Touring Thompson Hotels, one dessert at a time.
We asked Ashlae of the award-winning food blog Oh, Ladycakes – to create a series of mouth-watering recipes inspired by each of our hotels in London, Toronto, New York City, Miami, Chicago, Cabo San Lucas, and Playa Del Carmen. Luckily, for those with special diets, each of the recipes is vegan and more than a few of them (five, to be exact) are suitable for those who adhere to a gluten free lifestyle. Even better? They’re all every bit delicious and we’re certain that even your dairy-loving friends won’t be able to tell they’re eating something that’s devoid of milk and butter.
Although some people may scoff at the idea of calling something a cheesecake when it doesn’t actually contain any cheese, I’m here to tell you (and show you) that nut-based cheesecakes are an excellent alternative for those of us who can’t tolerate the stuff that comes from the mammary glands of cows. Or goats. But even if you do have friends who turn their noses up at a cheesecake that doesn’t contain cheese, I’m 99% certain they’ll be sold after they take their first bite. And when you tell them it doesn’t contain any highly refined sugar or gluten? You’re going to have a lot of questions to answer. One of which will most certainly be, “BUT HOW?” So let me break it down for you.
This cheesecake – inspired by a New York classic – gets its smooth, creamy texture from raw cashews, its decadent flavor from a delicious combination of nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and maple syrup, and it’s all held together with a touch of coconut oil, which makes it insanely easy to serve this thing straight from the refrigerator. But that’s not all. The creamy goodness is sandwiched between a nutty, flavorful crust and a raw raspberry compote that won’t make your teeth hurt. Meaning it’s totally suitable to sneak a slice for breakfast, but I’d recommend savoring it as an after-dinner treat.
ALMOST RAW NEW YORK-STYLE CHEESECAKE WITH RASPBERRY COMPOTE
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup raw pecans
Pinch of fine sea salt
4 medjool dates, pitted
2 teaspoons raw almond milk
Cashew cream filling
2 cups raw cashew pieces, soaked at least 4 hours
1/3 cup Grade B maple syrup
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, optional
Pinch of fine sea salt
2 cups frozen raspberries
1 tablespoon orange juice
For the almond-pecan crust:
Line the bottom of a 6″ springform pan with parchment paper and lightly grease with coconut oil; set aside. In a food processor fitted with the S blade, blend the almonds, pecans, and sea salt into a fine meal. Add the dates and pulse just until combined, then add the almond milk and process for 15-20 seconds. The mixture should be crumbly, but should stick together when pressed between your fingers. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan and set aside.
For the cashew cream filling:
In a high powered blender, such as a Vitamix, blend the soaked (and drained) cashews, maple syrup, lemon juice, and almond milk on high speed until smooth and creamy; about 1-2 minutes. Drizzle in the coconut oil, followed by the nutritional yeast and sea salt, and process just until combined; about 10-15 seconds. Pour the mixture on top of the crust and tap the pan on the countertop about 10-15 times, to make sure all air bubbles get released. Cover with plastic wrap then freeze for four hours, or until firm.
For the raspberry compote:
Because such a small amount of berries are used to make the compote, it’s best to make it in a coffee grinder or 4-6 cup food processor. If using anything bigger, you may need to double the recipe to get it to blend properly.
Put the frozen raspberries and orange juice in your preferred blending device (I used a coffee grinder) and blend until smooth. Transfer to a small jar (with a lid) and refrigerate until ready to use. Will keep for up to five days.
To assemble the cheesecake:
Remove the cheesecake from the freezer and allow it to thaw at room temperature for 20 minutes before removing the outer ring of the pan. Once you’ve removed the cheesecake from the pan, transfer it to a serving plate or cake stand and all it to thaw for 20-40 more minutes before serving (the amount of time will depend on the setting in your freezer). You can either top the entire cheesecake with the raspberry compote, or slice it and serve the sauce over top, like I did. Serve with fresh or frozen raspberries on the side, if desired.
Cheesecake can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours, or frozen for up to four weeks (though I doubt it’ll last that long).
Yield: 16 slices
Aside from maybe a cinnamon roll loaf that just came out of the oven, there aren’t many breakfasts that can rival a batch of homemade waffles. Especially waffles that are hearty and satisfying, and loaded with good-for-you ingredients that won’t weigh you down or make you feel like you need to go on a two mile digestion walk. Just like that fancy, New York-style cheesecake, these waffles are both gluten free and vegan – meaning they’re 100% suitable for your friends with gluten and dairy intolerances. But the best part? Even your gluten and dairy-loving friends won’t have a clue they’re eating something that’s void of both of those things.
