I LOVE raw desserts, but most use copious amounts of coconut oil, which I avoid, as I follow a whole food plant-based diet. Oils are an extracted and isolated product, and are extremely calorie-dense (just 1 tablespoon has 145 calories!). They also contain no vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and lack many of the powerful phytochemical and antioxidants which can be found in the nut, seed or fruit the oil is extracted from.
Most raw desserts use coconut oil as due to its saturated fat content, it keeps things the dessert solid at room temperature. So how on earth are we going to make an epic raw cheesecake without coconut oil?!
I’ve chosen to use the flesh of a fresh young coconut instead, as it has a have a high enough saturated fat content to keep the cheesecake from melting at room temperature, but isn’t nearly as high in fat as coconut oil. Coconut flesh is around 36% fat (33% saturated) compared to 100% fat for coconut oil (92% saturated). I’ve also added guar gum to the filling which helps it to thicken and set solid.
This is definitely a very decadent dessert, as it’s packed with nuts and coconut flesh, so it’s something to make for a big celebration, rather than to eat on an ordinary weeknight for dessert.
It’s also a good one to whip up if you’re trying to convert omnivorous friends to a plant-based diet, as it looks and tastes so rich and like the real thing. I’ve served up a variation (tiramisu-flavoured) to a rowdy party of twelve grown men who couldn’t tell it was dairy-free, and if they can be convinced, I’m sure anyone can.
- You need to soak the cashews for the filling for at least 6 hours, so please factor this into your preparation! Last christmas my Mum and I set aside an entire morning to make a tapioca plum pudding, and after we'd put our aprons on, laid out our ingredients and were poised to cook, we discovered the first step of the recipe was to 'soak tapioca overnight'. What a buzzkill.
- My standard young coconut advice (which I have mentioned in previous posts but will happily copy and paste for you): You can pick up a young coconut from the fruit and vegetable section at most supermarkets or from a greengrocer. Young coconuts have a smooth, white husk on the outside, and coconut water and a white, jelly-like flesh on the inside. (Mature coconuts have a fibrous, brown outer husk, and coconut milk and hard white flesh on the inside.) Young coconuts can be a b*&%$ to open, but there are heaps of good tutorials online which will teach you the easiest way to get in. You can also buy special tools for opening coconuts (such as the Coco Jack), but I’ve never had any problems using a VERY sharp knife and brute strength. However, I’ve also nearly stabbed myself in the stomach a few times, so perhaps the commercial coconut-opener is the safer way to go?!
- If you want to keep it entirely raw, use the seeds from a vanilla pod (rather than the vanilla extract) in the filling, and use fresh homemade nut milk in the filling and date caramel
Step 1: Make the nut base
- 1 cup raw almonds or a mix of almonds, cashews, brazil nuts and walnuts
- ½ cup medjool dates (about 5 or 85g)
- a pinch of salt
- Place the nuts in the food processor and pulse until crumbly
- Add the medjool dates and process until well-combined
- Press the mixture into a 20cm diameter (at least 8cm deep) springform pan using your fingers, and place in the freezer to chill
Step 2: Make the vanilla filling
- 2 cups raw cashew nuts (300g), soaked for at least 6 hours in cold water
- 2 tsp vanilla extract or seeds from a vanilla bean
- 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 150g coconut flesh (from one large young coconut)
- 1 cup plant milk, I used rice milk
- a small pinch of salt
- ¾ cup coconut sugar or liquid sweetener to taste
- 2 tsp mesquite powder
- ½ tsp guar gum
- Place the soaked cashews, vanilla, lemon juice, coconut flesh, rice milk, salt, coconut sugar or liquid sweetener and mesquite into a food processor or blender and process until it’s really well combined
- Add the guar gum and process for a further 20 seconds or so
- Pour the filling onto the base, cover with foil and place back in the freezer to set
Step 3: Salted date caramel and macadamia nuts
- 6x large medjool dates (about 90g), soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes to soften
- ½ cup plant milk, I used rice milk
- 1/2 tsp salt + to taste
- A small handful of raw macadamia nuts
- Drain the dates (and remove the pits) and place them in the food processor or high-speed blender along with the rice milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Process the mixture until well-combined. Taste the caramel and add more salt until you’ve reached your desired level of saltiness
Assembling the cheesecake:
- When the cheesecake it set, pour the salted date caramel on top of the cheesecake and spread it around. Top with the macadamias and return to the freezer
- When you’re ready to serve the cheesecake, remove from the freezer and cut into slices. Let the sliced cheesecake thaw on the bench for 20-30 minutes before eating
The cheesecake will keep in the freezer if you cover it tightly with foil or cling wrap. Remember to let it thaw for 20 minutes or so before you serve it. Enjoy!