Growing up, my Mom would bake a lot and sometimes sell her cakes at local country fairs and markets. One recipe that proved extremely popular with her regulars was her baked German-style cheesecake. It was fluffy and airy, with a slightly tangy flavor accompanied by a vanilla aroma. It was somewhat like an American (New York style) cheesecake but not as dense.
Because I love a challenge (and a good cheesecake!), I thought it would only be fair to create a vegan version of this cake for you all to enjoy! So my mom was kind enough to pass on her recipe, and I've been busy working on it over the holidays in order to make it perfect for you to try. Trust me, this baked vegan cheesecake, it's a keeper!
If you prefer no-bake cheesecake why not try these no-bake vegan strawberry cheesecake bars as well.
When mom sent me her baked cheesecake recipe, I wasn't very surprised to see that the ingredients were extremely heavy on eggs and dairy. So I was then posed with the challenge of finding plant-based substitutes for each element of the cake. Some ingredients such as the butter were easily swapped out with its vegan alternative, vegan butter. However, some of the ingredients proved to be a little more tricky to replace.
Replacing cream cheese/quark
My mom's traditional German cheesecake uses cream cheese or "quark" as it's known in Germany. I remember her recipe being fluffy with an ever so slightly tangy flavor. In order to recreate this flavor, we're going to use a combination of plant-based ingredients to mimic the flavor and texture of the cream cheese/quark.
- The main ingredient you'll need for the cheesecake filling is vegan yogurt. I recommend using a Greek-style yogurt if you can get your hands on it and if you can get one that's vanilla flavored, even better! Failing that you can also use regular soy yogurt or coconut yogurt with the addition of a couple of teaspoons of vanilla extract. The cultured, tangy flavor of the yogurt works perfectly to create that authentic cheesecake flavor.
- We're using cashews, which are soaked in hot water to soften them and make them even more creamy when blended up with the other ingredients. Cashews have a subtle "cheesy" flavor which makes them popular for making vegan cheesecakes, raw and baked!
- Lastly, you'll want to add lemon juice and lemon zest to help to elevate the flavors of this cheesecake to the next level!
So you may think it's easy to replace the eggs used in traditional cheesecake by directly swapping them out for a vegan substitute? Well, unfortunately with baking it's not that simple, and this was perhaps the trickiest part of veganizing the recipe. The eggs in the original recipe do a number of things: egg yolks add richness while the whites are used to aerate the cake and make it fluffy. Eggs have leavening properties which help the cake to rise.
But after a few recipes tests I was able to find the perfect combination of ingredients, so here's what we'll use in order to create the perfect texture in this vegan cake!
- The cashews that we're using in this recipe don't just give a cheesy flavor to the cake, they also add creaminess and richness. They give this cake the richness that would have come from egg yolks in the non-vegan version. For leavening, we'll use a combination of baking powder and apple cider vinegar. The combination of acids in the baking powder and apple cider vinegar cause air bubbles to form in the cake batter, helping the cake to rise and become fluffy - magic!
- My mom's original recipe also called for whipped egg whites to be folded into the batter. So for this cruelty-free version, we're using aquafaba, which is whipped up until fluffy and then carefully folded into the batter to give it a dreamy texture and make sure that it doesn't become too dense.
Let's make a baked cheesecake, vegan! (with step-by-step images)
(Full ingredient quantities and instructions can be found in the recipe card at the end of this post)
Make and pre-bake the cheesecake base
Start by making the dough for the cheesecake base, which is essentially a shortcrust pastry. Simply add your ingredients to your food processor (the plain flour, vegan butter, brown sugar, soy milk, and vanilla), and blend for a minute or so until the ingredients come together.
Next line the base and sides of a cake tin with parchment paper. Press the dough into the base and all the way up the sides of the tin, smoothing it out with a flat bottomed glass or cup measure. Prick the base of the crust a few times using a fork and pre-bake to avoid a soggy cheesecake crust.
Make the cheesecake filling
Firstly blend all the ingredients apart from the aquafaba and baking powder in your high-speed blender ingredients. Whisk the baking powder into the blended In a separate bowl, whisk the aquafaba until fluffy with soft peaks.
Very gently fold the whipped aquafaba through the blended cheesecake mixture and pour it into the tin for baking.
To store place your chilled cheesecake in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
More vegan cheesecakes
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- 300 g (2.4 cups) flour
- 150 g (5.3 oz) vegan butter, room temperature, cut into small chunks
- 70 g (⅓ cup) brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon (1 tbsp) soy milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 200 g (1.5 cups) cashews, *soaked, see notes
- 600 g (21.1 oz) vegan vanilla greek soy yogurt , or vegan plain soy yogurt with 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 118 ml (0.5 cup) pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon (1 tbsp) apple cider vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon (¼ tsp) salt
- 40 g (5 tbsp) cornstarch
- 80 g (⅓ cup) aquafaba, *see notes
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 550 g (4 cups) frozen cherries, or frozen berries of choice
- 60 g (60 g) caster sugar, or maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon (1 tsp ) lemon juice
- ½ tablespoon (½ tbsp) cornstarch
- Preheat your oven to 170°C/340°F (fan oven) or 190°C/375°F conventional oven.
- To make the crust, line the bottom and sides of a 9.5" springform cake tin with some parchment paper. Add the plain flour, vegan butter, brown sugar, soy milk, and vanilla extract to your food processor and blitz for a minute or so until it forms a dough.
- Press the dough into the base and about 2 inches up the sides of the cake tin. Bake the crust for 15-18 minutes until it begins to brown slightly.
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Add the soaked cashews, yogurt, maple syrup, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, lemon zest, salt, and cornstarch to your blender and blitz for a few minutes until smooth and creamy. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and whisk in the baking powder.
- In a separate medium-sized bowl, using a hand-held electric whisk beat the aquafaba for 5 minutes until stiff and foamy.
- Use a spatula to carefully fold the aquafaba into the cheesecake batter, in ⅓ increments. Be careful not to over-mix.
- Pour the cheesecake batter into the cake tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until the top of the cake beings to brown very slightly. The cake should be slightly firm but still jiggly. Remove the cake from the oven, but allow it to sit in the cake tin for at least an hour.
- Once at room temperature, remove the cheesecake from the tin and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight works well).
- To prepare the cherry compote, add the frozen cherries, sugar, and lemon juice to a saucepan and cook for 10-15 minutes on low-medium heat.
- Once the cherries have released their juices, strain them into a bowl. Add the cornflour to the bowl with the cherry juice and whisk well. Return the cherry juice/cornflour mixture to medium-high heat and simmer for 5 minutes whilst continuously whisking. Once the mixture thickens slightly, pour it over the cooked cherries, stir and allow the compote to come to room temperature for about an hour.
- Serve the cheesecake topped with cherry compote.
- To store the cheesecake, cover and refrigerate. Consume within 3 days.
- Soaked cashews: Place the cashews in a bowl and soak them in boiling water. Allow them to sit for 30 mins to an hour.
- Aquafaba: The liquid part from tinned chickpeas.
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