Not too fluffy and yet not too dense, this lusciously smooth non-dairy cheesecake captures the flavor of holiday eggnog without the eggs and without the dairy. This is my signature cheesecake recipe and technique, and as far as I know, is unique in vegan cheesecake preparation because premade non-dairy cream cheese is not required – the cheesecake filling is created in one easy step. However, the proper baking items are required for success, so please follow the recipe and technique as written. The filling also requires two specialty ingredients which can be obtained from ModernistPantry.com. These ingredients are also commonly used in vegan cheese making (please see my Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook for cheese recipes).
Special Kitchen Items
• 8” springform pan
• 9” cake pan
• large pan for the bain-marie (water bath)
• large baking sheet to support the bain-marie (optional)
• large food storage container for chilling/storing the cheesecake
• parchment paper
• cooking oil spray
• food processor (optional)
Ingredients for the Crust
• 1 commercial vegan graham cracker crust
Ingredients for the Cheesecake Filling
• 2 cups (10 oz) dry raw cashews (DO NOT presoak in water)
• 3 cups homemade or commercial soymilk (sorry, no substitutes; this recipe relies on the curdling action of the soymilk when the lactic acid is introduced)
• ¾ cup organic sugar
• ¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes
• 3 T brandy or dark rum
• 4 tsp kappa carrageenan (available from ModernistPantry.com)
• ½ tsp ground nutmeg plus ¼ tsp for garnish
• ¼ tsp sea salt
• 4 tsp lactic acid powder (available from ModernistPantry.com)
Ingredients for the Brandied Caramel Sauce
• ½ cup packed light brown sugar
• 3 T non-dairy milk
• 2 T non-dairy butter or margarine
• 1 T brandy or dark rum
Trace the circumference of the bottom of the springform pan on parchment paper and cut. Assemble the springform pan and spray the interior generously with cooking oil. Line the bottom with the parchment paper and mist the paper with cooking oil.
Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325°F/165°C.
Process the graham cracker crust in a food processor until finely ground. Alternately, crush the crust into crumbs in a large bowl. Add the crumbs to the oiled and lined springform pan and pack evenly on the bottom and halfway up the sides. The oiled pan will help the crumbs stick to the sides. Set aside.
Add the dry raw cashews to a blender with the soymilk and process on high speed for 2 full minutes. Add the remaining filling ingredients EXCEPT for the lactic acid and process until thoroughly blended. With the blender running, add the lactic acid all at once. The mixture will immediately thicken and stop turning in the blades – turn the blender off.
Pour the filling into the springform pan and gently shake the pan side to side or tap the sides to release any air bubbles and help the filling settle.
Place the springform pan into the cake pan and set the cake pan into the bain-marie. DO NOT use aluminum foil as an alternative to the cake pan for preventing water from leaking into the springform pan. Water will condense inside the foil and ruin the cheesecake. Trust me on this one. If using an aluminum roasting pan for the bain-marie, place it on a large baking sheet for support and for ease transferring to and from the oven.
Pour very hot tap water into the bain-marie halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Be careful not to splash water into the cheesecake filling.
Transfer to the oven and bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes. When complete, turn the oven off but leave the cheesecake in the oven for 15 minutes with the oven door slightly ajar (if needed, use an oven mitt to hold the door ajar).
Remove from the oven and carefully remove the cake pan from the water bath. Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature and then remove from the cake pan and release from the springform mold. Leave the cheesecake on the bottom of the springform mold and transfer to the storage container. Seal and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
About an hour before serving, prepare the sauce. Add the sauce ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to a brief boil while swirling the saucepan contents occasionally. Watch carefully or the sauce may boil over. Immediately reduce to a simmer and cook for exactly 4 minutes, again swirling the contents occasionally. Set aside to cool at room temperature.
To transfer the cheesecake to a serving plate, carefully slide a thin flexible spatula between the parchment paper and the crust and slide onto the plate. Moisten a knife with warm water to slice the cheesecake. Drizzle individual slices with the sauce. Store the cheesecake in the sealed container in the refrigerator.