The other day, I had this intense craving for cheesecake. The timing was a little out of the blue since I eat cheesecake exactly once a year when my mom makes it at christmas time. She makes a family recipe – my Grandma Kissel’s infamous recipe – and no one but her and my Aunt Kathy have it. It’s amazingly creamy and light and perfect and it won’t be getting passed down to me anytime soon.
I wasn’t going to attempt to make sub-par cheesecake to satisfy my craving, so I made a lighter and altogether easier no-bake version.
I’m not going to exactly call this healthy – but as far as cheesecake goes, it’s definitely a skinnier cousin. It has less overall cheese and less sugar (just a few tablespoons of maple syrup actually). It’s topped with my favorite dessert fruit – tart cherries – which have some major superfood properties. They’re a natural anti-inflammatory as well as a source of melatonin which helps regulate sleep. While this is not a famous family recipe, it’s creamy and delicious. The bright pop of tart cherries are really, well, the cherry on top.
I use coconut cream along with mascarpone cheese, which makes for a light and smooth creamy filling. If you’re vegan, you can double the coconut cream. If you love cheese and want to make this thick and decedent, skip the coconut cream and double the mascarpone cheese.
If you live in an area where you can get Montmorency tart cherries, seek them out – or look for them frozen in your local retailer nationwide. I personally love them frozen because as they thaw their natural juices become a sweet tangy sauce.
- 1 cup (8-ounces) mascarpone cheese or creme fraiche
- ½ cup coconut solids, scooped from 1 can chilled full fat coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon lemon oil or lemon zest (optional, but delicious)
- 6 graham crackers
- ½ cup raw, unsalted walnuts
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ tablespoon butter or hardened coconut oil
- ½ tablespoon water, more as needed
- pinch of salt
- 1 ½ cups frozen tart cherries
- In a food processor, blend together the mascarpone cheese, the thick solid part from the chilled can of coconut milk (reserve the watery part for another use), maple syrup and vanilla until smooth. Taste and decide if you would like your filling sweeter. Add more maple syrup if you like. Transfer to a bowl and chill for at least 1 hour, or until it thickens.
- If using frozen tart cherries, let them thaw in a bowl at room temperature, reserving their juices.
- In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers, walnuts and cinnamon together until crumbled. Add butter or coconut oil and pulse again. Add a little bit of water until the mixture starts to clump a little.
- Assemble parfaits with graham cracker crumble, creamy filling and top generously with tart cherries and their juices.
To make these vegan: double the coconut cream (or use vegan cream cheese), and skip the mascarpone cheese.
To make these gluten free: double the walnuts and add 2 teaspoons of brown sugar in place of the graham crackers.
Make these thicker and more decadent: skip the coconut cream, double the mascarpone cheese, and increasing the maple syrup by 1-2 tablespoons.