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Simple Lemon Sugar Burnt Basque Cheesecake…just what your weekend needs. This cheesecake has a crinkly, flaky, sweet top with a creamy lemony cheesecake filling. Its deep brown top has cracks all around for a rustic, but pretty, and very unique look. It’s really not like any other cheesecake you’ve had before. It’s flaky on the outside, but the inside is creamy, rich, and bursting with notes of springy lemon flavor. Bonus? This is the easiest cheesecake to make and (almost) impossible to mess up.

overhead photo of Simple Lemon Sugar Burnt Basque Cheesecake with a few slices of cake cut

Well look at that, not one, but two non-chocolate desserts this week. Between Tuesday’s crème brûlée and today’s cheesecake, I am really on a vanilla-themed dessert kick. I wasn’t planning to share this cheesecake today, but after I gave a little preview on Instagram the other day, it was clear that everyone seemed to want this recipe now.

With Easter rapidly approaching, I definitely have spring-themed desserts on my mind. In the past, I’ve share shared mostly chocolate Easter desserts, but this year I’m embracing more of the classics. But classics with a twist…of course.

Enter this burnt Basque cheesecake. I made a blueberry Basque cheesecake a few summers ago. But today I wanted to share a more traditional take with the addition of sweet lemon. It’s truly the simplest cheesecake you’ll ever make and possibly the most delicious too.

This one is pretty hard to beat.

prep photo of cake batter in mixing bowl

The background on the Burnt Basque Cheesecake

A little back story on the Basque Burnt Cheesecake. It originated in San Sebastian, Spain in 1990 and was created by chef Santiago Rivera of La Viña. It’s traditionally a crustless cheesecake made with a lot of cream cheese and plenty of eggs. The biggest difference between a Basque cheesecake and a more traditional American cheesecake is that the Basque cheesecake is baked at a higher temperature. The high heat creates a deep dark brown “burnt” exterior, while still maintaining a super creamy and almost custard-like interior.

Personally, what I love the most about the Basque-style cheesecake is that it’s no-fuss, no-stress, and absolutely nothing too fancy. It’s OK that it looks burnt, and it’s OK that the top has crinkly cracks throughout. In fact, the more imperfect-looking it is the better.

I’m all about that imperfect, but perfect look.

prep photo of Cheesecake before baking

Making the Basque cheesecake is easy, here is how…

Traditionally, this cake is made very, very simply with just cream cheese, sugar, heavy cream, and flour. A splash of vanilla is also added and a pinch of salt too. This helps to lighten up and balance out the rather rich cheesecake.

I kept my changes pretty simple, but I think they make a big difference.

I added in fresh lemon zest, doubled up on the vanilla, and used a smidge smaller amount of eggs for an even creamier and sweeter cheesecake.

But it’s the lemon sugar that’s the star here. It adds just the right amount of lightness to this rich cheesecake.

photo of cake just after baking

Start with the your ingredients. Everything should be at room temperature, but especially the creamy cheese and eggs. You’ll want the cream cheese to be able to easily be whipped together with the sugar and lemon zest. It turns extra light and fluffy, which creates the perfect texture for the cheesecake.

I like to cream the cream cheese with sugar and lemon to really infuse the lemon zest into the cream cheese and create an even more flavorful outcome.

My grocery store had the pretties pink lemons so I used those, but Meyer or regular lemons both work wonderfully within this cake.

Once the cream cheese is light and fluffy, simply beat in the eggs, then the cream. Once the batter is smooth, sift over a bit of flour and a pinch of salt. The sifting is key and ensures you’ll end up with a light creamy cheese cheesecake with no clumps of flour.

overhead close up photo of Simple Lemon Sugar Burnt Basque Cheesecake

And now you bake.

Pour the batter into a parchment-lined cake pan, then sprinkle with a little lemon sugar. And that’s it, one of the simplest cake batters.

As I mentioned above, you’ll bake this cheesecake a high heat…400° F, for about an hour. As the cheesecake bakes, it rises tall in the oven and turns a deep, deep golden brown with burnt patches all around. The sugar on top is not traditional, but so delish. It ends up caramelizing and creates a flaky, crackly top…which I adore.

It’s very unique and at the same time, so pretty.

Simple Lemon Sugar Burnt Basque Cheesecake slice

I let the cake cool in the pan. I then remove it from the pan and carefully pull away the sides of parchment paper. You’ll want to be careful when removing the parchment paper. If you pull too fast, you’ll end up tearing into the cake, as the cake does like to stick to the parchment around the sides.

Once the cake has cooled, you can slice, sprinkle with a little more lemon sugar, and serve. Unlike an American cheesecake, this is best served at room temperature. Though you can certainly chill it if you prefer.

And that’s it. Every bite is a little flaky with the creamiest cheesecake center that’s bursting with sweet vanilla and lemony flavors. This simple lemon sugar burnt Basque cheesecake is every bit as delicious as it sounds.

Perfect for a bit of very early spring weekend baking…

Simple Lemon Sugar Burnt Basque Cheesecake |

Looking for other springy lemon desserts? Here are a few to try:

Earl Grey Blueberry Lemon Cake

No Fuss Lemon Tart

Bursting Blueberry Lemon Layer Cake

Lemon Coconut Naked Cake with Whipped Vanilla Buttercream

Lastly, if you make this Simple Lemon Sugar Burnt Basque Cheesecake be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!