Although it may seem like it, the coconut whipped cream is non-negotiable, here. You may be tempted to skip it because full fat coconut milk can be difficult to track down (it’s probably in the Asian section of your local supermarket, FYI) and it takes a whopping 24 hours of chilling before you can actually enjoy the creamy stuff, but I promise it’s worth it. And another thing that’s non-negotiable? Using pure maple syrup. Because using anything other than the pure variety – in a recipe that was inspired by a city (HEY TORONTO!) that has a weeks-long maple syrup festival, each year – just seems wrong.
MAPLE WAFFLES WITH THE WORKS
1 tablespoon tamari (or soy sauce)
1 1/2 teaspoons Grade B maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons sunflower seed oil
1 teaspoon filtered water
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Pinch of sea salt
1 cup shredded coconut
Gluten free maple waffles
1 cup (142g) gluten free flour blend
1 cup (85g) oat flour
2 tablespoons (10g) ground flaxseed meal
1/2 teaspoon (2g) fine sea salt
1 tablespoon (12g) baking powder
1 1/4 cups (265g) unsweetened almond milk
2 tablespoons (22g) coconut oil, melted
3 tablespoons (62g) pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon (2g) maple flavor
Coconut whipped cream
Grade B maple syrup
For the coconut bacon:
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a small baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper; set aside. Add the coconut flakes to a medium bowl; set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the tamari, maple syrup, oil, water, paprika, and sea salt, then pour over the coconut and toss until the flakes are evenly coated. Spread coconut (evenly) on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and stir to redistribute the flakes. Put the sheet back in the oven for an additional 5 minutes, then remove – you guessed it – to stir the flakes. Bake for an additional 3-5 minutes before removing for good. The coconut flakes should bake for a total of 18-20 minutes, but it’s best to set the timer in increments so you don’t forget to give it a stir (it will burn).
For the gluten free maple waffles:
Preheat your waffle iron. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, flaxseed meal, sea salt, and baking powder. Create a well in the middle and pour in the almond milk, sunflower seed oil, maple syrup, and maple flavoring, and stir just until all clumps disappear.
Spray the preheated waffle iron with oil and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions. I’ve got a 6″ waffle iron and used about 1/2 cup of batter per waffle. If cooking for a crowd, waffles can be kept warm in the oven. Simply preheat your oven to 220˚F, stick a baking sheet lined with a wire rack inside, and place the waffles on the wire rack as they finish cooking.
To assemble the waffles:
Top waffles with a spoonful of coconut whipped cream, a heavy drizzle of maple syrup, and a few pinches of coconut bacon.
Plain waffles can be kept frozen, in freezer-safe bags or wrapped in three layers of plastic wrap, for up to two weeks. Reheat in toaster or toaster oven.
Yield: 4-6 waffles
If I were the kind of person who picked favorite desserts, these no-bake key lime macaroons would probably be it. They’re the kind of cookie you wake up craving and, thankfully, they’re also the kind of cookie you can get away with eating first thing in the morning. They get their heartiness from unsweetened coconut and almonds, and a swirl of coconut oil and maple syrup help to bring everything together to ensure a cookie that doesn’t crumble.. too much.
The key limes are not 100% necessary (as in, if you can only find common limes, that’ll do) but because you can’t visit the beautiful city of Miami without being inundated with desserts that are loaded with both the zest and juice of one of the Sunshine State’s most beloved citrus fruits, I decided I had to see what all the fuss was about. To my surprise, those tiny limes pack quite the punch, as the common lime macaroons paled in comparison to the key lime variety. So although you could use common limes in this recipe, I highly recommend trying to get your hands on a few key limes. Even if it means you have to splurge and order the $20 bag off of Amazon.
NO-BAKE KEY LIME MACAROONS
2 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup raw almonds
1/8 teaspoon vanilla bean powder, optional
Small pinch of fine sea salt
2 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup Grade B maple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed key lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons key lime zest
Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a food processor fitted with the S blade, blend the coconut, almonds, vanilla bean powder, and sea salt into a fine meal. Add the coconut oil and pulse just until combined. While the food processor is still running, drizzle in the maple syrup, lime juice, and lime zest, and process just until the mixture is combined and resembles a somewhat sticky dough. Using a 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop, drop the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. The macaroons can be enjoyed immediately or chilled in the refrigerator, for an hour, for a macaroon that’s a bit more firm.
Macaroons can be kept frozen, in an airtight container, for up to four weeks (but they definitely won’t last that long). They can also be chilled in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, for up to one week.
