Making cheesecake has always strained my skills—but not this one.  For starters, no crust to make, no water bath to fiddle with, and no worry about burning the top.  There’s a layer of flavored sugar on the top that’s meant to caramelize and burn, just a little.  

The story goes that 30 years ago the owner of La Viña restaurant, San Sebastian, Spain, wanted something new on his dessert menu—so he created tarta de queso, a light, airy cheese tart baked in parchment paper, with the signature burnt sugar top.  He then shared the recipe with anyone who asked, and encouraged variations on his original theme.  By now there are probably hundreds of versions of this simple, and simply delicious, crustless cheesecake.  Most recipes are geared to serve 12 or more—but I’ve worked this down to a 6” pan, for about 6 slices.  Swap out flavors to taste—orange for lemon, almond extract for vanilla, sour cream mixed with half-and-half for heavy cream.  Be sure to use at least a 2” tall pan—cake rises as it bakes.

  • 1 ½, 8 oz pkgs cream cheese—12 oz. (not whipped)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tblsp sugar
  • 1-2 tblsp lemon zest
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 cup flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsps vanilla extract

Cream sugar, cream cheese and ½ zest—beat 2 minutes.  Add eggs, one by one—beat well.  Add cream and vanilla—mix to combine.  Then add flour and salt and beat until just combined.  Lightly oil or butter a 6” X 2” tall pan and a sheet of parchment paper, cut to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.  Line the pan with paper, oiled side up.  Pour batter into prepared pan—then sprinkle top with remainder of zest mixed with 2 tblsp sugar.  Bake at 400’ for 45-55 minutes.  Start checking at 45 min—it’s done when the top is deep golden and a little burnt, but the center still jiggles a bit.  Cake will fall as it cools.  Serve with a small glass of sherry.

The Kitchen Hive

Catedral del Buen Pastor, San Sebastion

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