When you have chocolate + espresso + salted caramel in the mix, you're bound to end up with a pretty epic cake, right?
This layered vegan cheesecake is deliciously creamy and dreamy and comes together in a breeze (as most raw cakes do). I got a request from someone on Instagram to make a salted caramel cheesecake last week, and I thought well, it's been a while since a caramel cake happened + caramel is one of my absolute favorite flavors in the world, so why not. And so this lush layer cake was the result.
Although the espresso was not called for in the request, I added it in to see what happens, after all coffee and a caramel are a delicious thing, and I loved that combo in this cake.
When I share recipes with espresso powder in them (which happens rather often) I get one of two questions usually, so I'll try to answer them here per-emptively:
*Can I use regular coffee? Ground instant espresso powder has a very concentrated and potent flavor, which is especially suited for use in desserts since you can pack a lot of coffee flavor without adding in a lot of liquid. If you use regular coffee, the additional liquid content will change the balance of ingredients in the cake. So I recommend getting some of the instant powder -- it'll make a big difference to your baking. Plus you can make a ton of other things with it:
- Like this espresso layer cake
- this raw tiramisu
- these chocolate espresso oat bars
- this espresso fudge cake
*Can I skip the espresso powder? Yes, of course. It's only here as a flavor and makes the cake extra special in my opinion, but at the same time it's optional.
Now back to this cake, I feel that perhaps the "chocolate layer" in the ingredients list might lead you to believe the chocolate layer in the filling is super chocolatey. In reality it isn't. I used the cocoa here as a slight flavor accent. The chocolatey flavor in the cake comes mostly from the crust and the chocolatey toppings in the form of cacao nibs and little bits of chocolate. Just giving you a heads up here so you know what to expect. I wanted the salted caramel to be the star.
Another ingredient in here that I feel is essential is the carob powder in the salted caramel layer. It's a tiny amount, and a lot of the time people unfamiliar with carob lean towards skipping that ingredient -- I have to say, try not to since it gives the caramel layer a caramely flavor. I highly recommend giving it a try. And once again, there are tons of carob recipes on this blog you can try out with the extra carob powder you get, like this delicious carob fudge, this carob hemp butter, or this cinnamon carob marble fudge cake. It comes raw and toasted -- I used toasted here, but feel free to use raw if you prefer to keep this recipe more fully raw.
This raw vegan cheesecake (also gluten-free, of course) is probably one of my favorite dairy-free cheesecakes to date (and I make a lot of them!), probably on account of its smooth and creamy texture and its rich and deep flavor. Also, I'm pretty sure the salted caramel has something to do with it -- I have a weak spot for anything in that flavor. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
P.S. For tips on making raw cakes like a pro, check out my book Unconventional Treats.Print
Espresso Salted Caramel Vegan Cheesecake
A deliciously creamy vegan cheesecake with layers of chocolate, espresso, and salted caramel. Also gluten-free, paleo, and refined sugar-free.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 6" cake
- Category: cake
- Method: raw
- Cuisine: dessert
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 3 soft medjool dates, pitted
- 2 tbsp maple syrup*
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 tsp cocoa powder
- 1 ½ cups raw cashews, pre-soaked and strained**
- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
- 6 tbsp maple syrup
- 6 tbsp coconut oil, liquefied
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp salt
- half of the base filling mixture
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- ¼ tsp espresso powder
Salted Caramel Layer:
- half of the base filling mixture
- 3 tbsp coconut sugar
- 1 tsp carob powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- cacao nibs
- mini dairy-free chocolate chips or chocolate shavings
- some of the chocolate layer for swirls (see step 3)
1. Process the cashews into a fine nut meal in a food processor. Add remaining crust ingredients and process again until the mixture forms a fine moist sticky crumble. Transfer to a 6″ springform pan and press down into an even crust along the base. Freeze while working on the next step.
2. Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature before getting started. Blend all base filling ingredients into a smooth creamy mixture in a power blender. Remove half of this mixture and set aside.
