Monday, February 20, 2012

lemon raspberry cheesecake {nearly raw + nearly vegan}


Nic and I spent a bitterly cold weekend in Chicago that one weekend when the Midwest was experiencing bitterly cold weather.

It never fails, when we go to Chicago, it is cold.

Perhaps that is because we always go in February, but still. In a winter when we have been relishing the warmer temps, it had to be cold {and windy} when we made the trek to the windy city.

Despite the frigid temps (and a stolen iPhone) we had a great time paying far too much for parking and cabs, catching a Broadway show (American Idiot) at the Oriental Theater, visiting the Museum of Science and Industry and indulging in some fantastic vegan food.

Oh yeah - a weekend in Chicago to celebrate Nic's 28th birthday, and we ate vegan 100% of the time.

He was pleased.


Since weekend trips {and vacations, of course} are all about eating with just enough culture mixed in, you can bet that I spent most of our time looking up places to grab our next meal, or coffee + a snack. And our first destination on Saturday morning was the Chicago French Market where we made a b-line to RAW.

As we were browsing the selection of possible morning snacks, we were treated to a few samples. A raw brownie (good, but not earth shattering), a raw nacho cheese cracker (amazing!), and a small taste of the raw lemon square (to die for).

I asked the owner if she would share the recipe, which she didn't, but did give me a run down of what was in it - giving me a good road map on how to create this at home.

And that is where the inspiration for this dessert comes it. Nic and I left that morning, vowing to stop again on our way out of town to pick up a full sized version of the lemon square for the road. And although our plans changed just a bit (making a stop at a Chicago Police Department instead of the French Market on our way out of town) the taste of this dessert never left my mind.


Nearly Raw Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake
This seriously might be one of the best desserts I have ever made. I used to make cheesecakes for every single family function, and since becoming vegan, these have been {noticeably} absent, much to my family's displeasure. This dessert will fill that void and surpass all expectations. Some may not even realize they are eating a cheesecake sans the cheese. Lemony, tangy, and stunningly beautiful, this dessert is sure to please.

In the mix::


  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 10 dates
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • pinch salt

Lemon Cheesecake Layer
  • 1 cup cashews (soaked 8 hour or overnight)
  • zest of 1.5-2 lemons
  • juice of 2 lemons (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream
  • 1/4 cup honey (could use other liquid sweetener for a 100% vegan dessert)
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/4 t salt

Raspberry Topping* 
  • 2 cups frozen raspberries
  • 2 T honey
  • 1-2 t cornstarch

To Prepare::

Place the nuts, dates, vanilla and salt in a food processor and pulse until a fine crumb forms and holds its shape when squeezed into a ball. Press into an 8" x 8" pan and place in the fridge.

Lemon Cheesecake Layer
Give the cashews a good rinse (after soaking) and place into a blender with lemon zest, juice, coconut cream (the cream that forms on top of a can of full-fat coconut milk when refrigerated), honey, vanilla and salt. Blend until smooth and creamy. Take some time at this step using a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the blender to make sure you end up with an ultra creamy consistency.

I used the zest of 1.5 lemons for my first trial, but would increase it the next time I make it. The zest is key!

Pour batter onto the chilled crust using a spatula to smooth it out. Cover with saran wrap and place in the freezer while you prepare the topping.

Raspberry Topping - Cooked Version
This is the method I used, but I will suggest a raw version below.
In a small saucepan, heat the raspberries and honey over medium heat. As they thaw and begin to break apart, add cornstarch and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Allow to cool in the fridge.

Raspberry Topping - Raw Version
This is the method I was hoping to use, but was out of chia seeds.
Allow raspberries to thaw in a bowl. Stir in honey and break the raspberries apart with a fork. Stir in two tablespoons of chia seeds and set aside, allowing to gel for at least 15 minutes. Although I haven't tried this variation yet, I am confident it will work. You could also use ground chia seeds.

When the lemon cheesecake layer is firm, carefully spread the raspberries on top. Cover and allow to chill in freezer (for a firmer cheesecake) or fridge (for an ultra creamy cheesecake).


We brought this to a dinner party on Friday night and got rave reviews. It hadn't been in the freezer for too long before we had to leave, so the consistency of the lemon layer was very creamy.

We brought the left overs to a dinner party on Sunday night and got rave reviews. It had been in the freezer since Friday, and even after letting it set on the counter while we ate dinner, it was still a bit frozen when we dug our forks in. Still amazing, but the creamier it is when you serve it, the better.

Our friend, who loves cheesecake, admitted that if I hadn't told her it was made from cashews, she would not have even asked. She said this as she was sharing the last creamy square with her two year old son. I asked why she was wasting it on him and not sharing with me. I was only kidding, sort of. Instead I reached for the pan and picked at the leftover crumbs. You simply cannot waste such a good thing.


Make this dessert and fool all of the cheesecake lovers in your life.

Make this dessert and hide it in the back of your freezer, pulling a piece out to indulge in when no one else is around.

