This No-Bake Cheesecake Is the Ultimate Easy Make-Ahead Dessert

Cheesecake has long been my nemesis in the kitchen. My lack of patience means I have a tendency to prematurely open the oven door before the cake is ready, and the sudden drop in oven temperature results in unsightly cracks across the cheesecake's otherwise smooth, pearly surface. Many recipes call for a water bath to ensure that the cake cooks evenly, taking up extra roasting pans and extra space in the oven (let's not even talk about the spills). But with cookbook author Jessie Sheehan's vanilla no-bake cheesecake, there's no need for a water bath or an oven-you don't even really need more than one mixing bowl.

You can streamline the easy press-in crust by pulsing together chocolate cookies, melted butter, and vanilla extract in a food processor, or you can go the old-fashioned route by placing cookies in a sealed plastic bag and crushing them with a rolling pin. Though Sheehan's recipe calls for a stand mixer, you could easily use a hand mixer to paddle together cream cheese with sweetened condensed milk and a touch of salt, lemon juice, and vanilla.

The no-bake method skips the eggs that are usually incorporated into a cheesecake filling, relying instead on refrigeration and time to stabilize the filling. This cake is not quite as firm and dense as a classic New York cheesecake, but it hits all of the right tangy, creamy notes with a lovely, mousse-like texture.

"Regular baked cheesecakes are too fussy and finicky for my taste." Sheehan tells me. "Cracked-topped cheesecakes, I'm looking at you." Not only does the cookbook author prefer the ease and simplicity of the no-bake variety, but she also enjoys the taste more. In Sheehan's recipe, a few tablespoons of lemon juice complement the tart flavor of the cream cheese and allow its tang to shine, while the vanilla adds a mellow roundness.

Though vanilla cheesecake set in a chocolate crust is Sheehan's favorite flavor combination for this genre, she offers up a variation in her book, Snackable Bakes, for a lemon cheesecake set in a graham cracker crust. She also recommends riffing on the recipe by swirling your favorite jam or purée through the filling or adding a dash of almond extract.

Because there's zero baking involved, there's a very low risk of your cheesecake cracking. And it's the perfect make-ahead dessert for hot, humid days when you want to keep your oven off. There's no fussing in an uncomfortably warm kitchen or opening the oven door and ruining all your hard work. Instead, you get to open your fridge and briefly enjoy that blast of cool air every time you check on your dessert. 

Cheesecake might be my nemesis, but this one? She's my new best friend.