Zesty, tangy and tart, yet creamy, sweet and spicy, this vegan cheesecake is a riot of flavours. A gingery base, with a silky smooth cashew and silken tofu filling, flavoured with lemon and lime zest and white chocolate, drizzled with a sharp citrus curd and piled high with ginger nut biscuits and white chocolate shavings.
It was my uncles 50th birthday recently and I was asked to make the cake. The instructions were that he wanted a cheesecake, and he wanted it to be sour and tangy. I interpreted this to mean ‘citrus-flavoured with a lovely balance between tangy and sour fruitiness, and creamy, sweet cheesecake filling, and also maybe some ginger nut biscuits’. And that is exactly what he got.
I adapted the recipe from my white chocolate and blueberry cheesecake, which is now a family favourite. I replaced the biscuit base with ginger nut biscuits, added lemon and lime zest and juice to the cheesecake filling, and made a super tangy lemon and lime curd for the topping. And then, seeing as it was a special occasion, I decorated some left-over ginger nuts with melted white chocolate and crumbled them on top, with some dehydrated slices of lemon and lime, and white chocolate shavings.
Did I make an absolutely colossal mess of the kitchen? Yes I did. Was it worth it? 100%.
Of course, you needn’t go to town quite so much on the decoration if you don’t have the time or patience. The cheesecake and curd by itself is still dangerously tempting, and can make a slightly more casual but still truly excellent dessert. I’ve provided instructions for the decorations nonetheless, in case you too are celebrating, or you’re just feeling a bit extra.
How to make Vegan Lemon and Lime Baked Cheesecake
I always make this a day in advance; the cashew soaking, baking, slowly cooling to avoid cracking, and subsequent refrigeration all take time, though surprisingly little effort.
The very first thing is to soak the cashews so they’re ready to be whizzed into a smooth and creamy paste for the filling. 4–6 hours in cold water should do it, or 1 hour in just-boiled water, or if you forget completely (which I do more often than I would like to admit), you can boil them for 15 minutes in a saucepan then leave to cool.
For the base, you’ll need a whole two ingredients, biscuits and butter, and a loose-bottomed cake tin, around 20cm diameter. Grease the tin and line the bottom with baking paper. Put the biscuits in a food processor and whizz to a crumb. I use ginger nuts – most supermarket brands and McVities are accidentally vegan, or you can use a gluten free version. If you’re not a fan of ginger then digestives or hobnobs would also be delicious. Whatever biscuit you choose, once whizzed, add the vegan butter (I use Naturli Vegan Block because it’s an excellent butter substitute but vegan spread or coconut oil would also work), and pulse until the mixture starts to clump together. Tip into the prepared tin, level out and then press into the base until it forms an even, compact layer, then refrigerate.
For the filling, I use a combination of cashews and silken tofu. This gives a beautifully smooth and creamy cheesecake, without being too heavy or excessively rich. The key ingredient is vegan white chocolate which gives a lovely sweetness to counteract the sharpness of the citrus. In the UK you can buy this from the free from section in some supermarkets; Sainsbury’s do an excellent version that is just over £1 for 100g, and Tesco and Asda do smaller bars for comparable value.
Melt the white chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, and leave to cool while you prepare the other filling ingredients. Using a clean muslin, jay-cloth or tea towel, wring out as much liquid as you can from your silken tofu, then scrape into your food processor and whizz until smooth. If you have a high-speed blender, this can help get your cheesecake extra silky. Drain the cashews and add to the high-speed blender along with the liquid ingredients (non-dairy yogurt, milk, syrup, and lemon juice) and blitz until smooth before adding to the food processor, with the remaining ingredients (minus the white chocolate). If you don’t have a high-speed blender, simply put all of the remaining ingredients (minus the white chocolate) into the food processor and whizz for 5 or 6 minutes, or until completely smooth.
Finally, with the motor running, stream in the white chocolate through the lid of your food processor until it’s completely incorporated. Give it a taste and add a little more syrup or citrus if necessary, then scrape on top of your cooled base, and bake for 35 minutes.
The perennial issue with baked cheesecake is the top cracking once it’s out of the oven. To avoid this, after 35 mins I turn off the oven and crack the door open, and leave the cheesecake to cool in the oven for at least an hour. I then let it cool completely at room temperature before refrigerating overnight, or for at least 3 hours.
For the Lemon and Lime Curd
The curd can be made shortly before you want to eat/decorate the cheesecake, it just needs a little time to cool. It’s largely a question of a bunging everything into a saucepan, however as the curd is thickened with corn flour, it’s best to mix this with a little of the non-dairy milk first to avoid lumps.
Zest half an unwaxed lemon and one unwaxed lime, then squeeze the juice out of both, plus another lime. You should have roughly 50–60ml juice. Add the corn flour to a small bowl with a tablespoon of the milk, and whisk until completely smooth. Pour this into a saucepan along with the sugar, zest, the rest of the milk, and 45ml (3 tbsp) of juice. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, whisking constantly, then remove from the heat when it starts to bubble. Taste a little once it’s cooled a bit – you may want to add a bit more citrus juice or sugar depending on how tart you like it, although the cheesecake is pretty sweet so can stand up against a tangy curd.
Once the curd is completely cool, spread it over the top of your cheesecake, leaving a little gap at the edges so it doesn’t drop down the sides. The recipe makes enough for a decent layer, but you could always make double and put some in a jug on the side for an extra citrus hit.
For minimum effort decorating, break up any left over ginger nuts into irregular pieces and pile on top of the curd, then grate or chop any remaining white chocolate and sprinkle over to finish. If you happen to have any edible flowers lying around, this is a sure-fire way to make it look like far more care and consideration has gone into your decorating than actually has (I am blessed with a green-fingered Mother which is incredibly useful in this regard).
