we did this

Pretty girl photo

Tea pastries

and they did that.

Man with lots of beer

Before we left the next day, we managed to see one of Hong Kong’s bustling wet markets. Though there were some things I’d rather not see, I found it fascinating. The variety of produce and seafood and spices and baked goods were incredible and I could go on, but take a look.

Fish Market with Crabs

Varieties of eggs in Hong Kong

Butcher at Hong Kong Market

Chickens in Hong Kong Market

Vegetables in Hong Kong Market

Beijing and The Great Wall

Then it was off to Beijing with the end of our trip quickly approaching. We stayed in a funky hotel, with great street food right outside. I had the best jao bing of the trip. Early the next day we ubered to the Wall…The real Great Wall. Saving this journey until the end was perfect. What a climax to a phenomenal trip. Climbing the wall is awe inspiring. We were lucky that it was a perfect day. Not too hot and not too crowded. Climbing the wall is no easy task. First you are dropped off at the plaza where you can partake of food.

Entrance to Great Wall

Then up a short, but steep hill, to catch a bus to the cable car. A steep walk up to the cable car, and finally after the cable car ride you have reached your destination, but not without another steep walk to the Wall! Finally you have arrived at the top. From there the real climb begins. It is not easy and many of the women were wearing high heels. Figure that out. We began the climb and found walking on uneven surfaces and different depths of steps challenging, but fun. Well, I found it challenging. The crowds quickly thinned out the further you walked.

The Great Wall

Walking on the Great Wall

Walking on the Great Wall

The Great Wall

We had fun watching families taking selfies and seemed to follow this guy the whole way. He was intent on proving his strength. He did a very good job and one couldn’t help but smile with him.

Man on the Great Wall preforming push ups

Man on the Great Wall preforming leg lifts

Then it was upward, because to get to the top (or at least the top of the rebuilt part of the wall) one had to climb up. The final section stairs were so narrow and so steep you may have well been on a ladder. But I made it. And I got my medal. And please note that they only sold the medals at the top. 🙂 I am very proud of my medal!

3 people on the great wall

We were climbing about 4 1/2 hours. This was not at a fast speed. It was an enjoyable speed. The adventuresome climbed through the forest and camped to reach the wall. We were not of that group, though I believe Alex did it last year. Quickly we were back in Beijing, while passing glorious fall food stands

woman with pumpkins holding great wall medal

Dried fruit and Gourds in China

and even saw a Russian concert pianist that night. It was a little much! The Art District awaited our final day. Interesting stuff in an area quickly gaining popularity.

ObaMao tote bag

Dragon Fly Beijing Art Market

Our last night there found us in a Hutong Brewery. Surreal to be in an ancient city drinking craft brew. We actually drank a lot of beer in China, Tsingtao and Budweiser being the two most common. After beer drinking and walking through the hutong we had dinner at a lovely restaurant built in an old residence, where we ate outside in a peaceful setting and celebrated Manservant’s 60th birthday.

Man with birthday candles

No, there was no proper birthday cake, but our family was together and we were all soon going our separate ways. Manservant back to work in Europe, Zoe to work in Hong Kong for a week, Alex back to Shanghai and me to Denver all by myself. It was bittersweet.

But I find birthdays a bit bittersweet too. Yes they are a time to celebrate, but they are also a time to reflect. So my dear children, reflect on all you’ve accomplished this year. Be grateful for what you have and wish for many more celebrations. Life is short. Make the most of it. You both have done a most excellent job of that. Here’s to you, Alex and Zoe. You make me so happy and proud to be your mother. Happy 28th Birthday!

(And if you want to read the rest of the journey just click the Beyond Tab at the top of the page.)

San Sebastian Cheesecake

More Birthday Posts: 

Blueberry Pancakes (2015)

Blueberry Pancakes

Chocolate Lava Cake (2013)

chocolate lava cake

Chinese Pancakes (2016)

Chinese Pork Stuffed Pancakes are street food in China. These Chinese pork stuffed pancakes are great for a hand held breakfast or lunch on the go! #Chinesefood #streetfood #savorypancakes See more at This is How I

Coffee Cake (2017)

Coffee Cake

And a Few More from My Friends:

This triple lemon cake from Life, Love and Sugar…because I know I don’t give you enough lemon recipes!

Zoe would love this rainbow cake from The Little Kitchen!

Sharing Means a Lot To Me!

San Sebastian Cheesecake

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San Sebastian Spanish Cheesecake

San Sebastian Cheesecake, 28th Birthdays and China

  • Author: Abbe Odenwalder
  • Prep Time: 15 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 60 Minutes
  • Total Time: 75 Minutes
  • Yield: 12 Servings 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Spanish


This light and fluffy, crustless cheesecake with an almost burnt top is said to be a cross between a New York slice and a flan. Coming from Spain, where this San Sebastian cheesecake is famous, it is served with a glass of sherry.



1 3/4 c sugar

2 1/4 lbs cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 t kosher salt

5 large eggs

2 c heavy cream

1/4 c flour


Preheat oven to 400. Grease a 10″ springform pan and line it with parchment paper. The rustic effect is what I did which means using 1 large sheet of paper and pleating it around the bottom and leaving a 1 -2″ overhang around the sides.

In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar and cream cheese until smooth. Add the salt and then incorporate the eggs one by one.

Whisk in the cream or blend in on low speed. With a sifter, sprinkle the flour over the mixture and fold it in gently.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 50 minutes, though mine took 65! Bake until browned and almost burnt. The center will still be quite jiggly. Mine rose above the pan, but when it cools, it sinks back down. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

When ready to serve, gently remove sides of springform and peel back paper. Serve with a glass of dry sherry, preferably from Spain! Serve at room temperature.


Thank you Tasting Table and La Vina!

Keywords: dessert, cheesecake, Spanish Recipes, 5 Ingredients


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  • Juliana
    September 1, 2018 at 8:53 am

    Happy belated birthday to Alex and Zoe…delicious looking cheesecake Abbe. I love the pictures as brought great memories of our trip to China a few years ago.

  • Kristi
    August 31, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    Do you think I could use stevia instead of sugar?

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      August 31, 2018 at 6:15 pm

      You would have to check stevia when it comes to baking. Stevia tastes bitter in many recipes. Frankly since there are so few ingredients in this cheesecake I’m not sure I would substitute. Wish I could tell you otherwise.;) However if you do try it and it turns out, please let me know!

  • Karen (Back Road Journal)
    August 29, 2018 at 7:47 am

    Belated birthday wishes to Alex and Zoe. I really enjoyed the post…travel and cheesecake, it doesn’t get much better than that. I will be in San Sebastian for one day next month and hope to have a slice of that cake. Then when I return home, I can make your recipe.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      August 29, 2018 at 2:17 pm

      Lucky you! Can’t wait to hear the review!

  • Susan
    August 28, 2018 at 7:38 am

    Oh my, great looking cheesecake and happy belated birthday to the twins! I would love to try this with a little sherry or port after dinner! Loved seeing the finale of your wonderful trip to China and am so impressed by your climb up the Great Wall. Kudos to you!! Wonderful memories and a nice way to wish your kids Happy Birthday too 🙂

  • Healthy World Cuisine
    August 26, 2018 at 2:03 pm

    Happy Birthday to the kiddos! My word they have all grown up so fast! This cheesecake looks so decadent and delicious. If you need any help polishing it off because they are not there, just let us know. We can help you sort that out! You are making us all home sick of course with your recap on your China and HK visit. I think a little part of your heart gets left behind in every country you live in, especially when one of your kids is still there. We are certain you feel the same way. Take Care! Pinning, of course

  • Tricia @ Saving Room for Dessert
    August 26, 2018 at 7:27 am

    What a fantastic recipe and incredible trip. Your photos are wonderful Abbe. I could go again in a heartbeat 🙂

  • Jeff the Chef
    August 25, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Well, first of all, it looks like you all had a ton of fun! But more importantly, I’ve never had a cheesecake like this, and I can’t wait to try it!

  • sippitysup
    August 24, 2018 at 2:42 pm

    I’m going to cut and paste you (deservedly all caps) thoughts on travel. It suits my philosophy perfectly. As does this cheesecake. GREG

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      August 24, 2018 at 5:23 pm

      Coming from a travel fiend like you I take that as a major compliment! Thanks!

  • 2 Sisters recipes
    August 24, 2018 at 10:56 am

    Happy Birthday to your kids! And thank you for sharing your trip to China! Your cheesecakes sounds heavenly! Have a great week Abbe!!

  • John / Kitchen Riffs
    August 24, 2018 at 9:11 am

    Happy Birthday to Alex and Zoe. They’ve become big kids. 🙂 But then we’re all big kids, i guess! The wait for this cheesecake was SO worth it. Wonderful looking recipe. And as always, loved your travel photos and stories. Thanks!

  • Monique
    August 24, 2018 at 6:36 am

    Lovely to see a place I will never see in person..Big cities have proved to not be suited to us..vce versa actually..
    But I love visiting armachair way..and t was so nice to see your beautiful fam all together.Memories to last forever!
    I like manservant’s eyeglasses Abbe..very cool!!
    Zoe looks so much like you and your son is handsome too.
    Fun fun fun and a great looking cake..Yay for your medal!!

  • Liz
    August 24, 2018 at 4:30 am

    Katie turns 30 early next month! So hard to believe—and she wants cheesecake!! Yours looks wonderful. I love all your tips about traveling in China—great, practical advice. It is high on my list of countries to visit, but low on Bill’s. Maybe he’ll change his mind??? I hope so!

  • angiesrecipes
    August 24, 2018 at 4:20 am

    Happy Birthday Alex and Zoe!! That’s a delicious cake to celebrate 🙂 Crab, oyster, lobster…I am drooling over all the seafood!!