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no-bake strawberry cheesecake parfaits

Recently we were browsing Instagram and stumbled upon a photo that would change the way we looked at desserts forever. It was one of those moments where the whole world seemed to stop, everything fell silent, and all that existed in that very second was this magnificent dessert staring back at us like love at first sight. It was a No Bake Cookies-N-Cream Cheesecake, perfectly swirled into a mini-glass cup speckled with oreo crumbs and crowned with an oreo cookie. This was our first time ever hearing of a no-bake cheesecake and we immediately headed over to Angela’s Mind Over Batter website to learn more about the source of this intriguing creation. What we found there, in addition to her delightful recipe, was a gorgeous site filled with stunning photography, writing so funny that we couldn’t get through a post without laughing out loud, and yes, even more imaginative flavors of no-bake cheesecakes: Lemons-N-Cream, Pumpkin Pie, Blueberry Lavender Cream, and Strawberry Vanilla. This holiday weekend, we wanted to share an easy dessert that would be romantic, beautiful, and something that you could quickly whip up in less than thirty minutes, so we created these no-bake strawberry cheesecake parfaits inspired by her site: a crunchy graham cracker crust is topped with the most silky and rich vanilla cheesecake, then layered with fresh strawberries and drizzled with a tangy strawberry puree. Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love and should truly be recognized 365 days a year, and we promise we are not just saying this just as an excuse to eat this picture-perfect dessert every day!

This is the ideal dessert for a romantic evening, not only because it is beautiful and delicious, but also because the prep is incredibly simple. The graham cracker crust and strawberry puree are both made in the food processor in just seconds, and the cheesecake filling whips together in one bowl. Served in an elegant glass, it is visually striking with layers of velvety white cheesecake mingling with the deep red strawberries and golden crust. The vanilla-scented filling is rich and creamy, and contrasts perfectly with the tart juicy berries. It is fun to build the parfaits, and the best part is that they can be assembled hours ahead of time, no oven or stove required, leaving you more time to spend a quiet, lovely, and deliciously sweet evening at home.

This recipe uses both fresh and frozen strawberries, and there is a reason for each! Since making the purée uses over half a pound of fruit, it is much cheaper to use frozen berries that are just as flavorful as the fresh ones. They may not be as pretty right out of the bag, but since they will be blended, it doesn’t matter what they look like at first. To assemble the parfaits, we also use slices of fresh strawberries which add a juicy, sweet flavor and of course their brilliant red color. Have fun and be creative when you decorate! Feel free to make different layers in your parfaits, and design them however you want: use more or less filling, add a second layer of graham crackers, or cover the dessert with more sliced berries… with these delicious ingredients you just can’t go wrong!

No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake Parfaits
makes 4

5 ounces graham crackers (about 9 crackers)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
10 ounces (1 1/2 cups) frozen strawberries, defrosted and sliced
8 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 ounces (1 1/2 cups) powdered sugar
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces fresh strawberries, sliced

In a food processor, blend the graham crackers until they become crumbs. Transfer to a bowl, add the melted butter, and stir to combine. Set aside. Wipe clean the inside of the food processor. Place the sliced defrosted strawberries in, and process until they are smooth and puréed. Transfer purée to a measuring cup or squeeze bottle, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl. whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy, then add the vanilla extract and continue beating until smooth. Place a sifter over the bowl and sift in the powdered sugar, then continue beating until evenly combined. Add the cream gradually, in three additions, stopping to whip between each one. Continue beating until smooth, light, and fluffy.

To assemble the desserts: Place about 1/4 cup of graham cracker crumbs in the bottom of a glass (a wine glass or tumbler is the perfect size). Use the back of a spoon to gently press the crumbs into a crust on the bottom. Add a layer of cheesecake filling, either using a spoon to add it to the glass, or by transferring the mixture to a pastry bag and piping it in by hand. Either way, lay an even layer of filling over the crust, then place several slices of fresh strawberries over the filling, covering the entire surface. Add another later of cheesecake filling, making sure to fill the glass all the way to the sides, leaving no gaps. (If there are gaps in the filling the purée will leak through and the layers will not be as defined.) Top the cheesecake filling with a layer of strawberry purée, then a dollop of filling over that. Top with a few graham cracker crumbs and a few strawberries, and enjoy!

notes:
— This recipe calls for both frozen and fresh strawberries. If you have access to a lot of good-quality fresh strawberries, feel free to use them in place of the frozen ones. In general though, during the off-season, frozen strawberries often have much more flavor than  the ones found in the produce department, and they are usually cheaper too, so that is why we use them for the purée.
— The parfaits can be made several hours before serving, just keep them refrigerated until ready.
— If you do not have a pastry bag, you can make one by placing the filling in a ziplock bag and snipping off one corner of the bag with scissors.