Yield: About 2 dozen macaroons
Playa del Carmen is known for its chocolate. Mexico is known for its avocados. So I only thought it fitting to merge the two and create a dessert that embodies the best of the coastal resort town and the country in which it resides. Unfortunately, the only dessert that came to mind was chocolate-avocado mousse. And up until a few weeks ago, chocolate-avocado mousse was one of my least favorite desserts – which has everything to do with the fact that every time I’ve had it, it’s been less mousse-like and more pudding-like. And as someone who’s a diehard chocolate mousse fan, that’s not ok with me.
After taking a good look at my two-ingredient chocolate mousse recipe, I discovered that the problem with chocolate-avocado mousse lies within the technique, not the use of avocados. So after a bit of recipe tweaking and a lot of elbow grease, I came up with a chocolate-avocado mousse recipe that’s not only light and airy, but also rich and decadent. Even better? It’s not completely terrible for you.
1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil
1/3 cup Grade B maple syrup
2 small ripe avocados (200g of flesh)
1/2 cup cacao powder
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
Coconut whipped cream
Raspberries (fresh or frozen)
For the chocolate-avocado mousse:
In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the coconut oil and maple syrup just until it’s hot to the touch; set aside. Pit and slice the avocado. Add the flesh to a food processor fitted with the S blade, along with the cacao powder and sea salt. Turn on the food processor and drizzle in the coconut oil and maple syrup mixture and process until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.
Fill a large bowl with ice cubes then place a smaller bowl over the ice. Pour the chocolate mixture into the small bowl then, using a hand mixer on low speed, mix in the almond milk. Once all of the almond milk is incorporated, continue mixing on medium-high speed until the mousse becomes light and airy; about 3-5 minutes. Scoop (or pipe) the mousse into 4 small jars then chill in refrigerator until set (at least four hours, but overnight is best).
To assemble the jars:
The mousse can be eaten as-is, but if you want something a bit more decadent, top with coconut whipped cream, cacao nibs, and (fresh or frozen) raspberries.
Mousse can be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Yield: 4 jars
I call this one: Not Your Granny’s Sorbet Recipe. Or: The Sorbet Recipe to End All Sorbet Recipes. Or, even better: The Sorbet Recipe for People Who Don’t Like Sorbet.
That’s me. I’m that person who doesn’t like sorbet. Call me crazy, but if I can’t have creamy, dairy-free ice cream, I’m out. I’ve never been able to put my finger on it, but there’s something that irks me about sorbet and the fact that it’s basically like imitation ice cream. But not nearly as delicious as ice cream. So, just like the chocolate-avocado mousse, I set out on a mission to make a sorbet that I would actually eat; a sorbet for sorbet haters, if you will. And because one of the things I loved most about Cabo San Lucas came in the form of a spicy pineapple cocktail, I knew I had to recreate it in sorbet-form.
The result? A sorbet recipe that I’d choose over (dairy free) ice cream, any day. Not only is it creamy and delicious (thanks to the magic that is frozen bananas), but it relies on the fruit as a natural sweetener, meaning there isn’t any added sugar involved (but, if I were you, I wouldn’t relay that information to anyone until after they’ve licked their bowls clean).
SPICED PINEAPPLE-BANANA SORBET
12 ounces frozen pineapple chunks
12 ounces frozen extra ripe banana slices
1/2 Serrano pepper
1 cup pulp-free orange juice
2 tablespoons silver tequila, optional
Put a metal loaf pan or freezer-safe container in freezer. Add the pineapple, bananas, pepper, orange juice, and tequila (if using) to a high-speed blender, such as a Vitamix, and blend, using the tamper, until smooth and creamy. The sorbet can be eaten straight from the mixer (my favorite way to enjoy it), or you can transfer it to the frozen pan for 2 hours, to harden into something that can be scooped into balls. Top with flaked coconut, banana slices, and a dash of cinnamon, if desired.
Sorbet can be kept frozen, in a freezer safe container, for up to one month (though, depending on your freezer, it could get freezer burnt within a couple of weeks). If you’re planning on storing it longer than a couple of days, I highly recommend adding the rum, as it’ll keep it from freeing completely (and make it easier to scoop when taken straight from the freezer)
Yield: 4 servings
It’s my belief that everybody needs a back-pocket cake recipe. One you can whip up at the 11th hour (with minimal planning involved), but also one that’s decadent enough to impress the heck out of your friends.
