The lemon cheesecake I made for Easter uses cream cheese and is not the best dessert for Sarah, who is sensitive to dairy. So as a treat I developed a recipe for a completely dairy-free cheesecake using a readily available nondairy product: Better than Cream Cheese. I shared the recipe with a friend who did me a huge favor by not following the recipe exactly and thereby allowing me to shortcut some errors I might have made. Gluten-free baking is not difficult but it is tricky.
The first important pitfall to avoid is the wrong pan size and shape. Size matters. Use a springform pan with straight sides, no large than 9 inches in diameter, or the cheesecake will look like a sad little pie. If you can find an 8-inch springform pan, that much the better.
The second pitfall to avoid is shortcuts. Grating fresh lemon rind, 2 tablespoons of it (but not packed, so that makes it a little easier) makes all the difference in flavor. Soy-based products have a tendency to have an aftertaste, and fresh lemon juice and rind completely covers any lingering slightly bitter flavors.
Any cheesecake needs a bottom crust and there is a reliable, tasty brand of gluten-free graham-style crackers that I use all the time: Kinnikinnick S’Moreable Graham Style Crackers. One 8-ounce box makes the perfect size crust. The same brand offers Graham style cracker crumbs as well.
A few tips: Always fold lemon zest into cheesecake or any batter at the end and by hand; otherwise it tends to clump around the beater blades. Always line the bottom and sides of the cheesecake spring form pan with parchment paper cut to fit; this makes removing the baked cake quick and easy.
- For the crust:
- 1 (8-ounce) box Kinnikinnick S’moreables Graham Style Crackers , pulverized in the food processor OR
- 1 ¼ cups Kinnikinnick Graham Style Cracker Crumbs
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon cocoa
- 6 tablespoons melted butter or nondairy alternative
- For the cheesecake:
- 3 (8-ounce) packages Better Than Cream Cheese (Tofutti brand)
- 3 eggs
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest, not packed
- Fresh raspberries, as needed, for garnish
- 1 pound fresh strawberries washed and hulled, for sauce
- ¼ cup sugar, for sauce
- To make the crust: Combine crumbs and the rest of the crust ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Spray a 9-inch spring form pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line bottom and sides with parchment paper cut to fit. Transfer crumb mixture to pan, level the bottom and using a flat-bottomed glass, pat down crumbs gently but firmly, but do not press down hard. Refrigerate pan with crust. Reserve.
- To make the cake: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the nondairy cream cheese on medium speed until it is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating on medium between each addition and scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add the sugar and beat on medium for 5 minutes, scraping down bowl as necessary.
- Add lemon juice and vanilla and beat to mix well. Remove bowl and paddle from mixer. Scrape down paddle. Stir in the lemon zest by hand.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Using a silicone spatula, scrape cheesecake batter into the prepared spring form pan with the chilled crust, and level the top. Set the spring form pan on a baking sheet to catch any butter that often drips out from the crust.
- Bake until the cheesecake is cooked through, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. (One way to judge is if the cake has risen, then begun to sink slightly and pull away from the sides of the pan).
- Remove pan from the oven and set on a rack. Cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Remove cake from the refrigerator and run a thin spatula around sides reaching down through the crust to the pan bottom. Release the spring and remove the ring. Slide a large thin spatula carefully underneath the parchment paper lining the bottom crust. Transfer parchment and cake onto a platter.
- To serve: Decorate with fresh raspberries, or Strawberry Sauce. Or both!
- To make the strawberry sauce: Place strawberries and sugar in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until smoothly pureed.
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