Secret Ingredient Strawberry Cheesecake [Non-Dairy & Paleo]
I know a lot of you have been eagerly awaiting this recipe and I don’t blame you… Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about any of my previous creations.
But this time, it’s different.
I mean, seriously guys, this cake is completely insane. It’s just like CHEESECAKE except it’s got no cheese in it. NO CHEESE!!! How crazy is that!? Totally crazy, I say. Demented, even!
But just you wait until you find out what exactly IS in it! It’ll blow your mind. Seriously.
Honestly, I was the first one surprised when it actually turned out. It was, after all, my first attempt at creating a non-dairy cheesecake, and for a first attempt, I sure went all out. I brought forth the heavy artillery…
If you know me, you know just how much I love cheesecake. Now, having decided to
practically give up on dairy, it was only a matter of time before I tried my hand at making a non-dairy version of my favorite dessert in the whole wide world. In fact, I was only waiting for strawberries to be in season, for I really had my heart set on topping that baby with gorgeous bright red, plump and juicy strawberries.
To be honest, though, I totally expected this cake to be a complete disaster. A flop. A monumental waste of time and valuable ingredients. I was prepared to be extremely disappointed and perhaps even shed a tear or two.
Still. It was too big, too bold an idea for it to remain untested.
I almost wish that I could keep the secret ingredient a complete mystery and have you try the cake without knowing, but then how are you going to make the cake if you don’t know? What if the recipe read: …and now, add the secret ingredient! Right… that wouldn’t fly all that high.
So I guess that at some point, I’m gonna have to let you know…
At some point…
But not now…
First, we gotta make the crust. That part isn’t a mystery at all. In fact, I pretty much used the same recipe that I’d used for my Crème Brûlée Cheesecake, except this time, I didn’t blind-bake the crust.
To make it, simply add all the required ingredients to your food processor and process on pulse until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand.
You then want to transfer that mixture to a springform pan that you will have previously lined with parchment paper and press it firmly against the bottom and side of the pan.
Bring that crust up to about halfway up the side of the pan, like such. No need to be super fancy and take your ruler out, here. The crust looks much prettier when it’s unequal, I find. When you’re done with that, set the pan aside and start working on the filling.
Yikes! Looks like I’m gonna have to tell you what that secret ingredient is fairly soon…
I’m a bit scared, to be honest. I hope you guys won’t run off when you finally find out what it is!
Alright, so you haven’t forgotten to soak your cashews overnight, have you? I hope not!
And no, cashews aren’t the secret ingredient. In fact, they’re a pretty standard cheese replacement in a lot of non-dairy recipes. But I didn’t want to use all cashews, I felt it would require WAY too much nuts for my liking… I had to add something else!
But now, let’s rinse the cashew pieces under running cold water and add them, along with the coconut milk to the bowl of your food processor. Process this until real smooth and creamy, scraping the sides a few times, about 5 minutes total.
HA! Can you see that? There it is! It’s now time to add the secret ingredient. You know what that is, right? One of my ultimate favorite ingredients in the whole wide world, the super versatile, the almost magical, the wonder veggie: CAULIFLOWER!
Yes ma’am, you heard that one right. Grated cauliflower that’s been cooked and squeezed dry; the very same kind of cauliflower that I use to make Paleo Pizza Crusts, Tortillas and Creamy Fritters. (check out that last post if you need detailed instructions on how to get that cauliflower real dry)
For realz. I’m not kidding. I told you I’d had a bold idea!
Alright now pick your jaw up off the floor, we have a cake to finish. In goes the cauliflower (yes, yes, cauliflower) and the processing resumes until the batter turns really smooth again, about 3-4 minutes.
Now add the honey, coconut oil, salt, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar and vanilla and then resume processing until well combined, about 30 seconds.
Throw in the lemon zest and juice and mix to combine.
See that little gizmo I’m using? If you don’t have one of these gadgets, you should definitely invest in one. I used to think they were totally useless, until I started using lemon and lime juice on a regular basis. This squeezes ALL the juice out of your fruits and keeps the pits out of your dish.
Plus, it keeps your hands nice and clean, too. A dream, I tell you. Totally worth the investment.
Now we need to add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for about 30 seconds between each addition.
I like to feed my eggs right through the feeding tube, that way I don’t have to stop the motor all the time. Just don’t go and drop a piece of egg shell in there, ‘cuz there’s no way you’ll ever be able to fish it out…
Lastly, you’ll want to add the tapioca flour and give your filling a final 30 second spin.
Pour the creamy filling over the reserved crust.
See? No lumps, no visible pieces of cauliflower. It’s all smooooooth and creamy, baby!
Place the cake over a piece of aluminum foil and fold it over the pan so the exterior is completely covered. Now place your cake in a rimmed roasting pan, then delicately pour some boiling water into the roasting pan so it goes to about 1/4 of the way up the side of the pan.
Your cake now has to go in the oven for a total of close to 2 hours.
See how this came out of the oven without a single crack? BONUS! A cheesecake that doesn’t crack. I’m certainly all for that!
And wait ’til you get to feel how nice and firm yet spongy this is! Unbelievable!
You might have to pick your jaw up off the floor once again…
Alright, let’s get busy working on the finishing touch, shall we?
Bring 1 cup of strawberries and half a cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Let that boil vigorously for about 5 minutes, until the strawberries have relinquished pretty much all of their pretty red color to the water.
While the strawberries are boiling away, sprinkle some gelatin over half a cup of cold water and let it bloom for a few minutes.
