Here’s a light dessert for the springtime—a vegan version of gâteau au fromage blanc, a traditional French recipe. Fromage blanc (literally “white cheese”) is a soft cheese that we don’t have in the US, so it’s hard to describe, but it’s said to be something between sour cream and cream cheese. The soft texture of silken tofu, with some structure from blended cashews, recreates this consistency for a 100% plant-based version. Lemon zest and juice add to the tartness of the fromage blanc, while the vanilla and almond extracts balance the overall flavor.
This crustless cheesecake is sometimes made with fruit (cherries, raspberries, apple, pear or stonefruit). Here, I have used canned apricots.
I used a springform cheesecake mold that measures 8 in. (20 cm) in diameter, and the cake was 1 in. (2.5 cm) high. A larger mold could be used, for a lower cake, or a smaller mold for a higher cake.
French fruit cheesecake
- 14 oz (400 g) silken tofu
- 1 cup (125 g) raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
- zest of one lemon (about 1 tablespoon, loosely filled)
- juice of one lemon (about 3½ tablespoons)
- 6 tablespoons (55 g) arrowroot powder or cornstarch
- 6 tablespoons agave syrup, rice syrup or maple syrup
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 14 oz (410 g) can apricots (8 oz/235 g after draining), or other fruit
Equipment needed: food processor or high-power blender, springform cake mold or pie dish
The first thing to do is begin soaking your cashews—at least two hours before you plan to start making the cake. If you have a high-power blender or food processor, the soaking time can be shorter.
When the cashews have finished soaking, zest your lemon and then juice it. Be sure to zest it before cutting it open!
Drain and rinse the cashews, then blend them in your food processor/blender together with the lemon zest and juice until smooth. Add the silken tofu and blend until it is fully incorporated.
Add the remaining ingredients (arrowroot powder, agave syrup, vanilla and almond extracts) and combine well, either in the food processor/blender or whisking in a bowl.
To keep the cake from sticking to the cake pan, cut a circle of baking paper to fit into the bottom.
Spread a bit of vegetable oil on the bottom of the pan to get the baking paper to stick.
Fill the pan with the batter.
Add the apricot halves, cut side down, pressing down gently to partially submerge. Avoid getting batter onto the exposed part of the fruit.
Bake at 347°F (175°C) for 40 minutes. It will look something something like this, with a solid, dry surface and a golden-brown color around the edges.
if you’d like to brown the top a bit more, move the cake to the top-most oven rack and broil for about 3 minutes—but stay close to the oven and check every minute or so to avoid over-browning. Given my oven’s small size, I did not increase the temperature for the broiling step, but if you have a standard-size oven you might need to.
Allow the cake to cool fully before unmolding. You will notice that the height reduces as the cake settles. Gently slide a knife with a thin blade around the edges before releasing the spring mold. To remove the cake from the metal cake bottom, first gently slide a thin spatula around the edges between the cake bottom and the paper, then using another spatula, cake server or flat, wide knife (or similar—I used a long wooden crêpe flipper) on the other side, carefully lift the cake from the bottom and transfer to a serving plate.
When slicing the cake, be sure to remove the paper from the bottom.
If you have some powdered sugar, you can dust the top with it for a pretty effect. Do this just before serving as the sugar tends to melt into the top after a little while.
Finally, please enjoy this behind-the-scenes shot of Sésame supervising the photo shoot. 🙂
Variations: Use a combination of fruits in different colors for a range of flavors and a more colorful appearance. Serve with a fruit sauce and/or whipped coconut cream.