These heavenly raw vegan cheesecakes really need to be tasted to be believed. Creamy, smooth, rich and delicious- this vanilla bean “cheesecake” is so good, you could almost get away with not telling anyone it’s egg and dairy free. Cashews are the star raw vegan cheesecake ingredient here, and if you’ve never used them before in this way, prepare to have your mind blown.
Who knew that the humble raw cashew, with its rather simple flavour and unassuming kidney bean appearance, could form such an amazingly creamy and versatile dairy-free base for cakes and ice-creams alike? But how much do we really know about this common nut? I started hunting around for information about Anacardium occidentale (its formal Latin name) and was a little astounded by what I uncovered. So without any further ado- let’s get acquainted with Mr Cashew:
Things you (probably) didn’t know about cashews:
- Cashews actually grow on trees, and the cashew tree is native to Brazil’s Amazon rain forest. Today, major production of cashews occurs in Vietnam, Nigeria, India and Ivory Coast.
- As long as they have some water cashew trees grow like weeds. They are fairly drought resistant and grow well even on marginal soils where other fruit trees would fail, particularly where humidity is high.
- Technically, cashews are actually seeds (and not nuts in the botanical sense).
- The cashew actually grows out of what’s known as an accessory fruit called the cashew apple: a pear-shaped fruit surprisingly often discarded, despite it actually being up to three times the size of the cashew itself.
- Cashew apples are juicy, quite acidic and have a very tart taste with a fibrous texture. In order to cultivate mature cashews, farmers need to wait until the fruit itself over-ripens and drops from the tree, and this is why the majority of the fruit is discarded as livestock feed (as its delicate flesh and thin skin mean it’s too fragile for transportation).
- In places like Brazil and India, however, the fruit is used to make cashew juice, and also a potent alcoholic spirit called Feni.
Things you (definitely) didn’t know about cashews:
- Cashews are exceptionally hard to extract from their shells. Each cashew has two layers of hard shell and between these layers are caustic substances called cardol and anacardic acid. Being acids – you guessed it- they can cause vicious burns and blisters to human flesh.
- Unfortunately, in many countries, cashew workers suffer dangerous and unfair conditions. Many earn obscenely low wages (in India about 160 rupees for a 10-hour day: £1.70/ $2.30 USD), and because the factories do not provide adequate protective gear, the workers suffer from permanent damage to their skin.
- Times magazine has dubbed the state of cashew trade as blood cashews and sites this Human Rights Watch report as its source. The report uncovers Vietnamese “drug rehabilitation centres” which secretly function as cashew labour camps. People may enter voluntarily but then are not free to leave, and detainees are routinely abused and tortured if they do not meet their daily quotas of cashew shelling.
The cashew situation today:
- While it’s unclear if the labour detention camps in Vietnam still operate- worldwide cashew workers are still experiencing unjust conditions.
- If you’d like to vote with your wallet, aim to buy fairtrade cashews from brands that treat local communities and both cashew growers and workers alike fairly. In Australia, try Loving Earth, in the UK seek out Sainsbury’s Fairtrade or Traidcraft, and in the US try Equal Exchange.
- For nutty alternatives for your other raw vegan cake recipes, consider switching it up with macadamia nuts.
Hopefully, you’ve found this post enlightening and interesting, but by now your stomach is probably rumbling “what about that recipe!”
So here it is, the most delicious, creamy, mouth-watering raw vegan cheesecake ever:
- Cheesecake ingredients:
- 3/4 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
- 1.5 tablespoons lemon juice
- ⅓ cup coconut oil, melted
- ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- ½ cup coconut cream
- ¾ teaspoon mesquite powder
- ¼ cup almond milk
- ½ a vanilla bean, seeds scraped
- ½ teaspoon vanilla essence
- Dark Choc Brownie Base ingredients:
- ½ cup walnuts
- ½ cup raw almonds
- 2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
- 2 tablespoons raw cacao nibs
- 100 grams pitted dates, soaked for 20 minutes in warm water
- 1 tablespoon maca powder
- 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
- pinch of Himalayan salt
- 1-2 tablespoons filtered water
- For the cheesecake, mix all ingredients in a food processor until well combined.
- Transfer to a high-speed blender and blitz until the mix is silky smooth.
- For the brownie base, pulse the nuts first in the food processor until they are broken up into coarse bits and then add the remaining ingredients and process until well combined. You may need to add a little more water and mix by hand to combine.
- Using a six mini bundt cake pan, fill each well ¾ full with the cheesecake mixture. Freeze for at least 4 hours.
- Remove from freezer and add the final layer of the brownie base to each bundt mould by squishing down with your hands.
- Return to freezer for at least 2 more hours to set.
- Before eating, thaw the cakes for at least 30 minutes so that they return to a blissful creamy consistency.
- For an extra decadent touch, drizzle with your favourite melted raw chocolate.