3. Add chocolate layer ingredients to the base filling in the blender and blend until smooth. Optional if doing swirls: remove about 2 tablespoon of the mixture with a decorating pen tool (or a mini pipping bag) and set aside for swirls later. Transfer the chocolate mixture from the blender into the prepared cake pan over the crust. Make sure the mixture fills the pan evenly. Freeze for 15-20 mins while working on the next step.
4. Clean out the blender pitcher. Add the remaining base filling that was set aside in step 2 to the blender along with the caramel layer ingredients. Blend until smooth. Carefully spoon this mixture over the chocolate layer in the pan***. Smooth out the top with the back of a spoon.
5. Optional: if creating swirls, draw parallel lines with the chocolate mixture on top of the cake. Then use a skewer and drag it through the chocolate lines in a perpendicular manner, alternating between going up and down on each line. You can also curve the skewering lines slightly to create a rounded swirl look.
6. Freeze the cake for 6 hours or overnight to set. Enjoy!****
*Maple syrup isn't considered a raw sweetener, so if you wish to keep this recipe more fully raw, use a raw sweetener of your choice, like raw agave, etc.
**To pre-soak nuts: place in a glass bowl, cover with water, and leave to soak for 4 hours (or overnight in the fridge). Then strain and discard the water. For a quick pre-soak, cover with boiled water and soak for 15 mins, then strain and discard water. (Note: this technique doesn’t preserve the nutrition of the recipe as well as the traditional soaking technique above). Additional Note: the purpose of soaking the nuts is to re-hydrate them and plump them up for blending into a smooth, cheesecake-like consistency. Proper soaking techniques also maximize nutrition and digestibility. If you’re interested in learning more about nut soaking and other dessert prep tips and tricks, I delve into these subjects in detail in my book Unconventional Treats.
***Spooning the mixture on top bit by bit helps the layers to remain even.
**** Storage notes: treat this cake like ice cream. Keep it cake frozen at all times until ready to eat, and freeze any leftovers. If left too long at room temperature it will begin to melt back into the consistency it was in the blender.
Keywords: espresso salted caramel vegan cheesecake (gluten-free)
This turned out incredible. I used almonds in the base instead of cashews (because I ran out of cashews) and WOW. Reminded me of tiramisu!
Hi Grace. Thank you so much for the feedback. I'm glad to hear you made it work with almonds!! :) Thanks for sharing.
hi Andrea ! this recipe looks amazing ! id love to make it for my moms borthday but i think id like to modify it a little bit. i know she lives the vanila cheesecake with caramel so i was thinking of omitting espresso and cacao in a first later and just making it white vanila like, what do you think ?:)
Hi Caro. Yes, that could definitely work.
Only thing is you might want to skip the extra tbsp of maple syrup in the chocolate layer also (I added it to offset the slight natural bitterness of cacao + espresso, so it might not be necessary without them -- just see how the base layer tastes to you and add or omit the extra tbsp of maple to taste, and maybe more vanilla if you like).
Happy birthday to your mom! :)
thank you ! ♥️
also do you you think i could use dofferent kind od milk ? maybe coconut or oat? im not sure about the almond milk i dont really have any good brand that taste nice here around
No worries :)
Yeah, that would work too. I'd recommend using a light tasting milk (I find coconut milk usually has a stronger flavor for example; oat milk might be the better choice here), but most non dairy milks should work fine.
Srividya Govind says
Thanks for the lovely recipe!Can I use Pistachio for the base instead of cashews?
You're welcome :)
You can def try it with pistachios, but the flavor, sweetness level, and color of the cake will change, so you'll need to adjust the filling flavor to your taste once it's blended.
Alternatively, I do have a few pistachio-based cakes and desserts you might enjoy if you're looking to use up some pistachios:
Sri Vidya says
Thank you so much for your response! I loved your recipe! You are so talented:) keep posting more!!!
Thanks very much! I'm glad to hear you're enjoying the desserts.
