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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 (!).
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.
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.
- 250 grams digestive biscuits (one 8.8-ounce package), or substitute graham crackers or chocolate wafer cookies
- 75 grams (5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) soft unsalted butter
- 400 grams (one 371-gram jar is fine) Nutella, at room temperature, divided
- 100 grams (2/3 cup) hazelnuts, well-toasted and chopped (see note), divided
- 500 grams (two 8-ounce packages is fine) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 60 grams (1/2 cup) confectioners' sugar, sifted
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.