See how nice and red and syrupy that water got?
Strain the strawberry juice through a fine meshed strainer set right over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved, then stir in maple syrup, vanilla extract and salt.
Let this mixture cool until it gets thick and almost starts to set. You can place it in the fridge to speed up the process but make sure you check on it often.
While your strawberry jelly is setting, arrange the strawberries nicely over the top of your cake
Try and arrange them so the top gets completely covered and none of the strawberries go too far off the edge. It’s almost like making a puzzle! You need to choose the right size strawberry to fit the right spot!
As soon as your jelly is thick enough, apply it generously over the fresh strawberries with a pastry brush. If you find that it has set a little bit too much, you can give it a few seconds in the microwave to soften it up some, but make sure you don’t leave it in there for too long. Go 3-5 seconds at a time, no more.
Your cake then needs to make a final trip to the fridge until that strawberry jelly is completely set.
Patience my friend… you’ll get to taste it very soon.
After about an hour, you’ll finally get to slice through that beauty. Now is that gorgeous or what?
Take my word for it, this cake is simply UH-MA-ZING! I think I would even choose it over the real thing. The texture is so firm yet so creamy, and the taste is sweet yet salty and tangy at the same time, just like you’d expect a good cheesecake to be.
And no, you cannot taste the cauliflower, nor feel its presence in the least. I can guarantee that you would never ever guess it’s in there. You, or your guests, for that matter. Never. I swear.
Just look at how creamy this cake is. I’m like totally blown away. Frankly, it far exceeded my expectations. Well, considering I was half expecting that it would end up in the bin, let’s say my expectations weren’t hard to exceed.
But I just ended up loving it so much, now I’m wanting to make all kinds of different flavors, using this exact recipe as a foundation, INCLUDING the not so secret anymore ingredient, of course!
Until then, I just can’t wait to hear what you guys think!
Non-Dairy & Paleo Strawberry Cheesecake
- 2 cups raw cashew pieces, soaked overnight
- 1 cup full fat coconut milk
- 1.1 lb raw cauliflower, grated
- 1 cup raw honey, melted
- 3/4 cup coconut oil
- 1 tsp Himalayan salt
- 1/2 tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 6 large eggs
- the juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup tapioca flour
- Line the bottom of a 9” springform pan with parchment paper. To do that, remove the ring and cover the bottom with parchment paper. Fold the excess paper back under the plate and, while holding it in place with one hand, put the ring back in its position with the other hand. Bring the excess paper back from under the pan but do not cut it off.
- Grease the side of the pan with ghee or any other healthy and heat resistant fat you prefer.
- Add all the ingredients of the crust to your food processor and process on pulse until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand. Press at the bottom and side of the pan. You want to bring the crust up to about halfway up the side of the pan.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F
- Place the grated cauliflower in a microwave safe bowl and cover loosely with plastic film; microwave for about 4-6 minutes on high. Let the cauliflower cool for a few minutes, until it can be handled safely with your bare hands, and then squeeze it as dry as you possibly can (you could do this by pressing the cauliflower down a fine mesh sieve or wringing it with a tea towel. See this post for more info). Set aside to cool.
- Bring 3-4 cups of water to a boil.
- Rinse the cashew pieces under running cold water and add them, along with the coconut milk to the bowl of your food processor. Process until real smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes.
- Add reserved cauliflower and resume processing until really smooth again, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add honey, coconut oil, salt, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar and vanilla and then resume processing until well combined, about 30 seconds.
- Throw in the lemon zest and juice and mix to combine; add eggs, one at a time, mixing for about 30 seconds between each addition.
- Finally, add tapioca starch and give your filling a final 30 second spin. Pour over the reserved crust.
- Place the cake over a piece of aluminum foil and fold it over around the pan. Now place your cake in a rimmed roasting pan, then delicately pour some boiling water into the roasting pan so it goes to about 1/4 of the way up the side of the pan. Place that rig onto the middle rack of your oven and bake for 15 minutes then decrease the temperature to 250°F and bake for another 90 minutes.
- Turn off the oven and crack the door open. Leave the cake in the oven, undisturbed, for about 1 hour, or until cool enough to be handled with your bare hands, and then slide it out of the oven.
- When the “cheesecake” is completely cooled, run a knife around the rim and refrigerate uncovered for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
- Sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup of cold water and let it rest for a few minutes to allow the gelatin to soak up as much water as possible.
- Meanwhile, bring 1 cup of strawberries and half a cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Let that boil vigorously for about 5 minutes, until the strawberries have relinquished pretty much all their pretty red color to the water.
- Strain through a fine meshed sieve right over the bloomed gelatin, then stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Stir in maple syrup, vanilla extract and salt and let this mixture cool until it starts to set. You can place it in the fridge to speed up the process but make sure you check on it often.
- While your strawberry jelly is setting, arrange the strawberries over the top of your cake to completely cover it.
- Apply the strawberry jelly generously over the fresh strawberries with a pastry brush. If you find it has set a little bit too much, you can give it a few seconds in the microwave to soften it up, but make sure you don’t leave it in there for too long. Go 3-5 seconds at a time, no more.
- Place the cake in the fridge until the jelly is completely set, about an hour, then slice and serve.
Oh, and just because I dunno… I thought this cake was a very pretty subject, I got a bit carried away and took 2 million pictures, so I’m sharing a little more than usual.
I’m sure you guys won’t mind a little food porn, will you?