I've made this 3 times now. It is so good, and each time I make it, it gets better. I use pecans instead of cashews in the crust because I love their flavor and I buy the smaller native ones in bulk, so I always have them on hand. I doubled the recipe for a 9 in cake the last time I made it for a friend's birthday gathering. I garnished it with maple toasted pecans (so yummy!) and it received raves. Thanks for this beautiful recipe! It's so nice to have an elegant desert on hand, sliced in the freezer when the mood strikes.
Thanks for the wonderful feedback, Alice! I love this cake with pecans in the crust as well as an alternative. I've never tried/seen the smaller native ones you describe, but now will be on the lookout for those! :)
Thank you so much for this recipe. It is one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. The raw caramel layer is to die for :) I did not have carob powder and used a little bit of date syrup instead which turned out great as well. Now I just have to try to not eat it all at once :D
Hi Clara. Thanks so much for sharing -- I'm so happy you loved the recipe! :)
Making this for my family for the third birthday now. It’s always a big hit!
Hi Jen. I'm so glad the recipe is serving you and your family so well :) Enjoy it!
I'm thinking to make this today for a group of 30+ - I am wondering if it can be made in a rectangle dish instead which isn't springform?
Hi Bec, you might have trouble pulling it out of a dish that's not a springform pan. If you have a silicone pan mold that would be ideal as an alternative.
I've done it before with raw cakes in glass dishes though, so it's not impossible, just a bit more finicky. If you go that route, I recommend lining the pan well with parchment pieces that are large enough that they hang out of the container sides (to give you some pulling leverage to pull the cake out once it sets)(note: sometimes the parchment will get wet and soggy and will tear as you try to pull the cake out, so just do your best with it and go carefully). And then you'll need to let it thaw out just a bit to help it pull out of the container when it's time to slice so as to let it separate from the walls a little. Hope this helps!
Can I use lucuma powder instead of carob powder to enhance the caramel taste in the same way?
Hi Ash, I find that carob works a bit better for "caramel" flavoring in cakes, but I think this cake should still turn out great with lucuma powder instead if you prefer.
Hey thanks for the recipe , looks delicious . I was wondering if it really taste like caramel ? Since it’s raw , I don’t understand what element leads to caramel taste.
I know some recipe to how do a salted caramel but it have to be cooked in a pan.
Hi Houda, the ingredient combination I used here (in particular the mix of cashew cream, maple syrup, and carob powder, etc.) make this cake taste like caramel by mimicking its flavor, even though actual cooked caramel isn't used in itself.
Hi - do you think could I use cauliflower instead of cashews in this recipe? I made your chocolate cauliflower tart and it was so incredible my family was blown away (I loved that it was lighter and lower in fat too)! I know that this recipe is meant to be a cheesecake and that the cauliflower version would freeze more to an ice cream texture- but maybe even half cashews half cauliflower?
Hi Evangeline, you could definitely experiment with that :) If you're satisfied with a slightly less creamy result it should work if you use half cashews half cauliflower.
Audrey, you just totally saved me (once again!). Had to make something for my vegan dad's 70th birthday for a crowd that's a little hard to please. It was a nerve-racking task I was dreading a little (understandably, no?). Nonetheless, I made this cake and everyone LOVED it. And I mean it!! I was asked for the recipe by so many people. Thanks so much!
Aw, that's the best feedback, Jana. So happy the cake was a hit. Say happy 70th to your dad from me! :)
This cake is phenomenal! It was a hit with everyone that tried it. I did the quick soak of the cashews, but it still turned out super creamy. I didn't have espresso powder, so instead used some organic instant coffee and increased the amount as it's not nearly as potent. And I didn't have any carob, but thought the "caramel" layer still tasted pretty caramelly. Heck—even the base batter was pretty tasty all by itself! I found that blending the cashews and the almond milk first, until the cashews are well blended before adding the other ingredients, especially the melted coconut oil, helped the cashews to blend the best and keep the vitamix from straining or warming up too much.
