My Mother's Cheesecake


Sweet Freedom

Published by Ricki Heller

This image courtesy of Ricki Heller

My dad grew up on a farm, and his grandmother made old-fashioned cheesecake for special occasions. My mom reproduced the recipe as a treat for my dad, and now I’ve created a new version that’s vegan and free of wheat or sugar. We called this “Farmer’s Cheesecake” at home, but I think the credit should go to my mom.

Makes9 large or 12 more reasonable servings

Cooking MethodBaking


Total Timeunder 4 hours

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe CourseDessert

Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Gluten-free, Halal, Kosher, Lactose-free, Peanut Free, Tree Nut Free, Vegan, Vegetarian

EquipmentFood Processor


Taste and TextureCreamy, Sweet

Type of DishCake, Cheesecake, Dessert


  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) sunflower or other light-tasting oil, preferably organic
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) light agave nectar
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) plain or vanilla soy or almond milk
  • 1¼ tsp (6.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 heaping tbsp (15 ml) organic cornstarch or arrowroot powder
  • 1 scant cup (130 g) whole spelt flour
  • ¾ cup (80 g) barley flour
  • Heaping ¼ tsp (1.5 ml) baking powder
  • Heaping ¼ tsp (1.5 ml) baking soda
  • Heaping ¼ tsp (1.5 ml) fine sea salt
  • 1 pkg. (12 ounces or 375 g) aseptically packaged firm silken Japanese-style tofu (such as Mori-Nu)
  • ½ cup (120 ml) smooth natural cashew butter
  • Grated zest of one lemon
  • ½ cup (120 ml) light agave nectar
  • 2 tsp (10 ml) fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp (2.5 ml) pure lemon extract
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch fine sea salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line an 8” (20 cm) square pan with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.

  2. Prepare the crust: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the oil, agave nectar, soymilk and vanilla to emulsify. Sift the remaining ingredients over the mixture in the bowl and stir with a wooden spoon to combine to a soft dough (it will be slightly sticky, but firm enough to hold a shape).

  3. Remove about 1/3 of the dough and set aside (you can just estimate). Press the remaining dough evenly into the bottom of the pan with wet fingers or a silicon spatula (the spatula works well to avoid sticking). Set aside.

  4. Make the filling: blend the tofu and cashew butter in a food processor until well combined, scraping down sides if necessary. Add the remaining ingredients and process until perfectly smooth and velvety (there should be no bits of tofu visible).

  5. Pour the filling evenly over the crust in the pan. To smooth the top, grab the pan on opposite sides with your hands and, keeping the bottom of the pan against the surface it’s on, quickly rotate it once to the left and then to the right.

  6. Divide the remaining dough in half, then divide each half into 3 equal parts (you’ll have 6 balls of dough). Pinching about ½ of each ball at a time, roll it between your palms to create a thin rope about 3/8” (just under 1 cm) thick.

  7. Starting at one corner and working diagonally across to the opposite corner of the pan, place ropes of dough next to each other in a straight line from one corner to the other (the dough doesn’t necessarily have to be rolled in a single rope that spans the whole distance across the pan-you can line up shorter pieces next to each other). Next, place ropes of dough on either side parallel to the first rope, so you end up with three diagonal lines across the pan. Continue until you have 5 lines in one direction across the pan (shorter lines toward the edges).

  8. Repeat with ropes of dough in the opposite direction, crossing over the first ropes. You should end up with a diagonal criss-cross pattern over the surface of the cheesecake.

  9. Bake the cake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, rotating pan about halfway through, until the filling appears firm and the edges of the dough are beginning to brown. Cool completely, then refrigerate until cold (at least 2 hours) before slicing. May be frozen (defrost, covered, in the refrigerator overnight).


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Spelt flour is an ancient type of wheat flour. Therefore this recipe is not free from wheat!


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