A lemony, smooth and wonderfully creamy no bake cheesecake held together by a sturdy, scrumptious crust. To make it magical, we’ll color and marble the filling. Don’t forget the glitter!
Last year, we were at a restaurant and had just finished our tacos and the server asked us if we wanted dessert. My then 2yo, with the most serious face, and requested “unicorn cheesecake”, much to our bewilderment. I have no idea where the came from, but she had been getting into cheesecakes after this pistachio number. We ended up having churros and the chocolate sauce distracted her from her initial request. But, a few days later, she asked me to make it for her. Erm, what does a unicorn cheesecake look like? “Colorful and sparkly… like a unicorn!” But of course, mama. A few days later I made her this one. She LOVED it.
No Bake Unicorn Cheesecake
Now that we are headed into summer with all things lemon and light, I felt like it was time for an encore. I went for a no-bake version (the buckets of hand-picked strawberries were a big motivator tbh). I had been gifted some natural food coloring from Exberry by GNT I wanted to try out, the fuchsia color you see is actually called ‘unicorn pink’ so it had to be those.
I took a few tips from Stella Parks to make this but diverged a lot. My adaptations: a. a sturdier, more flavorful crust, b. added sour cream because I can’t imagine cheesecake without it, and c. unicorn-ed! I unicorn a lot of things because of my daughter, like this toffee and these supposed-to-be christmas cookies. She currently has an imaginary unicorn called ‘dawn woodland’ which apparently lives with us?? This happened 6 weeks into lockdown so isolation is obviously getting to her too. I keep having to make Dawn meals and “do its voice” so she is our pet or maybe my third daughter at this point… SO, in case you also have a unicorn-obsessed person around you, this one is for them.
ingredients & substitutions for no bake unicorn cheesecake
cookies for the crust: Digestives are the best. I know, I know, graham crackers are standard, but, to me they taste like cardboard (sorry!). I find Digestive cookies n the ‘international’ section of most grocery stores. Last time I ran out of them I made a shortbread crust for my cheesecake and it was killer. You could also do oreos (remove the added sugar and salt, and the cream filling if you do.)
cream cheese: You could use generic brands, but Philadelphia is preferable for a no-bake because it’s a bit thicker, sturdier and since this isn’t going to be baked the added structure helps.
sour cream: You could skip this, or if you like some more tang, sub for greek yogurt. Don’t use regular yogurt, it’ll be too watery.
flavoring (lemon, vanilla): This one is up to you. If you don’t like the texture of zest in the creamy filling go ahead and skip it. Add as much vanilla as you like but don’t skip it.
a removable bottom pan: A cheesecake pan could work but I prefer a tart pan for a no-bake as it makes pressing the crust and removing the pie super easy.
food coloring: Three colors to unicorn it: a pink, a purple and a teal/turquoise or blue. You could use artificial food colorings like these from wilton (this set has the unicorn colors you need!) or you could use some fruit powder like this gorgeous natural pink.
tips and troubleshooting no bake unicorn cheesecake
Making the crust
Grind the cookies with the dry ingredients only. Once finely ground, add the melted butter and stir it with a spatula until combined.
Bake the crust then freeze it: Otherwise it will make a huge mess when it comes time to slice. A bake then freeze method will give you the most solid, reliable, non-messy crust.
Making the filling
We want to get the cream cheese soft but we don’t want to overwork it less it turn soupy. Starting with room temperature cream cheese is essential. Once you see it has smoothed, immediately stop. You can use a spatula for the rest of the process, to avoid over-beating it.
Coloring the filling
Whatever color you see is what you get, it won’t change (like it would in a baked cheesecake). Careful not to overwork it so add as much color as you think you’ll need so you only have to mix it in once.
If you do find that it’s getting far too soft, add some powdered sugar to thicken it.
Building the ‘pie’
You’ll alternate adding the different colors of filling and then when you’ve got one layer, you’ll do the same on top (avoid two of the same color on top of each other). Then, do a swirl to see the effect. Don’t do too many or they will just blend into each other and you lose the marble effect.
Storing the pie
In the fridge. I actually froze mine for some of these photos (hence the cuts that look like ice cream) and also used the freezer to speed up the cooling/setting process. If you leave it overnight it will turn rock solid in the freezer but it comes up to fridge temp after about an hour at room temp.
recipe for no bake unicorn cheesecake
Unicorn Cheesecake No-Bake
A lemony, smooth and wonderfully creamy no bake cheesecake held together by a sturdy, scrumptious crust. To make it magical, we'll color and marble the filling. Don't forget the glitter!
purplefuchsia and teal food colorings, plus edible glitter
powdered sugaras needed
Preheat the oven to 350.
Make the crust: In a bowl mix together the cookie crumbs, melted butter, powdered sugar and fine sea salt. Take 1/2 of the mix and press it into the bottom of a 8-9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom with your fingers. Press the rest around the sides. Use the bottom of a rounded cup or measuring cup to pack it in and smooth the crumbs.
Bake the crust for about 7 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature then set in the freezer.
Beat the cream cheese with the sugar, lemon zest and juice, vanilla and salt until just smooth (don’t over-beat). Stir in the sour cream.
In a separate bowl whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks (when you lift up your beaters the cream will hold shape).
Fold the heavy cream into the cream cheese mix.
Into three bowls add 1/2-2/3 cup of the mixture, leaving at least a cup of mix aside.
Add food coloring to each bowl and stir. If you find it gets too runny, add 1-2 tablespoons powdered sugar.
Alternate adding the colors in large dollops into the frozen crust. Once you’ve used up all the filling, use a butter knife to swirl the mix making 2-4 large 8 shapes in the pan.