Almost Raw Vegan Raspberry Cheesecake Bars
It's truly and definitely Spring here in Virginia. The days are longer. The bumblebees are zooming happily around our blueberry bushes. Our asparagus patch is producing its first stalks. And the earth is finally warm enough to plant all of seeds we just got in from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds! I'm going to spend some time this weekend planting poppies, basil and loads of vegetables. This Spring energy is reinvigorating my spirit. Winter was truly putting me in an uninspired state of mind. Thank goodness for the blossoms on my cherry tree! They're really pumping some good juju into my soul right now.
Lately it seems like every day around noon I've been getting wild rushes of inspiration. I'll pace around the kitchen as ideas flood into my head (usually while munching on half an avocado and staring into space).
Make a lemon curd fruit tart!!! With kiwi and currants and... wait no no I don't have any berries, ok I'll make a cashew tart! BUT WAIT even better... BARS. Chocolate? Snickers? No I just did a snickers thing last month besides xyz blogger did a snickers thing last week. REGROUP what ingredients to I have on hand?
I check the cupboards and see what I have. A slew of nut butters, coconut oil, maple syrup, sesame seeds, chia, oats, a few bags of freeze dried berries from Trader Joes (raspberry, strawberry, blueberry).
It was during one of these brain storming sessions that I came up with these vegan raspberry cheesecake bars!
But before I did a jackknife straight into the deep end of this recipe development, I settled on one very important requirement: they had to be lazy.
Not just lazy, but unfussy and relaxed. I wanted to make a raw treat recipe that was so chill that you could prep it for a party as an after-thought and still wow your guests.
Not that you need to have a reason like a party to make these.
But I will tell you in advance: these bars are awesome for entertaining! Whenever I'm having people over for cocktails or whatever, I pile a bunch of these on a marble serving board and watch as people oooh and aaah. And then I'm like: "what, this ol' recipe? It's nothing, really!" Then I blast some Fleetwood Mac, do a high kick and pop some champagne because these only took 10 minutes of prep time.
If that doesn't make you look like an enchantress at your next shindig, darling I don't know what will.
I made the first version of these cheesecake bars for a friends birthday a few weeks ago (some of you may have seen them on my Instagram stories). I had promised that I would bring her a treat to share at her b-day dinner party.
And of course, about an hour before the party was going to start I hadn't even thought about what I was going to make. What to do?!?!
I ran into the kitchen and made a coconut-oat crust sweetened with coconut nectar. Then with 45 minutes left to go I realized I didn't have time to soak cashews for the cream layer. I pulled out a jar of unsalted cashew butter instead, blending it with dates and coconut milk and spices.
I topped it off with sesame seeds, fresh blueberries and dried lavender buds.
That's how the concept for these quick-as-hell, last minute, lazy cheesecake bars was born.
I work well under pressure, apparently!
They were definitely a hit -- they were so decadent and creamy, with a cream-cheese consistency and soft cookie crust.
These raspberry cheesecake bars are a dusky pink riff on that original concept.
They toe the line between raw cheesecake bar and ice cream bar, as I chose to omit coconut oil.
I love coconut oil. But these bars are mostly cashew butter anyway. And I really wanted them to feel a bit lighter than the typical raw vegan cheesecake bar (which sometimes, to be totally honest, is JUST TOO MUCH FOOD in one tiny bite).
They do melt more quickly without the coconut oil to stabilize. I eat these right out of the freezer, so for me that's not a problem at all.
As I said earlier, the really exciting thing about these raspberry cheesecake bars is how unfussy they are. For a raw-ish vegan thing, they're pretty damn fast. There's no soak-time of cashews involved thanks to the use of cashew butter. So, if you're like me and you make treats because of a sudden desperate craving, these are perfect for you!
This recipe takes about 10 minutes of active prep time (blending crust, blending filling, swirling, DONE). Then you have to wait around for an hour for it to set.
I made these before dinner and popped them in the freezer. By the time Logan and I finished slurping noodles (what we were most likely eating) they were set and ready to munch!
Also HI those of you out there who came to this recipe specifically because of that dusky pink color and those gorgeous magenta redbud flowers peeking out from the corners of the photos. I love you. Let's be friends.