For ultimate fancy-pants decorating, you can dehydrate slices of lemon and lime. This is not as difficult as it sounds but, as with the cheesecake, it’s best to do the day before. Thinly slice a couple of lemons and limes, and place on a baking tray in a single layer. Heat your oven to 70C fan and bake for 4 hours, turning the slices every hour. Otherwise, if you have a dehydrator, dehydrate the slices at 50C for 12 hours. For the ginger nuts, simply melt some white chocolate and drizzle over your remaining ginger nuts, then leave to cool.
As you can see from the pictures, the assembly is not a precise task. Break up and scatter the biscuits, leaving some whole or in large chunks, and place the citrus slices in some of the gaps. Finally grate a final bit of white chocolate over everything, and admire your handiwork – it’s most likely going to disappear very quickly.
Vegan Lemon and Lime Baked Cheesecake with White Chocolate and Ginger
Zesty, tangy and tart, yet creamy, sweet and spicy, this vegan cheesecake starts with a ginger biscuit base, smothered in a creamy white chocolate and citrus filling, topped with a zingy and tart lemon and lime curd.
Vegan, Gluten-free option
For the base:
- 300g vegan ginger nut biscuits* (or gluten-free alternative)
- 100g vegan butter / spread / coconut oil
For the filling:
- 200g cashew nuts
- 150g vegan white chocolate (I use Sainsbury’s free from)
- 300g silken tofu
- 125g vegan yogurt
- 50ml non-dairy milk of choice (I use oat milk)
- 6 tbsp syrup (agave / brown rice / golden / maple)
- 1 unwaxed lemon, zested and juiced
- 1 unwaxed lime, zested and juiced
- pinch of salt
For the lemon and lime curd:
- 1 unwaxed lemon
- 2 unwaxed limes
- 2 tsp cornflour
- 60ml non-dairy milk (I use oat)
- 60g caster sugar
- pinch turmeric (optional, for colour)
For the decoration (optional):
- 1 lemon
- 2 limes
- 100g ginger nut biscuits
- 50g vegan white chocolate
- Start the day before you want to serve the cheesecake. Soak 200g cashews in plenty of water for 4–6 hours or in boiled water for 1 hour, or if you’ve forgotten to do both of these, boil in plenty of water for 15 minutes.
- Grease and base line a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin. Put 300g biscuits in a food processor and blitz to a crumb. Then add 100g butter / spread and pulse until fully incorporated and the mixture is starting to clump together. Tip the mixture into the cake tin and press to form an even, compact layer. Refrigerate while you make the filling, and clean the food processor bowl.
- Pre-heat the oven to 170C fan. Measure 150g vegan white chocolate into a heat-proof bowl and place over a saucepan of gently simmering water (ensuring the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water) until the chocolate has completely melted, then set aside to cool. Zest and juice the lemon and lime.
- Drain 300g silken tofu and wrap in a clean cloth, muslin or tea towel. Squeeze over a sink until very little liquid is released then add to the food processor.
- If you have a high-speed blender, add the soaked cashews, 125g vegan yogurt, 50ml non-dairy milk, 6 tbsp syrup, the lemon and lime juice, and whizz until completely smooth, then add to the food processor with the tofu and the lemon and lime zest, and a pinch of salt. If you don’t have a high-speed blender, add all of these ingredients to the food processor and blitz for 5–6 minutes until smooth. With the motor running, pour in the cooled vegan white chocolate, then taste and add a little more syrup, citrus juice, or salt as necessary. You want there to be a pronounced citrus taste, while still being sweet and creamy. The sharpness and tang with come from the curd.
- Spread the cheesecake filling over the refrigerated base so that it forms an even layer. Place on a middle shelf in the oven and bake for 35 minutes. Turn the oven off and crack open the door, and leave the cheesecake to cool for an hour. Remove from the oven and leave until cooled to room temperature then refrigerate overnight (or for at least 3 hours). If you are dehydrating lemons and limes for decoration, now is a good time to do it! See ‘Notes’ below.
- Before serving, make the lemon and lime curd. Zest half the lemon, and 1 lime, then squeeze the juice from the whole lemon and 2 limes. Mix 2 tsp corn flour with 1 tbsp of the non-dairy milk until smooth, then add to a small saucepan with the rest of the milk (45ml or 3 tbsp), 60g sugar, the citrus zest and 45 ml of the citrus juice. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, whisky constantly, then remove from the heat. Taste and add a little more citrus juice or sugar as you wish (the curd should be very tangy so add any extra sugar sparingly), then leave to cool. Gently spread over the top of the cheesecake, then top with any spare crumbled ginger biscuits and some white chocolate shavings – or see ‘Notes’ below!
*Most supermarket brand ginger nuts are accidentally vegan, as well as McVities. If you’re not a fan of ginger, any oaty biscuit or digestive-style biscuit or gluten-free alternative would work well.
**If you want to go fancy with the decoration, thinly slice a couple of lemons and limes, and place on a baking tray in a single layer. Heat your oven to 70C fan and bake for 4 hours, turning the slices every hour. Otherwise, if you have a dehydrator, dehydrate the slices at 50C for 12 hours. For the ginger nuts, simply melt 40g white chocolate and drizzle over your remaining ginger nuts using a teaspoon, then leave to cool. You can do this just before you make the curd. Pile the lemon and lime slices and the ginger nuts, broken up into irregular bits, on top of the layer of curd on the cheesecake, and grate over the remaining 10g white chocolate.