Simple Lemon Sugar Burnt Basque Cheesecake

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings: 10
Calories Per Serving: 219 kcal

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

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  • 1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Lightly butter a 9-inch spring-form pan and line with parchment paper going up the sides of the pan.
    2. In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese, 3/4 sugar, and 1 tablespoon lemon zest on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl until very smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time until the eggs are fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then reduce the mixer speed to medium-low. Add the cream and vanilla, beat until combined, about 30 seconds.
    3. Sift the flour and salt into the batter, then beat again to combine, about 30 seconds. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
    4. In a bowl, mix 3 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon zest. Sprinkle the top of the cake with half of the lemon sugar, reserving the remaining sugar for serving.
    5. Transfer to the oven and bake for 50-55 minutes, until deeply golden brown on top and still very jiggly in the center. Let the cake cool 5 minutes, then unmold. Let cool completely. Slice into wedges and serve at room temperature or chilled. I like room temp best.
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Simple Lemon Sugar Burnt Basque Cheesecake |

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  1. 5 stars
    Super simple and not too heavy. I did use the zest of one entire lemon (about 2T) in the batter, and I used all of the sugar topping prior to baking (I did not put any on post-baking). This is a keeper!

    1. Hey Maribeth,
      Happy Sunday! Thanks a lot for giving this recipe a go, I am so excited that it was enjoyed! xxTieghan

      1. 5 stars
        An amazing recipe. I found this recipe when looking for something different and a little special. I was a nervous because the last cream cheese based dessert I made (from another site) did not set. However, with this one did! I followed the recipe but did add 2T of lemon zest to the batter, it set perfectly and is fabulous. I can’t wait to try more of your recipes.

        1. Hey Mel,
          Happy Monday! Thanks so much for making this recipe, I love to hear that it was enjoyed! xxTieghan

    1. Hey Lydia,
      Wonderful! I am thrilled to hear that this recipe was enjoyed. Thanks a bunch for giving it a try! xTieghan

  2. I made this on the weekend for my family and it was amazing!! And so easy to make which was great. I might add a bit more lemon to it as we like lots of lemon but it was absolutely perfect and no leftovers! Thanks for yet another great recipe!

    1. Hey Keri,
      Thanks so much for making this recipe, I am so delighted that it was enjoyed! Have a great week:) xTieghan

    1. Hey Himani,
      Yes, that is correct:) I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you give it a try! xTieghan

  3. 5 stars
    Hi! I love this recipe! I’ve made it three times now – so delicious! BUT every time I bake one of these amazing cheesecakes, the top burns quickly. I always end up baking for under 30 minutes. How can I prevent the top from overcooking? Thanks!!

    1. Hey Courtney,
      Thanks a bunch for giving this recipe a go, I am delighted that it was enjoyed! What rack are you baking on? The top of this is meant to burnt:) xTieghan

      1. Thanks for answering! I have the rack set to the middle of the oven. I know the top should be somewhat burnt, but this is burning quite a bit and very quickly! Mine doesn’t look nicely browned with burnt patches like what I’m seeing in the photos above…it looks completely burnt! Any ideas? Thanks again!!

        1. Hey Courtney,
          I would try covering the cheesecake in foil once it starts to look too dark to allow the rest of the cake to bake. I hope this helps for next time! xTieghan

  4. Hi! I am hoping to make a mini version of this in my ramekins! How long would you suggest baking and at what temperature with this change?

    1. Hey Izzy,
      Sorry, I’ve never tried these in mini ramekins, I would keep the same baking temp, but reduce your baking time and start checking for doneness at 25 minutes. I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions!

  5. Hi Tieghan. Just wondering how well this cheesecake would travel. I’m thinking of making it for Mother’s Day brunch an hour drive away, but how would you recommend transporting it (ie keep in the pan, refrigerate beforehand, etc?)?

    1. Hey Shana,
      I would just keep in covered in the baking pan, it should be totally fine! I hope you love the recipe, please let me know how it turns out! xTieghan

  6. 5 stars
    The recipe calls for 1 tsp of salt but on your blog, you mentioned you added a pinch.
    I think my cheesecake is going to be too salty!! It’s cooling now and I will let you know more after I have a taste of it.

    Thanks for sharing all your wonderful recipe.

    1. Hey Sally,
      Happy Monday! I am so glad this recipe was enjoyed, thanks a bunch for making it! xTieghan

    1. Hey Courtney,
      Thanks so much for giving this recipe a try, I am delighted that it was enjoyed! Have a fantastic week! xTieghan

    1. Hey Hidaya,
      Sure, that should work well for you! I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions! xTieghan

  7. 3 stars
    Here’s the thing about basque cheesecake… it has no crust! So it’s kind of a strange experience. We made it and really like the flavor, but wouldn’t make it again without some sort of crust. And I totally get that with crust it won’t be a “basque” cheesecake, but I’m not really down for crust-less cheesecake!

  8. This recipe looks really good, thank always for sharing! Do you think I can use Mascarpone cheese? I have 16oz left from a event. Thanks, Ari

    1. Hey Ariela,
      Thanks so much! Sure, I think mascarpone cheese might work nicely for you. I hope you love this recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions! xTieghan

  9. 5 stars
    Another great tasting cheesecake! I was skeptical about not having a crust, but it turned out perfect and that meant more cheesecake taste. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hey Ashley,
      So great to hear! Love that this recipe was enjoyed and thanks so much for making it! Have a great week🌟 xTieghan

  10. This turned out as delicious as it looked! Super easy and the crunchy/flaky top was the winning touch. It is now my go to dessert! Thank you!

    1. Hey Emily,
      Thank you so much for giving this recipe a try, I am delighted that it was enjoyed!! Have a great weekend! xTieghan