Raspberry Lemon Cheesecakes: An Homage to a Blue Ribbon Original

Raw Raspberry Lemon Cheesecakes, and a moment of gratitude for the cheesecake recipe that started it all for Donna and Anne.

Raw Raspberry Cheesecakes

Raw Raspberry Cheesecakes – Raw, vegan, paleo-friendly, gluten-free, and all the etc.

The first page in my battered and spattered recipe binder is a printout of an email sent to me fifteen years ago, kept safe from the ravages of my cooking habits by a plastic sleeve.

“Hey, we wouldn’t be a family unless we exchanged recipes now and then, would we? So, here’s the cheesecake recipe I was telling you about. It’s pretty good, and I have the ribbon to prove it (somewhere in my attic, okay, trust me!). I have changed the recipe a lot over the years to improve it, and so I feel justified in giving it my name!”

The days are long, the years are short, as the parenting saying goes. It’s hard to believe that it’s been fifteen years since Donna and I first reunited, but the calendars don’t lie – it was in October of 1999 that I was lucky enough to have a reunion that many adopted children only daydream about. After months of anticipatory email, we met face to face in the San Diego airport, only two years before routinely meeting people at the gate would become a thing of the past. My stomach felt positively carbonated as she emerged from the runway. I watched her looking around for just a moment, searching, and then our eyes met and the moment truly arrived. The mother and child reunion really was only a motion away.

Since that first whirlwind San Diego weekend, we have had one adventure after another, slowly integrating each other into our lives, getting to know each other through out Hotmail accounts, introducing one another to our friends and families, traveling together, sharing holidays, and yes, cooking and eating and cooking some more, making up for at least a little of our lost time. Discovering that we had this passion in common was a revelation; in fact, we inspired each other to delve more deeply into culinary creativity than we ever had individually.  Our collaborations eventually moved on to cookbooks, CIA Boot Camp, and finally this very blog – yet I still look forward to the visits where we whip up a feast for our loved ones, just for the sheer joy of it.

When I made that emailed Blue Ribbon Cheesecake for the first time, I felt as though I was tapping into a tangible part of my own ancestral history, but even beyond that, it was like being able to have a hazy glimpse into an alternate universe where my mom (not my birthmom, but simply my mom) taught me to make it herself, in our kitchen, me licking the beaters, all the clichés that go with halcyon kitchen memories. What would that have been like? But despite occasionally wondering about that universe, I’m deeply grateful to have what we have now.

In honor of the recipe that started it all, I made a “daughter” version of her “mother” recipe, using raw ingredients to make an adaptation that lines up with the way I eat most of the time now, having undergone some valuable dietary changes over the last decade. I already love experimenting with raw/vegan/paleo desserts, but if you’ve never given them a shot, they’re well worth it and, as you can see, really quite simple.

Happy Reunion Anniversary to my first mom. May we spend many, MANY more hours in the kitchen together!

Love and eternal gratitude,



1 cup raspberries
1 tablespoon coconut palm sugar
1 squeeze lemon juice (more lemons later!)
1 1/2 cups walnuts
1/2 cup Medjool dates
1/2 teaspoon salt plus 1 pinch
3 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight
1 cup lemon juice, plus zest of all lemons used
1/2 cup honey (or agave, if keeping vegan)
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

First let’s macerate the raspberries. Sprinkle them with the coconut palm sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice, and set aside to let it work its magic, stirring gently from time to time. Set aside for an hour or so.

Next, the crusts. Pulse the walnuts, dates and a generous pinch of salt in your food processor until it forms a crumbly dough. Press firmly and evenly into 6 shallow ramekins or tart dishes, working the mixture up the sides. It helps to rub a little coconut oil onto your hands first!

And now for the filling. Drain the soaked cashews and give them a rinse. In a high-speed blender, combine cashews,  lemon juice and zest, honey (or agave), coconut oil, vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Puree until totally smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.

Pour filling into the ramekins. You can top with the raspberries now or chill the cheesecakes first and then top them; either way works, you just may have a little juice runoff into the filling (which I like). Either way, refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. They can also be frozen if making well in advance, just allow for time to defrost in the refrigerator.

— posted by Anne



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