Cake

Nigella Lawson's Genius No-Bake Nutella Cheesecake

December  9, 2015

During the holidays, we can be soothed by the sure things—the desserts that won't crack or sink or spring a leak, that don't take much time or a lick of oven space, that have everything going for them.

Photo by James Ransom

No-bake cheesecakes promise all of that, in a straight shot to the finish line—skipping past preheating and water baths and cooling in secret hiding places away from drafts.

Photo by James Ransom

But—in a murky tradeoff—before now, no-bake cheesecakes didn't promise a whole lot of joy. I always thought they had to be a not-worth-it compromise, with iffy ingredients to help them hold together in the absence of any of the traditional cheesecake levers (namely, lightening the batter with eggs, then baking gently in a water bath). This is still true, for the most part.

Photo by James Ransom

Based on a quick survey of blogs, Cool Whip—which, to my mind, is one of the only unforgivable junk foods—is the most likely to show up. But the batter might also be rigged with gelatin, marshmallow creme, Dream Whip, Jell-O, CANDIQUIK Coating, or sugar-free instant cheesecake pudding mix.

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Top Comment:
“I have all the ingredients sitting in my pantry and fridge. (Well, OK, gotta get some digestives). I think this is Christmas Eve dessert. I may not care if my oven needs weeks to be repaired...”
— Windischgirl
Comment

So to make cheesecake, you need instant cheesecake. Where do we even find such a thing? How is sourcing any of this easier than just baking a by-the-book cake?

Photo by James Ransom

But now that I've discovered Nigella Lawson's ways of not-baking cheesecake, it's clear that none of this is necessary and—with 6 relatively upstanding ingredients—we can breeze right into fancy cheesecake territory, no funny stuff.

Photo by James Ransom

Because whipped, sweetened cream cheese, left to chill, has a lovely, custard-like texture all on its own—and takes well to flavoring as you like. "I don’t know if I should apologize for this or boast about it," Lawson writes. "Either way, I feel you will thank me for it."

She also makes the brilliant choice to swirl Nutella into the batter, though in another variation she tops with cherry preserves instead. Like her Genius No-Churn Ice Cream, the template is flexible to you.

Photo by James Ransom

The base is a digestive cookies blitzed with soft butter, Nutella, and hazelnuts and pressed into a springform pan, but it could just as easily be built on graham crackers or chocolate wafers or pretzels (!).

Photo by James Ransom

The last step, and what seals it firmly in the category of fancy-company dessert, is a coiffed layer of well-toasted, chopped hazelnuts on top. Then, there's the one catch: waiting four hours to slice and serve.

Photo by James Ransom

But when you do, it will be cold (yes, she says: tastes better with a bit of fridge-chill on it), creamy, haunting chocolate mousse, like a Ferrero Rocher ball stretched lean with the tang of cream cheese, a sandy cookie crunch below, and a more decisive nut-cragged one on top. You officially have one more sure thing.

Photo by James Ransom

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thanks to LauraMaria Ruzo on Facebook for this one!

The Genius Recipes cookbook is finally here! The book is a mix of greatest hits from the column and unpublished new favorites—all told, over 100 recipes that will change the way you think about cooking. It's on shelves now, or you can order your copy here.

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The Genius Desserts cookbook is here! With more than 100 of the most beloved and talked-about desserts of our time (and the hidden gems soon to join their ranks) this book will make you a local legend, and a smarter baker to boot.

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19 Comments

Marcia L. December 14, 2015
Can leftovers from this cheesecake be frozen?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 14, 2015
I haven't tried it myself but I think it would work well (and might even taste great frozen, too!). The hazelnuts would be most delicious if they're freshly toasted, so if possible I would wait to garnish till it's thawed.
 
Caryn H. December 11, 2015
Im allergic to hazelnuts, i.e. nutella. What can I use instead??
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 14, 2015
The good news is Nigella has another basic version without Nutella, which you can top however you like: http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/cherry-cheesecake-34
 
yasmin December 10, 2015
also, you can find it at publix and some walmarts.
 
Margo S. December 10, 2015
usually World Market stocks McVities Digestive -plain,milk chocolate or dark chocolate. Dark chocolate being the best!
 
yasmin December 10, 2015
definitely pick up some chocolate mcvities digestives and dunk them in your tea. a truly unforgettable experience.
 
Chef D. December 10, 2015
looks delicious, might be the great food photography though.
 
Marie S. December 9, 2015
Thank you, again. I'll look for them---the name "Carr's" sounds familiar.
 
Marie S. December 9, 2015
Thanks for the information, ladies. Now, is there anything approximating them in the US?
 
Windischgirl December 9, 2015
I have seen them in the cookie aisle of my local supermarket, I think the brand name is Carr's. You can also try this recipe, https://food52.com/recipes/26963-homemade-chocolate-digestives . Skip the chocolate if you'real making the crust.<br />And you can always use vanilla wafers, graham crackers, or another no-bake pie crust recipe in a pinch.
 
amysarah December 9, 2015
Carr's Wheatmeal Biscuits are terrific, and pretty much the same as Digestives - available at the supermarket, at least in my area (they're great for dessert with cheese, e.g., Stilton, too.) I also occasionally see McVitie's Digestive biscuits around.
 
yasmin December 9, 2015
digestive biscuits are from england and are amazing!!!! they are wheat with a nice crubly texture. it is the best for a pue crust, i usually use it for my holiday pumpkin pie.
 
Marie S. December 9, 2015
What in the world are "digestive biscuits"?
 
Windischgirl December 9, 2015
British cookies, sort of like a whole-grain, oaty shortbread, only slightly sweet. They were thought to be good for the digestion, hence "digestives".
 
barbara M. December 9, 2015
You folks are the first to dislike Cool Whip and that alone makes me plan to try this recipe! Not only do I hate it but it makes me ill as well - so relieved to find a great recipe like this and so easy - happy holidays to all!
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 9, 2015
My Grandmother loves Cool Whip, so I (sort of) understand the attachment. It's just not for me (or anyone who loves real whipped cream)!
 
Windischgirl December 9, 2015
OMG, I love it! I have all the ingredients sitting in my pantry and fridge. (Well, OK, gotta get some digestives). I think this is Christmas Eve dessert. I may not care if my oven needs weeks to be repaired...
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 9, 2015
Yay! Graham crackers or other cookies (ooh, Biscoff?) could work just fine, too.