A few years ago, I entered a baking contest at the Big Fresno Fair. This Chai Cheesecake recipe won second place in the Malt-o-Meal Creations contest. The crust was made from crushed cereal made by Malt-o-Meal.

Since then I’ve used this Chai Cheesecake as a fall dessert special for company, baby showers, potlucks and other community events. The warm spices reminiscent of the Indian chai or tea with the creamy consistency of the cake seem to whisper fall. Don’t you just want to curl up with a good book, a slice of cheesecake and a warm mug of tea?

As we continue down our healthy journey, I have been going back to some of my old favorite recipes and looking for ways to tweak them. This is a new version of the cheesecake with a nutty, almond crust instead of using the cereal. This spiced cheesecake can now be considered gluten-free although the crust will appeal to all kinds of eaters as long as they do not have any nut allergies.

I’ve also discovered a new “healthy” version of whipped cream, using the thick part of a can of coconut milk whipped instead. It adds a new dimension to the flavors of this dessert. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

4 cups almond flour (I like the Trader Joe’s brand because it’s very finely ground.)

1/4 cup raw turbinado sugar or coconut palm sugar

1/2 cup butter or coconut oil, melted

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon maple syrup or raw honey + more for cream topping

4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup organic sugar or 1/2 cup raw honey

4 cage-free large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 teaspoons cinnamon

½ pint whipping cream or 1 cup very thick coconut milk (refrigerated overnight)

1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Mix together almond flour, sugar and butter/coconut oil in a bowl. Press into the bottom of a greased (round) 9-inch spring form or other cake pan and bake for 5 minutes to set. Remove from oven and cool.

3. Meanwhile, blend cream cheese and sugar with hand mixer. Add eggs one at a time and blend until mixture is smooth.

4. Add vanilla, ginger, cardamom, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, cinnamon. Pour over crust. Smooth top with a spreader.

5. Bake for one hour. (DO NOT open oven while your cheesecake is baking. This can cause cracks in the top. Resist the urge.)

6. Remove and cool. Chill at least two hours before slicing.

7. Whip cream or coconut milk and add honey. Spoon a dollop on top of cheesecake slices with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

This Chai Cheesecake topped with birds served as the main dessert for a recent baby shower celebrating twins. We skipped the cake and I doubled the crust part to make it look more like a nest.