I got it in my head to make a cheesecake. Not a raw cheesecake but a classic, New York, baked cheesecake. I’ve never made a cheesecake, even before going vegan, and while I can cook, baking is not really my thing. But, once I get an idea in my head I have to see it through. And I’m pretty impressed with myself. Granted, it’s not perfect, there are a few cracks on the top but I’m okay with that because this cheesecake is firm, rich, and creamy.
When I first presented this cheesecake to my husband, he said, “wow, that looks like it’s from Junior’s,” a famous New York cheesecake place, and probably the highest compliment ever. Then he tasted it and was even more impressed. I’ve gotten rave reviews from everyone to whom I have served it – my vegan and omni friends, adults and kids alike!
Why is it so good? Because it tastes like cheesecake! The key being the cream cheese so I use Kite Hill cream cheese because it is the best on the market. To give it that tang, I make my own cashew cream and add lemon juice for the sour cream component. And I use cornstarch as the egg replacer. That keeps it tender and firm.
As for kitchen equipment, the most essential thing is a springform pan. I use my stand mixer but you could easily do it with a hand mixer. Also all of the ingredients should be at room temperature. I find that with all of the baking I do.
Because there is a long baking time, almost two hours, bake it the day before you want to serve it so you have plenty of time to let it cool and set. Serve it at a family gathering, a party or bring it to a pot luck. Trust me, this is a show stopper!
15 graham crackers
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil + more, if necessary
1/4 cup packed vegan brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Process the graham crackers in a food processor until they are fine. Add melted coconut oil, brown sugar, and salt. Pulse until texture is crumbly and everything is incorporated.
Turn it out into the springform pan and press evenly into the bottom. Use the bottom of a measuring cup to press and spread it out.
Bake for 8 minutes. Take out and set aside while making the filling.
Reduce temperature to 325 degrees.
2lbs. Kite Hill plain cream cheese (4 containers), room temperature
1 1/2 cups vegan cane sugar
1 cup of cashew cream, room temperature *
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
The juice of one lemon, room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
*Cashew cream is 1 cup cashews plus 3/4 cup filtered water. If you don’t have a Vitamix, soak the cashews for at least 4 hours. Drop the cashews and water into the Vitamix and blend it until super smooth, scraping down the sides as you go.
Drop the cream cheese into the bowl of the stand mixer. Turn it on low and let it go until it’s fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl, once or twice, about two or three minutes. Add the sugar and mix on low until well incorporated. Add in the cashew cream, cornstarch, vanilla, lemon juice and salt. Mix together on low for another minute. Don’t over do it.
Remember that the oven should be at 325.
Wrap bottom of the springform pan in tin foil. Pour the filling in and spread it out evenly. Place the springform pan on a baking sheet. Bake until set in center, about 1 hour and 30 to 45 minutes. Check the cake through the window of the oven to see if it is set. In my oven, it is 1 hour and 45 minutes. I err on the longer side because all that will really happen is that the edges will get dark.
When the cheesecake is done baking, take it out of the oven and run a knife around it to separate the cake from the pan. Let cool for about an hour on the counter and then cover and refrigerate overnight. The cake will shrink a little when it is cooling which is why it is a good idea to run the knife around it when it first comes out of the oven.
Take the cake out of the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature. Open the spring and take the ring off the cake. Slice the first slice and carefully lift it off the bottom being sure to get the crust. It may stay on the bottom of the pan…no big deal. The first slice is like the first pancake, not always the prettiest. Gently slide a small spatula under the cake and try to release it so that the crust stays on for the rest of the slices. That is the trickiest part of the whole endeavor. Eventually the cake will come out and everyone will be happy with their piece. Serve plain or with fruit or fruit compote. Enjoy!