Hi Cheli, thanks so much for the wonderful feedback and for sharing what worked for you. So glad you enjoyed this! :)
I made this yesterday (my first attempt at a raw cake!) and while it was delicious, it doesn't taste like espresso or caramel. All I can taste is coconut. Did I use the incorrect type of coconut oil? I used unrefined. And I've double checked that I didn't use too much by accident. As I said, it was still really yummy, but tastes like a coconut dessert vs espresso/caramel.
Hi Paula, hmm... that's very strange! Does your coconut oil have a "coconutty" smell to it? Or is it unscented?
I don't own a 6 inch pan, if I was going to make this in a 9 inch pan, would you double the recipe?
Hi Stephanie, yes double is right for a 9". In case it's helpful for future, there's a downloadable cake size multiplication guide below the recipe.
Just made this cake, and OMG it tastes like heaven!! I had no idea you could make something this delicious without cream cheese. This is genius.
Hi Sandy. So glad to hear! :) Thanks for the lovely feedback.
Made this cake for several events recently. Everyone loved it so much that I've been asked to make more for other events. Definitely one of the best raw cake recipes I've tried!
Aw, that's great to hear, Dori. Thank you for sharing! :)
Hands down the best cake we've ever had!! Thank you so much for this recipe.
Thanks for the lovely feedback, Jessie. So glad you're enjoying this cake as much as I do! :)
The recipe was very easy to follow, the flavour was ok but the consistency of the cake was just weird: it was either hard and frozen or gooey and watery. Maybe it's just my personal liking as many people loved the cake but I wouldn't make it again
Hi Valeria. Sorry it wasn't to your liking -- that's the nature of raw cakes. You kind of have to treat them like ice cream. If it's too hard, it needs to thaw out a few mins. If too soft, it means it's been thawed out too long / it's very hot in the room. I'm glad your guests enjoyed it though.
I seem to have an allergy to cashews ( lump in throat and upper chest for 2-3 days after eating cashews... can I use raw almonds or macadamia nuts or something in place of cashews?
Thanks for your consideration of my question.
Hi Nancy. Sorry to hear that :( I can relate -- there was a period when I was sensitive to cashews as well. For this specific I think it would be hard to swap out the cashews since they're the main ingredient and make up the bulk of the cake + all the flavors are adjusted based on the underlying cashew flavor. You can use another nut, like macadamia, but the flavor and texture will be very different. I find for some reason that almonds don't make the best raw cheesecakes.
That said, I have a cashew-free section on my recipes page. So you can head over there https://www.unconventionalbaker.com/all-recipes/ and select "cake" + "cashew-free" and you'll find lots of other cake alternatives that way :) I'll try to make a cashew-free caramel cake in the future too. Thanks for the idea.
P.S. the latest hazelnut cake from the blog might work well as something similar to this: https://www.unconventionalbaker.com/no-bake-vegan-hazelnut-cake/
Cassie Autumn Tran says
No doubt is this cheesecake a winner, both in aesthetics and flavor combinations! I am not surprised it is one of your favorites now because it definitely would be one of mine! The addition of a little salt and espresso are perfect for saltiness and bitterness that elevate the creaminess and sweetness. Save me a slice!
Thanks Cassie! Too late, all the slices are gone though ;)
This sounds super!! But... I can't tolerate nuts.
Is there any alternative to the cashews and almond milk? I am on the AIP, so ingredients are very limited. Was thinking maybe about coconut chips for the crust, but waht to use for the filling??
Hi Marelize. Nuts are a bit too central to this recipe to swap them out entirely and end up with the same product. I do have other cakes through that don't involve nuts you might enjoy. If you look at the recipes page and select "nut-free" + "grain-free" (+ "whatever category you're interested in or allergen you're trying to avoid") you should be able to find lots of tasty things that would work for AIP.
Here are a few of my faves to get you started (if you haven't seen them already):
This was lovely.
So glad you liked it, Farina! :)