The best part about this recipe, aside from it being insanely easy to prepare, is that it’s a cake for all seasons. Inspired by Chicago’s weather extremes, I wanted a dessert that folks in the Second City would be able to enjoy all year around. It’s perfect on cool, winter days when you’re frozen to the core (hello, lake-effect snow!) and need a pick-me-up in the form of something sweet and delicious. But by the time summer (and the unbearable humidity) rolls around, the light crumb and refreshing coconut whipped cream make it an ideal warm-weather treat (especially when served with a scoop of ice cream on the side).
And although I’ve fancied this cake up with a few of my favorite toppings, it could just as easily be dusted with cacao powder and served as-is, with some fresh berries on the side.
CHOCOLATE-HAZELNUT CAKE WITH SALTED HOT FUDGE SAUCE
Salted hot fudge sauce
4 ounces good quality dark chocolate
3 tablespoon brown rice syrup (or corn syrup)
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 (165g) cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup (40g) cacao powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons (60g) sunflower seed oil
3/4 cup (158g) cane sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons (20g) hazelnut liqueur
1 cup (200g) almond buttermilk
Coconut whipped cream
Toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
For the salted hot fudge sauce:
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat (microwaving would work, as well). Once the chocolate has melted, whisk in the brown rice syrup, almond milk, and sea salt, then remove from heat. Transfer to a small jar and refrigerate until you’re ready to assemble the cake. If chilling it for more than an hour, you may need to put the jar in a warm water bath to get it to re-liquify.
For the chocolate-hazelnut cake:
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line the bottom of an 8″ cake pan with parchment paper; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cacao powder, salt, and baking soda; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil, sugar, vanilla extract, and hazelnut liqueur; mix just until combined. Alternate between whisking the buttermilk and flour into the sugar mixture, in halves (starting with the buttermilk). Whisk until only a few small clumps remain, but be sure not to over-whisk the batter or else you’ll wind up with a dense and chewy cake.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350˚F for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Once the cake has cooled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you’re ready to assemble. The cake can be refrigerated for up to three days before serving.
To assemble the cake:
When you’re ready to serve the cake, put it on a small plate or cake stand. Spread with coconut whipped cream (or your favorite light frosting), sprinkle with roasted hazelnuts, and drizzle with hot fudge sauce. If you want your drizzle to look like mine, transfer the hot fudge sauce to a plastic bag, snip the end, then decorate the cake. Serve immediately.
Leftovers can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Yield: 8-10 slices
Today, in next-level, irresistible desserts, I bring you banoffee pie. Which is basically one of the greatest things – aside from the Beatles – to come out of the United Kingdom.
If you’re not familiar with banoffee pie, allow me to acquaint you with one of the most mouth-watering and luscious things you will ever put in your face. It’s comprised of a crumbly base made from finely-ground digestive biscuits, and then those biscuit crumbles get layered with rich toffee sauce, sliced bananas, and a fat dollop of whipped cream. Or, in this case, coconut whipped cream (but I won’t be mad if you want to use real whipped cream, instead). Banoffee pie is usually prepared in a tart pan, but because London has some of the most beautiful parks I’ve ever visited (Holland Park is straight up magical, you guys), I figured I’d bypass the traditional route and opt for something more conducive to afternoon park hangs, instead.
BANOFFEE PIE JARS
1 can full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
1/2 cup muscovado sugar (or brown sugar)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of fine sea salt
12 digestive biscuits (180g)
2 tablespoons refined coconut oil, melted
2-3 ripe bananas
Coconut whipped cream
1 digestive biscuit, crumbled
For the toffee sauce:
Prepare the toffee sauce by opening the can of refrigerated coconut milk. There should be a creamy white layer on top of the can. (If the coconut milk is still liquid, you either got a bad can of coconut milk of you need to let it chill a bit longer.) Scrape out the coconut cream (discard the water or save it for smoothies) and place it in a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat. Reduce the cream to liquid then stir in the muscovado sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil then set your timer for 10 minutes; stir every few minutes. To ensure all sugar crystals get dissolved, use a damp pastry brush to wipe the sides of the pan, at the point where the sauce meets the pan (if you skip this step or do it improperly, you run the risk of having grainy toffee sauce). Once the timer goes off, whisk the mixture for 1-2 minutes then off the heat. Let the sauce cool for 30 minutes then transfer it to a glass jar and refrigerate for at least two hours. Can be refrigerated for up to five days before assembling the pie jars.
For the crust:
In a food processor fitted with the S blade, blend the digestive biscuits (or hobnobs) into a fine meal. While the processor is still running, drizzle in the coconut oil just until combined.
To assemble the banoffee pie jars:
Lightly press about 1/4 cup of crumbs into the bottom of four small glass jars. