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San Sebastian Burnt Basque Cheesecake, 28th Birthdays and China

This light and fluffy, crustless, Basque 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.

burnt basque cheesecakeToday I’m enjoying this San Sebastian burnt basque cheesecake recipe.

If you love cheesecake I promise this crustless cheesecake with its rustic look, will become your new favorite.

Made famous at the la viña bar in San Sebastián, Spain this Basque-style cheesecake with its creamy center and dark brown top is the easiest cheesecake recipe I’ve ever made!

Today is Alex and Zoe’s 28th birthday and though they aren’t here to celebrate, I know they’d love this cheese cake made with Philadelphia cream cheese.

Hard to believe but I have no recipe for cheesecake on this blog, so I decided it was time to change that.

burnt basque cheesecake

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 San Sebastian Burnt Basque Cheesecake?

Let’s put it this way: A New York-style cheesecake is rich and dense.

It is baked low and slow, usually in a water bath and often has a cookie like crust.

A Basque cake is baked at a high temperature which means the exterior caramelizes and forms its own natural crust.

This also creates a creamy interior and a beautifully rich looking deep brown top.

Though this cake is simple to make, please be sure to use a full-fat cream cheese. No reason to lose flavor when making something so good.

burnt basque cheesecake
What does a burnt Basque cheesecake taste like?

This burnt basque cheesecake tastes rich and sweet and has a lovely custard like center.

Want to flavor this with vanilla extract? Be my guest.

It also could be made with lemon zest and lemon juice and my other thought is to try it with sherry, since it is traditionally served with sherry in Spain.

I can foresee many different flavors when it comes to this baked cheesecake.

Orange or maple, anyone?

burnt basque cheesecake

What ingredients are in a burnt Basque cheesecake?

Just 5 ingredients are needed to make this burnt Basque cheesecake recipe.

Eggs-I always use large eggs when baking anything.

Sugar. Always sugar! A small amount of flour. A bit of salt. (And actually I read that Spanish cream cheese is made with salt so you could add a bit more if you wanted.)

No sour cream in this cheesecake recipe, but heavy cream is added to create its creamy texture.

An American classic cheesecake bakes in a water bath and usually at a temperature of 350 to 375 degrees. Some even start at that and then the temperature is reduced for a longer period.

This creamy cheesecake is baked at 400 but I have seen some recipes where the bake time is just 20 minutes when baked at 500 degrees. I may have to try that!

burnt basque cheesecake

A springform pan with a removable bottom is required and must be lined with a sheet of parchment paper.

The more rufflly, the better which helps create its rustic appearance.

Though this fluffy cheesecake does need to chill, it should be served at room temperature

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.

burnt cheesecake

Folks stand in line in San Sebastian, Spain just to get a slice of this rich, fluffy cheesecake without a crust.

Who knew that only five ingredients could 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.

(This is an updated post from 2018. Skip down to recipe if you want!)


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, let’s summarize what everyone has always asked me about China…

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. Thank you Alex!

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 the destination you need to get back to written in Chinese.

Plus have the front desk plug their phone number into your phone…just in case you need a cab to get back.

Most cabbies do really not speak English. And cabbies are not afraid to take you for a ride. So be aware.

Taxi Driver license Fu, King Man

Bathrooms? Everyone asks about bathrooms!

For the most part we found bathrooms in hotels, museums, shopping malls and airports totally fine. Yes, all toilets are not Western toilets but that doesn’t mean they aren’t clean. But some in very crowded areas 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 that wall!

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.

burnt basque cheesecake

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 found 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.

China 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 are 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 there’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. Like PLENTY of time.

Boss and kids


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! Why yes. That is him wearing the Boss-tshirt.

His hospitality was without bounds. We met him at a seafood restaurant where everything was fresh and swimming in the tanks.

His wife ordered at least 10 dishes with lobsters dishes, shrimp dishes,  clams, scallops and giant oyster platters 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!

Chinese Oysters

lobster with garlic


Alex and lobsters

seafood restaurant crew

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 by a manicure peddler and taken 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 human 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!

(See, no manicure! This was at the Mission Hills golf course, where we had tea!)

zoe with tiger woods hands

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!

No, the Chinese don’t hug and say we hope to see you again soon!

Zoe, Emily, Me and SisterHong Kong

Soon we were off crossing the border to Hong Kong. That day was spent seeing the flower and bird markets and eating dim sum 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.  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 at night

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

Hong Kong skyline

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. They go for miles, I am told!

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:

Zoe at tea in HK

tea pastries in HK

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

meat chopper in HK

Chickens in Hong Kong Market

Vegetables in Hong Kong Market

Beijing and The Great Wall

Then we flew off to Beijing on the last leg of our trip, with the end 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.

great wall

burger king at great wall

Then up a short, but steep hill, to catch a bus to the cable car. After a steep walk up to the cable car,  you reach  the cable car and then finally  you have reached your destination, but not without another steep walk to the Wall!

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.

great wall

Walking on the Great Wall

great wall walk

The Great Wall

great wall

great wall

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 great wall

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!

the fam

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 before reaching 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.

me and medal

pumpkins and gourds china

Fruit in China

We 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.

art district

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

Plum Cake (2020)

Plum Cake

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San Sebastian Cheesecake, 28th Birthdays and China

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star No reviews
  • 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!



Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star


Wednesday 21st of April 2021

The cake looks so beautiful! And I am especially loving the burnt part. We too have an Indian cheesecake that is burnt cheesecake but made with cottage cheese. We call it Chhena Poda.

John / Kitchen Riffs

Tuesday 20th of April 2021

This is such a fantastic recipe -- glad to see it again. And that trip! You must have wonderful memories of it. :-)


Tuesday 20th of April 2021

Wonderful memories, John. Wish we could do it again. But of course, I'd love to get to Spain and try this cheesecake!


Saturday 1st of September 2018

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.


Friday 31st of August 2018

Do you think I could use stevia instead of sugar?

Abbe Odenwalder

Friday 31st of August 2018

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)

Wednesday 29th of August 2018

Belated birthday wishes to Alex and Zoe. I really enjoyed the 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

Wednesday 29th of August 2018

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