Why This Recipe Works
- Baking at a high temperature gives Basque cheesecake its signature deeply burnished surface and bottom, without the need for a crust.
- Sprinkling the surface of the batter with sugar before baking helps achieve deep browning.
- Chilling the cheesecake batter before baking ensures that the center remains creamy and doesn't overcook.
This cake is a deeply caramelized cousin of American cheesecake, inspired by the famous “tarta de queso” by Santiago Riviera of La Viña in Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain. Its defining features are a burnt top and barely set center, the result of baking the eggy cream cheese batter at a very high temperature. To achieve the perfect balance between the deeply browned top and creamy center, we chill the batter after mixing, and sprinkle the top with sugar right before the cake goes into a 450-degree oven.
Once the outer edges just begin to set, we crank the oven up to 500 degrees for the final 20 minutes of baking. This blast of heat gives the cheesecake its iconic burnished top, and also browns the bottom, giving what is otherwise a crustless cake a crust of sorts. The pleasant bitterness of the barely-set burnt top gives way to the sweet richness of the custardy center. Serve this with a glass of sherry for the perfect end to a meal, or just as a stand-alone treat.
Click Play to Learn How to Make Creamy Basque Cheesecake
This recipe was cross-tested in 2023 and updated with more accurate times and temperatures to guarantee best results.
Basque cheesecake boasts a creamy center and a deeply caramelized "burnt" top and bottom, thanks to a high-temperature bake—no crust required.
2 pounds full-fat cream cheese, such as Philadelphia (32 ounces; 900g), brought to about 70°F (21°C)
9 1/2 ounces granulated sugar (about 1 1/4 plus 2 tablespoons; 270g), plus 1 tablespoon (15g), divided
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 yolks (35g), at room temperature
8 fluid ounces heavy cream (240ml), at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (8g; 10ml)
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (about 1 1/2 teaspoons; 45g)
1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt use half as much by volume or the same weight
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (0.6 ounce; 16g)
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Cut two 12- by 16-inch pieces of parchment paper. Arrange the 12- by 16-inch pieces of parchment in an overlapping pattern to line a greased 9- by 3-inch springform cake pan, leaving at least 1 to 3 inches of parchment overhanging the rim of the pan on all sides. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine cream cheese and 9 1/2 ounces (270g) sugar. Mix on medium-low speed, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until no lumps of cheese remain, sugar is dissolved, and mixture is smooth, 3 to 4 minutes.
With mixer on medium-low speed, add eggs one at a time, beating for 10 seconds before adding the next. Add egg yolks, and beat on low speed until fully incorporated, 5 to 10 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, making sure the mixture is smooth and homogenous.
Add cream, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Mix on low speed until fully combined and smooth, about 15 seconds. Using a fine-mesh strainer, sift flour over batter. Beat on low speed just until combined, 15 to 30 seconds, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Pour batter into prepared pan, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
When ready to bake, remove cake pan from refrigerator, set on a rimmed baking sheet, and sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon (15g) sugar evenly over surface of batter.
Bake cheesecake, rotating pan 180 degrees halfway, until cheesecake jiggles as a whole, surface is deeply browned, and the outer edge feels slightly firm but the inner 4 1/2 to 5 inches still seems wobbly and underdone, 50 to 60 minutes. You can also check doneness with an instant-read thermometer: the cheesecake is done when the very center registers between 150 and 155ºF (65.5 to 68ºC) when an instant-read thermometer is inserted to a depth of 2 inches. For a more deeply browned top, see notes below.
Let cheesecake cool in the pan on a wire rack at room temperature for 1 hour. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 4 hours before unmolding. To unmold the cheesecake, unlatch springform pan and remove pan sides. Holding by parchment overhang, carefully transfer cake to a cutting board or serving plate. Gently peel back parchment from sides of cheesecake, and use a sharp knife to cut into wedges. Serve chilled or allow the cheesecake to come to room temperature before serving. Leftover cheesecake can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.
9-inch springform pan, stand mixer, fine-mesh strainer, rimmed baking sheet
If you’d like more color on your cheesecake you can give it a brief stint under the broiler with your oven rack positioned about 7 inches from the top heating element. Be sure to keep a close eye on it as it can go from brown to burned very quickly.
Make-Ahead and Storage
The cheesecake can be made up to 3 days in advance; once cooled to room temperature after baking, wrap tightly with plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days.