I used freeze dried raspberries in these bars because they provide a gorgeous pink color and intense raspberry flavor without making the bars icy from the water content in fresh raspberries. You could sub out freeze dried blueberries / strawberries / etc to mix it up as you like! Also, it should be noted that the lemon juice and zest in these bars balances out the sweetness from the dates and creaminess of the cashew butter. So, they're well-rounded and have a mild tanginess just like dairy cheesecake.
I topped these bad boys with sesame seeds and rose petals. I've been getting really into edible flower garnishes, and the dried rose petals make these bars taste mildly floral. As if that gorgeous pink color wasn't enough!
For those of you following me on instagram, you know it's redbud season and I'm putting them on everything! I had some around after a foraging session and they make these bars look as mystical as they taste! Fun fact: redbuds taste like sweet pea shoots and lemon zest. Go forage some before they're gone!
If you make this recipe or any recipe from Will Frolic for Food share by tagging me @willfrolicforfood and #willfrolicforfood so I can see! I do my best to comment on everything you guys share on instagram!
Almost Raw Vegan Raspberry Cheesecake Bars
Created by Renee on April 14, 2017
NOTE: It doesn’t matter if your cashew butter is roasted or raw as long as it’s 100% pure cashews with no added salt or sweeteners. NOTE #2: You want room temperature coconut milk in liquid state, not chilled and solid. Shake the can to combine the fat with the liquid in the can.
- Prep Time: 10m
- Total Time: 1h 20m
- Yield: 20-24 squares
Oat Coconut Crust
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 3/4 cup roughly chopped nuts / seeds (I used brazil nuts)
- 1 teaspoon chia seeds
- 1/4 cup coconut nectar or maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, melted
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- tiny pinch Celtic sea salt
Raspberry Cashew Butter Filling
- 1 cup unsalted cashew butter
- juice 1 lemon
- zest 1 lemon
- 8 medjool dates, pitted
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup full fat coconut milk at room temp, shaken + 2 tablespoons
- 1/2 cup freeze dried raspberries
- garnish: 1 tablespoon dried red rose petals, 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
Oat Coconut Crust
- Add the rolled oats, coconut flakes, nuts/seeds and chia to the blender. Blitz until you have a coarse meal. Add the coconut nectar, coconut oil, cardamom and sea salt. Blend until it comes together in a rough, malleable dough that moulds together when pressed between your fingers — about 20-30 seconds.
- Press the dough into a 10” tart pan with a removable bottom OR a long rectangular tart pan (13 3/4" x 4 1/2" x 1" high) with a removable bottom.
- Press the dough into the pan evenly and firmly, making sure the dough is nicely pressed into the scalloped edges so you get a pretty pattern when you’re done. You want it about 1 inch thick. Set the crust in the freezer while you blend up the raspberry cream.
- NOTE: If using a standard long and narrow rectangular tart pan you may have some tart crust dough left over. It's enough to press into a small 6” tart pan with a removable bottom OR a wide-mouth mason jar top works as a make-shift tart pan. It makes a nice mini tart served with fresh fruit and whipped coconut cream on top. And it's nice crumbled over ice cream too.
Raspberry Cashew Butter Filling
- Wash out the blender and then add the cashew butter, lemon juice, lemon zest, 8 medjool dates, vanilla and 3/4 cups liquid coconut milk. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed to get a smooth cream. Remove the crust from the freezer and pour half of the cream over top of the crust in an “S” pattern, leaving some crust uncovered (you want to leave some space for the raspberry cream to fill in the gaps).
- For the raspberry cream, add the remaining two tablespoons of coconut milk and the freeze dried raspberries to the blender. Blend until the remaining 1/2 of the batter is smooth and a lovely dusky pink color. Pour the pink cream over the plain cashew cream -- filling in empty spots until the crust is evenly covered. To make swirls run a butter knife or chopstick in swirly patterns around the cream.
- Garnish with rose petals and sesame seeds, shaking them both evenly over the top of the cream. Freeze for a minimum of 1 hour up to overnight. To serve, let thaw 5 minutes before removing the giant bar from the tart pan and slicing into rectangles or squares, as you like. Note: once these thaw they’re rather melty. Best served slightly thawed and eaten immediately. To store, add the cut bars to glass tupperware with a lid and keep in the freezer for up to two weeks.