Delicious Variation - make a cheesecake parfait. Grab a pretty glass and layer with the a sprinkle of the nutty crust, lemon cheesecake filling and raspberry topping, repeating until the glass is full.


  1. Don't know if I'm the only one who is going to make this dessert but really, I can't wait until you come home and make it for me!

  2. I would never think ot make such a thing, but it makes so much sense when you see it done. Terrfic idea and looks really yummy!

  3. My husband can't eat walnuts. Is there another nut that would work.

    1. Absolutely! You could do all almonds, or toss in some cashews!

  4. This looks so delicious, I can't wait to try it! Tell me you also went to the Chicago Diner for vegan food while you were there? It's our fave...

  5. YES! We did...and I loved it. I want to drive back to Chicago just to eat at all of the different vegan restaurants! We also went to Karyn's on Green and RAW.

  6. You know honey isn't vegan, right? And it doesn't have the same texture as agave.

    1. I do know that honey is product made by animals, although some vegans do eat honey. In this recipe it is used just to sweeten the filling, so I do think agave would be a suitable replacement.

  7. I'm not a vegan but I think I would love delicious treat! I bet it's tasty. Thanks for sharing! -Thursdays

  8. Please could you juice a couple of lemons again, Kier, and see what measurement you come up with? I have been dying to make this cheesecake. I bought all of the stuff to do so and was so excited. Well, I just finished struggling with it. The recipe says - "juice of 2 lemons (1/2 c)." I was making a double recipe, so I juiced 4 organic lemons. Granted, they were small, but I only got 1/2 c. out of the FOUR instead of the 1 c. for the double recipe. So, I juiced 4 more to get the full amount. Then I blended everything up. My first concern was that I was not needing to scrape everything down like the recipe said I should. Mine blender was whirring away with no trouble. Possibly too much liquid? Hmmm. I knew what kind of texture to expect after using cashews for "cream" for many years. Fearfully, I tasted it (because the only large amount of liquid was from the lemon juice) and about sat down hard on the floor from the strong lemon juice taste! Apparently, you only need the number of lemons stated, not the 1/2 c. juice? I ended up adding more of everything else and some stevia and sugar to make it sweet enough and thick enough to use. The taste was good after I got done, but I have a VERY thick 9x13 cheesecake now. The jury is still out on the finished product's texture after messing with it.

    The other possibility ~ maybe you just like tarter things than I do! :)

    1. I really hope you like your finished dessert, Pixie! These bars are supposed to be very tart and very lemony. Next time I make them, I will actually be increasing the amount of zest to make the lemon flavor even deeper.

      Once I got everything in the blender, it was not too thick, and I only suggested to scrape down the sides of the blender in case things were sticking.

    2. Thanks, Kier. We enjoyed it very much, even though some of the family wanted it less lemony than I had even gotten it down to - and one teen son refused more than a bite (guess who got his? lol) I'll probably be unable to resist playing with the recipe until I get just the exact texture and sweet/tartness I want. My married daughter was the most taken with the dish. Any time she mentioned it, or thought about it, her mouth would water overly much and she dared not open it! :D

    3. Just wanted to let you know I mentioned your recipe as the inspiration for mine. Thanks for your help. :)

  9. Just wanted to let you know that I made this the other day and it turned out awesome! I gave you a shout-out on my blog today. :) So glad I found your site!

  10. Is coconut cream the same as coconut milk? If not, where can I find coconut cream/what does it look like (packaging)?

    1. Tisha -

      For the coconut cream, take a can of full fat coconut milk and chill it in the fridge overnight. When you are ready to make the cheesecake, open the can and use just the thick "cream" that has solidified on the top. You should be able to get about one cup from each can.

    2. Thanks! That helps!

  11. I made this last night using the chia seed version of the topping - AMAZING. My husband's new favorite dessert. Thanks!

    1. Lauren,

      So happy that you liked it! And that you posted a I am absolutely craving them. Thankfully, I have everything I need in the fridge!

  12. great recipe, thank you! just in case you dont know, honey is not vegan....a vegan substitue would be agave. thank you.

    1. I do know that honey is not vegan - I really should just update the title of the recipe. Honey is just too good not to eat! (In my opinion).

      Glad you liked the dessert though!

  13. Hi Kier!! That is an amazing creation, thanks for sharing it! : ) I was inspired by it, and tried substituting the raspberry for dragon fruit (a local fruit in my country), and cashew nuts with avocados (1 cup:1 avocado; I'm allergic to cashew nuts). : )

    Here's a photo of the product, not as pretty, but it defo tasted good!: )

    Thanks so much again! : )

  14. Did you use deglet or medjool dates?

    1. I used deglet in this recipe - however either will work, you might just have to adjust the amount you use.

  15. Yum, thanks so much, so quick and easy to make. Its in my freezer now, cant way to try it. How long does it take for the cream to set before putting the raspberry on top ?