the cheesecake that changed my life

Cheesecake has always seemed a little bit wrong to me.  No, it's not the ungodly fat content or the calories that faze me, but the main ingredient....cream cheese. I'm the kind of girl who takes care to spread a barely-detectable layer of cream cheese onto her bagel. I pass the cream cheese wontons they give out at Arigato and have never made a cream cheese frosting in my life. So naturally, something about turning three entire packages of cream cheese into a dish you eat by the forkful was just unfathomable for my little brain. And kinda gross, to be honest.

...until this cheesecake came along, swept me off my feet, and forever changed me.

This was the first cheesecake I ever made. My dad requested something "lemon" or "raspberry" for his birthday last year, so I scoured the Internet for the perfect lemony-raspberry combination. This was an answer sent from above.

After reading so many cheesecake horror stories, I was wary of all the things that could go wrong. Lo and behold! This cake came out of the oven with zero cracks. Thank you, cheesecake gods.

The original recipe calls for a vanilla bean, which I was desperate to include, but my frugal mother would not dare let her daughter splurge $6 on a pack of two vanilla beans. Oh well. Even without those beautiful black vanilla bean speckles, this cake was spot on. Plus I saved $6.

What do I love so much about this cheesecake? The crust is satisfyingly thick (and made of cashews!) and the lemon zest adds the perfect zing to a creamy texture.

I'm sure you could top this cake with a gazillion varieties of fruit, jam, drizzles, chocolate shavings, etc., so go wild! I spread a thin layer of raspberry jam in the center and topped it with raspberries and sliced strawberries.

I once was lost, but now I'm found. I'm a cheesecake believer. Don't let my mediocre food photography keep this cake from changing your life, too.


Lemon Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

(adapted from the Flourishing Foodie)

For the crust:

1/2 cup raw cashews, chopped
1/4 cup angle flake sweetened coconut
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 tbsp butter, melted

For the filling:

3 - 8 oz packs of cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup of white sugar
1 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise and seeds removed
1 lemon, juice and zest
2 egg yolks
2 egg whites, whipped to soft peaks

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In a food processor, add the chopped raw cashews and coconut flakes. Pulse until a medium fine crumb. In a medium size bowl, stir together the cashews, coconut, and graham cracker crumbs. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter. Stir until all of the crumb is moistened.

Grease a 9 inch springform pan. Pour the crust ingredients into the springform pan and flatten evenly with your hand or a spatula. Place the pan into the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven.

Increase the oven temperature to 400ºF.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla seeds. Mix on low-medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice and zest and combine.

Scrape down the sides of the stand mixer bowl. Add the egg yolks one at a time and mix until incorporated. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and scrape down the sides. Fold in the egg whites.

Pour the filling onto the crust and smooth it out with a spatula. Place the pan into the oven on a flat baking sheet, on the middle rack. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 225ºF, and continue baking for 60 - 75 minutes, or when the cheesecake appears firm and slightly jiggly on top.

Once done, turn the oven off, and leave the cheesecake in there to cool for 1 hour. This will prevent the cheesecake from cracking. When you remove your cheesecake from the oven, immediately run a thin knife along the edges, pressing the knife against the wall of the pan to loosen the top. This will also prevent cracking as the cheesecake cools and contracts. Let the cake sit at room temperature until cool, a couple of hours. Cover with Saran wrap and place into the fridge overnight to cool completely. This will allow it time to set.

Once cooled, top with fruit or topping of choice.

Can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for 1 month.