This vegan caramel & vanilla cheesecake with fresh berries proves that good things come in small packages. Although just 5 inches in diameter, this vegan cheesecake packs a mighty punch of deliciousness. A simple raw almond and date crust is topped with a rich cashew-coconut cheesecake layer, and a heavenly 5-minute vegan caramel coats the entire surface. Fresh berries embellish the top, bringing balance and brightness to a dessert that might otherwise get a bit carried away with itself.
As another school year draws to a close—only four more weeks left in this year—I find myself thinking about the things that I have learned since last August. Although I don't officially identify as a student anymore, I'm still learning new things day in and day out. The students I work with teach me more than I ever could have imagined. They're really, truly awesomely amazing. Have you ever noticed that I love adjectives? Perhaps just a little too much but sometimes there is no better way to make a point.
Prior to starting my first post-grad school job nearly three years ago, I was always thinking about the ways I hoped to help students and what I might teach them. I never gave much thought to the idea that they might teach me a thing or two... or an infinity of things. Some things they've taught me have been humbling life lessons of compassion and empathy. Others have been slightly less important lessons but still quite interesting, like what YOLO means or that "inboxing" is sending someone a facebook message. Oh yes, and that I should never attempt to stop a sophomore boy from swinging his backpack around like a helicopter unless I prefer to wear my coffee instead of drink it.
If I ever write a book about my career as a school psychologist, I think I'll go ahead and title it Life Lessons in Coffee Spills and Compassion.
But in all seriousness, I'm so grateful to work with such genuine, inspiring, and hilarious teenagers who always know how to keep it real and remind me of what's really important in life. Cheers to another successful year coming to a close and another summer on the horizon. Now, let's eat cheesecake.
This caramel-coated vanilla cheesecake is the epitome of decadence. There are three layers to its deliciousness:
1| A simple raw almond and date crust.
2| A cashew, coconut butter, and coconut milk cheesecake layer that is sweetened with dates and spiced with fresh vanilla bean flecks.
3| A simple and heavenly caramel layer that adds a thick, stick-to-your teeth layer of gooeyness.
Fresh berries embellish the top of the cheesecake and add balance and brightness to a dessert that could otherwise get a bit carried away with itself. Although this cheesecake is tiny, just five-inches in diameter to be exact, it is absolutely mighty. Just a small slice does the trick, so we sliced it into six pieces. Of course, Dan and I ate all six pieces in just over 24 hours but who's counting.
...And we're back with another edition of Sound Bites! I'm crossing my fingers that this one doesn't remove the ability to comment on the post like the last one did. If you notice any issues, let me know.
This song is by Years & Years and the beat consistently makes Dan and I
want to actually dance around our house like total fools. Considering the taste of this cheesecake had the same effect this past Saturday, I figured this was the perfect song pairing for this recipe. Enjoy!
Caramel & Vanilla Cheesecake with Fresh Berries | Vegan, Gluten-Free & Paleo
For the Crust
- ⅓ cup packed and pitted medjool dates
- ⅓ cup raw almonds
For the Vanilla Cheesecake Filling
- ¼ cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours to soften
- ¼ cup pitted and packed medjool dates
- ¼ cup coconut butter
- ½ cup full-fat canned coconut milk
- Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
For the caramel Topping
- ½ cup raw almond butter
- ½ cup pure maple syrup
- ⅓ cup coconut oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ cup blueberries
- ¼ cup raspberries
- ¼ cup blackberries
- Pepitas (optional)
For the crust
- Add the dates and raw almonds to a food processor. Process for 2-3 minutes until the crust begins to roll into a large ball.
- Line the bottom of a 5-inch springform pan with parchment paper and grease sides with coconut oil. Scoop the date and almond mixture into the pan and press down with fingers. If the mixture is sticking to your hands, dip your fingertips in water to repel the dates. Pop in the freezer for 15 minutes or more to set.
For the Vanilla Cheesecake Filling
- While the crust is setting, make the vanilla cheesecake layer by adding the soaked cashews, dates, coconut butter, coconut milk, and the vanilla bean flecks to a food processor. Process for 4-5 minutes, stopping to scrape the mixture down the sides as frequently as needed. Tip: if your dates aren't wet and soft, soak them in water for 30 minutes or more prior to making this layer.
- Remove the springform pan from the freezer, and pour the "cheesecake" mixture on top of the crust. Spread evenly with the back of a spoon. Pop in the freezer for 30 minutes to set the cheesecake layer.
For the Caramel
- Add the almond butter, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla extract, and sea salt to a sauce pan over medium-low heat. Whisk together for 3 minutes or until all ingredients melt together. Turn off the heat and let it cool until the cheesecake layer has set.
- Fill the remainder of the springform pan with the caramel layer and return to freezer for 25-30 minutes to set.
- Remove the cheesecake from the springform pan and place on a plate. Top the cheesecake with more caramel, if desired. Decorate the cheesecake with the berries and pepitas. Slice and serve.
- Refrigerate leftovers.
For the coconut milk, scrape just the top layer of cream from the can.
The caramel recipe makes much more than you'll need to fill the remainder of the springform pan. I poured another heavy layer over the cheesecake in the photos to make it prettier to photograph, but you definitely don't have to add an extra layer of caramel. If you opt not to, pour the leftover caramel into an airtight mason jar and refrigerate for other sweet treats and desserts!