Raw Vegan Chocolate Cashew Caramel Cheesecake

Can I be real with you guys? I’m completely disinterested in all of the sugary treats of the Winter holidays this year. I would say honestly I'm craving salty lentils and mushrooms on toast, hydrating miso soup with seaweed, deep dark greens, eggs, seafood and citrus. There’s absolutely nothing treat-like about that line-up. I don’t get it, I mean shouldn't I be in full force gusto over jam filled cookies and gingerbread things???

Maybe it’s how mild Virginia weather has been. Or the fact that I don’t have a cute pet to dress up like a reindeer….

Or perhaps it's just that I’m biding my time until the days start to get longer. As the world grows achingly dark, I am sleeping more, and doing less. I am living slower, and getting less mundane work done. Our laundry has piled to the breaking point, although somehow the living room is tidy and filled with flowers (because flowers are far from mundane, you see?). That being said, I’m also writing up a storm. I’ve written ten poems and two songs in the last three weeks.

Ah well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it's to trust my gut. And my gut is like writing this poem down is more important than the dishes. And also well if your gonna make treats keep them fresh and raw and then go make some eggplant bibimbap k? 

K.

So I decided, if I’m going to make a special treat for the holidays, it’s gonna be something I personally love and that I can happily serve to everyone I know. Raw vegan hit that nail on the head! But it’s Christmas y’all so chocolate has got to be a part of this.

I mulled over this chocolate cashew caramel cheesecake concept for a while. And I settled on a version rich with cashews and dates, flavored with cocoa, vanilla bean, nutmeg and cinnamon.

The result: a velvety-smooth, rich (but not too rich), sweet (but not too sweet) Christmas cheesecake! I dusted it with cocoa and topped it with some raw maple-sweetened coconut macaroons (optional but since I’m a coconut freak I couldn't help myself!).

The crust is made with oats and pecans, so yeah it’s only raw-ish. But do you really care? I definitely don’t. It’s still healthy AF. Not that you’re dairy-loving relatives will know that! Just don’t tell them it’s healthy and everyone is happy!

Bonus: this cake is made entirely in a blender! It's so easy, which to lazy ol' me is a huge relief during the busy holiday season. Although you'll need to build in some soak-time for the cashews, and some cooling time for the cake once it's together.

But if you desperately need a raw vegan chocolate cashew caramel cheesecake ASAP here are some tips: 1. Cut the soak time of the cashews in half by covering them in boiling water; I add my cashews to a large bowl, add the hot water, cover with a dry cloth and soak for 4 hours at room temp. 2. If you need your cake to cool quickly, freeze until cold all the way through. If hard-frozen, thaw the cake for 20-30 minutes before serving.

Raw Vegan Chocolate Cashew Caramel Cake + Oat Pecan Crust

Created by Renee on December 20, 2016

A 9-ingredient raw vegan cheesecake, a 5 ingredient crust. Prep time takes around 15 minutes total. Soak time for the cashews is between 4-8 hours. Chilling time for the cheesecake is minimum 4 hours in the fridge, 1 hour in the freezer. Serve chilled but not frozen. Holds up well in room temp (~70F) environments.

  • Prep Time: 15m
  •  
  • Total Time: 15m
  • Serves: 9

Ingredients

Oat Pecan Crust

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1 cup dates
  • 1 tablespoon melted virgin coconut oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Chocolate + Cashew Caramel Cream

  • 2 cups cashews, soaked for 8 hours or overnight
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1 cup pitted deglet dates + 1/3 cup more dates
  • 4 tablespoons melted virgin coconut oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon (~1 tablespoon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (plus more to your liking)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cacao powder
  • pinch sea salt
  • garnish: cacao powder, shaved dark chocolate, coconut macaroons

Instructions

  1. Add the rolled oats the bowl of a high powered food processor fitted with an S blade. Grind until the oats are semi coarse, about 30 seconds. Add the pecans and grind again, until the mixture is sandy. Add the dates, coconut oil and cinnamon. Blend until the dates have broken down and the mixture is malleable when squeezed between your fingers. Scrape the crust out into a 6” spring form cake pan. Press the crust firmly and evenly into the bottom of the pan using your fingers.
  2. Drain the cashews. Chop your 1/2 vanilla bean very finely, including the pod but discarding the hard bit at the end of the bean. This my new no-waste method for using vanilla bean as the pod itself is edible and offers lots of extra vanilla flavor. If your vanilla bean is very hard, soak it in hot water for 10 minutes before chopping.
  3. In the bowl of your high powered food processor, combine the soaked cashews, pitted dates, finely chopped vanilla bean, melted coconut oil, lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Blend for 3-4 minutes until the mixture is totally smooth and creamy, stopping the food processor to scrape down the sides as needed. Taste the cream and choose to add mor cinnamon/nutmeg to your liking.
  4. Remove 1 cup of the cashew caramel cream and set aside. To the food processor, add 1/3 cup more dates, cacao powder, and pinch of sea salt. Blend again, 2-3 minutes, until the dates have totally broken down. This is your chocolate layer!
  5. Spoon and scrape the chocolate layer into your spring form pan, on top of the crust. Use a rubber spatula to spread it into one layer. Add the cashew caramel cream on top, spreading it out into one smooth layer. To get the top totally flat I gently work the spatula over the top in a circular motion starting from the outside and working in. Cool the cake in the fridge for 4 hours up to overnight. For a faster cooling time you could freeze the cheesecake, but just note that it'll need to be thawed to room temp before serving.
  6. To serve, slide a sharp, thin knife around the edges of the cake to release the edges from the pan. Release the latch on the spring form pan and gently lift the walls of the pan away. Use a wide knife or thin spatula to lift the cake out of the cake pan base. Slide the cake onto your serving platter. Dust the top of the cheesecake with cocoa powder. I use a tea strainer for this, filling it with cocoa powder and then tapping cocoa lightly over top until its perfectly coated.
  7. Top with coconut macaroons and shaved dark chocolate. It would also be lovely topped with berries, pomegranate kernals, flowers or drizzled chocolate!

Maple-Sweetened Coconut Macaroons

Created by Renee on December 20, 2016

I call these “raw” macaroons, even though they’re sweetened with maple syrup. That’s raw enough for me! 6 ingredients, and it all comes together in a blender. If you’re a coconut freak, these can’t be beat!

  • Prep Time: 5m
  •  
  • Total Time: 5m
  • Yield: 8-9 macaroons

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes (I used large flakes sometimes called “coconut chips”)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon melted virgin coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons superfine natural almond meal
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract OR 1/4 vanilla bean, scraped of its seeds

Instructions

  1. Add the unsweetened coconut flakes to the bowl of a high powered food processor fitted with an S blade. Blend for about 30 seconds to break the coconut down into smaller bits.
  2. Add the maple syrup, melted coconut oil, almond meal, pinch salt and vanilla extract / bean (I don’t blend in the pod here because it darkens the color of the macaroons).
  3. Use a tablespoon to scoop the macaroons into half moon shapes, pressing them firmly into the spoon and leveraging them out with a sharp knife. They’re a little finicky, but you get the hang of it after a minute.
  4. Set them on a baking sheet or plate and freeze them for at least 30 minutes up to overnight before eating them or using them as decoration on this cake.