Changing Tradition: Dairy Free Pumpkin Cheesecake

“What exactly is traditional?”

This year, for the first time in eight years, I did not coordinate the parades and barbecue for the high school band which signifies the end of a “tradition” for our family. Every Memorial Day for these past few years, we’ve woken up early as a family and headed to the high school to drop off a high school child and to receive all the food parents were donating to the barbecue. Then, my remaining children, husband and I would head over to the local camp to set up for the barbecue. After cooking and serving hamburgers, hot dogs and veggie burgers to 70 people, we’d clean everything up, unload at home, and head back to the high school to pick up our child from the second of the two parades marched in on Memorial Day.

What’s varied over the years is the number of my children who helped at the barbecue. First there were two while my eldest marched with the high school band; then there was one as my middle child marched. What didn’t change was the fun we had serving as a family, and the expectations of my youngest who from his youngest years loved going to the camp on Memorial Day. Last year, however, I resigned from 15 years of school volunteer work to focus more on other opportunities.

For my youngest, who is on the autism spectrum, he was torn between wanting to support his mother and what he saw as a loss from participating in our “traditions” for Memorial Day. As it is, this year would have marked a change whether I had continued or not because my husband’s father passed away a couple of weeks ago, and though we spent a week with my mother-in-law for the funeral, my husband and youngest went back this weekend to help her sort through my father-in-law’s office materials.

Before my father-in-law passed away, though, I reminded my son that traditions are what we make, not what make us and that this could be a year to do something slightly different. For some of us, our foods are very traditional… foods we’ve always had and therefore must continue to have. This can make it difficult if we’re trying to eat healthier or suddenly have food allergies altering our food needs.

This week I received an email from someone who has always loved pumpkin cheesecake. It’s apparently been a “tradition” to make it for Memorial Day, a tradition that dates back to his childhood when he wanted pumpkin pie for Memorial Day and his mom wanted to make a cheesecake, and they compromised. This year, however, his mother can no longer eat dairy and has to be careful of her total carb intake due to diabetes, and he feared their tradition would have to end. Instead, he learned that the tradition simply need to be modified.

I used tofu versions of the dairy for the cheesecake, reduced the “sugars” by using a smaller amount of agave instead of a larger amount of sugar, and reduced overall carbs by opting to not have a crust for the cheesecake. The gentleman said his mother enjoyed the cheesecake immensely, so for those of us wondering if change can be good, this cheesecake says, “Yes.”

Pumpkin Cheesecake


3 (8-ounce) packages tofu cream cheese, at room temperature
¾ cup Agave (If you like your cheesecake sweet, you may want to increase this to one cup)
1 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin or two cups cooked, pureed pumpkin
1/4 cup tofu sour cream, at room temperature
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
4 eggs, at room temperature

Topping: 12 ounce tofu sour cream, 2 tsp agave, 1 tsp vanilla


Cooking Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and wrap a 10 inch springform pan with aluminum foil around the bottom. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

In a mixer, beat tofu cream cheese until smooth. Slowly add the agave with the mixer on low, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the pumpkin puree, sour cream, and the spices. Beat together until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well in between each addition.

Pour into the prepared pan. Spread out evenly and place in a large pan that will hold the springform pan and water. Pour boiling water into the larger pan until it’s about halfway up the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake in the oven for about an 1 hour or so. The cheesecake will be slightly jiggly in the center but a knife inserted near the edge should come out mostly clean.  Mine took an hour and ten minutes. This made a creamy, less dense cheesecake. If you like your cheesecake to be more solid, bake longer until the center is more firm.

Mix the sour cream with the agave and vanilla and spread over the top of the cheesecake. Bake for about another ten minutes. You just want the topping to solidify a bit.

Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 to 30 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours until the cheesecake is set. Remove from the springform pan and sprinkle with cinnamon on top before serving.


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