April 23 is National Cherry Cheesecake Day

By Jiyoung
Community Dietitian

April 23rd is National Cherry Cheesecake Day! What better excuse to indulge in this sweet, tangy dessert?423 CC 5

Most people have no problem diving right into a delicious cheesecake, but for those of you with dietary restrictions such as gluten-free, vegan or lactose intolerance, it might not be so easy. While there are many reasons one might avoid certain foods (personal or health) it doesn’t mean anyone should miss out on this delicious dessert. In honor of this special day and to be all-inclusive, I decided to seek out a vegan and gluten-free recipe. Vegan baking in particular is an interest of mine because it challenges you to think outside of the box and use ingredients in a different way.

Since this was my first try at making a vegan dessert, I looked for an easy recipe that would be fool-proof. And lucky me, I found the perfect recipe from the Minimalist Baker. These cheesecakes are delicious, rich and very easy to make—easier than the real thing. With just seven ingredients, you get some pretty cute, mini cheesecakes.

423 - CC2The Crust
To start, we make the crust gluten-free by excluding the wheat based graham cracker crust with just two ingredients—raw walnuts and dates. Just whirl them around in a food processor or blender and set it aside. An extra bonus to this crust is that we eliminate refined carbohydrates and sugars (graham crackers and sugar) and saturated fat and cholesterol (butter) and replace them with extra nutrients from the dates including fiber, potassium, copper, magnesium, B6 and healthy fats from the walnuts (plant-based omega-3).

Note on using a blender: I was able to blend the walnuts and dates just fine, but it was annoying to scrape out the dates and final mixture from under the blades. It’s doable, but just requires some extra effort.

Grease the muffin tin with coconut oil and line with a strip of parchment paper to help with removal. Then press 1 tbsp of the crust into each tin. Set in freezer to firm up.

The Filling
The filling is cashew-based. I’ve used cashews in other vegan recipes for cheese sauces, and it was perfect in this recipe. Cashews are so versatile and add a nice creamy texture to any dish. Add soaked cashews, coconut milk, coconut oil, lemon juice and agave nectar to a blender and blend until smooth.

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Note on the coconut: The coconut milk and oil add a coconut flavor that comes through strongly in the finished cheesecake. This is no problem for me since I love coconut! If you’re not a fan and want to cut back on some of the coconut flavor just add extra cashews (1/2 cup) to get a thicker consistency. Coconut oil is used to “set” the cheesecake, so you won’t get the same consistency (i.e. it won’t be as solid). This is also a good option if you want to decrease calories as well!

Pour the filling over the chilled crusts. Tap to release air bubbles, and shake to flatten the tops.

The Topping
Since it’s national cherry cheesecake day, I’m topping all of these guys with a cherry sauce. For the sauce I used 6 oz of frozen cherries, 2 tbsp of brown sugar, and juice from ½ of a lemon. Just combine in a pan and cook on low to medium until you get a thick consistency.

Note on the brown sugar: The vegan status on sugar(s) are controversial. A common practice in sugar refining uses something called bone char. Bone char is a porous, black, granular material produced by charring animal bones and is used as a decolorizing filter, which helps to whiten the sugar. Since brown sugar is white sugar coated with molasses, it still goes through this whitening method. If you’re looking for companies that do not use this method, check out this site for a list of vegan sugar companies.

Once the cherry filling is at the desired consistency, spoon the topping on top of the cheesecakes. Place the cheesecakes into the freezer and after 4-6 hours you get these:

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Nutrition
Below is the nutrient breakdown for one cheesecake. Note that I haven’t said once that this is a healthy dessert! It’s definitely less refined and the ingredients have more nutrients, but it still contains a lot of sugar, fat and calories.

So indulge …in moderation. Enjoy!


Serving size: One cheesecake

Calories: 324 | Fat: 22 g | Saturated fat: 8.7 g | Carbohydrates: 29 g | Sugar: 21 g | Sodium: 10 mg | Fiber: 2.6 g | Protein: 6 g

7 INGREDIENT VEGAN CHEESECAKES
Author: Minimalist Baker
PREP TIME 20 mins | TOTAL TIME 20 mins | Serves: 12

INGREDIENTS
Crust:
1 cup pitted dates (soaked in warm water for 10 minutes then drained)
1 cup raw walnuts or almonds
Filling:
1.5 cups raw cashews, soaked in water 4-6 hours then drained (NOTE: If short on time, pour boiling hot water over the cashews, soak for one hour, then drain and blend as instructed)
1 large lemon, juiced (scant 1/4 cup)
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp full fat coconut milk (see instructions for note)
1/2 cup agave nectar or maple syrup (or honey if not vegan) **I only used 1/3 cup and it was still sweet.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add dates to a food processor and blend until small bits remain and it forms into a ball. Remove and set aside.
  2. Add nuts and process into a meal. Add dates back in and blend until a loose dough forms—it should stick together when you squeeze a bit between your fingers. If it’s too dry, add a few more dates through the spout while processing. If too wet, add more almond or walnut meal. Optional: add a pinch of salt to taste.
  3. Lightly grease a standard, 12-slot muffin tin. To make removing the cheesecakes easier, cut strips of parchment paper and lay them in the slots. This creates little tabs that makes removing them easier to pop out once frozen.
  4. Next scoop in heaping 1 Tbsp amounts of crust and press with fingers. To pack it down, use a small glass or the back of a spoon to compact it and really press it down. I found the bottom of a glass works well. If it sticks, separate the crust and the glass with a small piece of parchment. Set in freezer to firm up.
  5. Add all filling ingredients to a blender and mix until very smooth. For the coconut milk, I like to scoop the “cream” off the top because it provides a richer texture. But if yours is already all mixed together, just add it in as is.
  6. You don’t need a Vitamix for this recipe, just a quality blender. I mixed mine for 1 minute, then “liquified” or “pureed” it until silky smooth. If it won’t come together, add a touch more lemon juice or agave or a splash more coconut milk liquid as the liquid should help it blend better.
  7. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. If adding peanut butter, add to the blender and mix until thoroughly combined. If flavoring with blueberry or caramel, wait and swirl on top of plain cheesecakes (optional).
  8. Divide filling evenly among the muffin tins. Tap a few times to release any air bubbles, then cover with plastic wrap and freeze until hard – about 4-6 hours.
  9. Once set, remove by tugging on the tabs or loosening them with a butter knife. They should pop right out. Our favorite way to devour these was with a little more caramel and a touch of coconut whipped cream. But they’re perfect as is! Keep in the freezer for up to 1-2 weeks.
  10. Optional: you can set them out for 10 minutes before serving to soften, but I liked them frozen as well.

NOTES
*Adapted from Sidesaddle Kitchen (Absolutely smitten with her.)
*Nutrition information does not include toppings or added flavors.
*Prep time does not include freezing (4-6 hours)

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