Can you have a good cheesecake with just two tablespoons of sugar and no eggs? Can it be smooth, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth good and before you know it, you’re already on your next bite? Why, yes and yes! Say hello to our family’s lifelong addiction: the no-bake cheesecake. This is also perfect for those who don’t like the heaviness of regular cheesecake. Perhaps you could even say it’s a tad better for indulgences, too. Maybe.
No-bake cheesecake and our family go way, way back in the 80’s. My mom would spend Friday or Saturday nights on the dining table after dinner with her bowls, wooden spoons, stand mixer and springform pan to make cheesecake. The truth is, for the longest time I thought cheesecake was only made using my mom’s no-bake method. Ha. Unfortunately, my mom lost the recipe. I think everyone in our family will agree that was gut-wrenchingly sad.
Uh, what are we going to do now?!
Sometime between my teenage years and our move to Canada, there was a cheesecake void in our household, we all got busy and us kids moved cities away for high school and university.
It wasn’t until 2002 or 2003 that I discovered (and had the inclination to make) a no-bake cheesecake recipe online. It didn’t quite taste like my mom’s but the methodology was close. I tweaked the ingredients until we were all satisfied with the taste. Then, at some point–GASP!–I lost the recipe. Gone. Not in my computer. Not in my mom’s. Our family friend, Tita Thess (go check her out, she makes gorgeous bead jewelry) even asked for the recipe many moons ago, but it turns out I never sent it to her. In between moving and traveling, and not being in the kitchen much, the recipe was gone. There was no trace of it.
For the longest time, I’ve put off creating a recipe from scratch to replicate my mom’s no-bake cheesecake because a) it’s so time-consuming to get the combination; and b) I almost had it and then I lost it! Exasperating to say the least. However, these are the things in life you just have to be grown up about and deal with–so I did. These were the only things I remembered it had and outlines my starting point:
- 2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese
- some amount of sour cream
- some amount of Knox unflavoured gelatin
- graham crackers
- lemon zest (god…that lemon zest that I would forever associate with cheesecake!)
It’s rather vague to say the least. I’m looking at my notes on my calendar (yes, I know) and it was still back in the beginning of February. And let’s just say that my weight is pretty much indicative of the amount of cheesecake I’ve consumed to reach until March to get the recipe right. I just can be so dedicated to finding a “solution” to my problem that I will not stop until everything is resolved — in this case, until the taste, texture and consistency is correct.
How hard could it be to come up with our “holy grail” recipe?
I got the recipe for the crust right the 1st try, but the cake was lumpy because of the difference in temperature between the dissolved gelatin and the cream cheese mixture. It tasted good (not the best–too sweet), but one never should have to associate cheesecake with the word lumpy (= lame).
On the second try, the cheesecake tasted better (still not perfect), but the texture was smoother. However, the cheesecake held up so well it almost looked fake, like when you buy cheesecake at a cheap establishment and it’s almost like buying white Jell-O. Not good.
And then the third: melts-in-your-mouth no-bake cheesecake. And I made it again and again. And it’s done.
[Not into no-bake? Try the Bailey’s Cafe Mocha Cheesecake]
- (Makes one 8-inch cheesecake)
- 1½ cups of graham cracker crumbs
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
- 5 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 7-gram pack of gelatin crystals (Knox brand*)
- ½ cup water, divided
- 2 8-oz packages of cream cheese, room temperature (softened)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup sour cream
- ½ cup whipping cream
- ½ cup Greek yogurt, 2% fat (I used Fage brand*)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Line the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan with aluminum foil. You can use just one sheet of foil to cover the entire pan, just make sure the raised sides go up to at least 1.5 inches.
- Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and lemon zest in a small bowl. Add butter and mix until all the crumbs are moistened and a thick, crumbly paste forms. Pour graham crumb paste onto the lined springform pan. Level and press to the bottom of the pan using a rubber spatula and neatly taper at the edge. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
- Mix gelatin crystals and ¼ cup water in a small bowl and allow to bloom for 5 minutes. Heat ¼ cup water for 30 seconds in the microwave on high and pour into the gelatin bloom. Stir to dissolve, and allow to cool.
- Place cream cheese, granulated sugar and lemon juice In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (you can use a hand mixer as well). Mix on low to break down the cream cheese for 30 seconds, and increase to medium speed for another 1 minute. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add sour cream, whipping cream, Greek yogurt and vanilla extract. Mix on medium for 30 seconds, scrape the sides, and on medium-high speed for 2 minutes, until smooth and fluffy.
- Starting on low, pour gelatin into the cream cheese mixture. Continue to mix at medium speed for a minute, scraping the sides of the bowl after 30 seconds.
- Pour into the springform pan with crust and level with a spatula. Tap pan lightly against the counter to get rid of air bubbles. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
- Unhinge the springform pan and remove. Carefully slide off the cake, still on the foil, onto a serving plate. You can tear out the sides of the aluminum foil or carefully slide it side to side to unstuck from the crust, and remove. To smoothen the sides of the cake, slide the smooth edge of a table knife to create a smooth even surface. Pour your topping/s of choice before serving. It gets even better after 2 or 3 days!
- Store in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap to prevent the exposed areas from drying out.
: You can use any brand you prefer, but I have not tried them with this recipe. Knox is the only gelatin my family uses for cheesecakes since I was a child because it just works beautifully with this. I've always stood by Fage as an eating and cooking/baking yogurt, and so far I have not found a better substitute for it.
[We are not affiliated with either brand.]
This cheesecake will be nice and sturdy enough to hold its shape for travel the next day (in case you are bringing it to a party). However, if you want the cheesecake sturdy fast (in 2 hours or less, by putting in the freezer for 30 minutes and in the fridge for an hour), decrease the sour cream and yogurt by ¼ cup each. Please remember that if you make the cheesecake this way, you need to consume it the same day or it will look and feel almost rubbery the next day. This is just the quick method in case you are in a hurry. The long method is ideal in texture and taste.
There's no need to buy graham cracker crumbs. Just put them in the food processor and pulse.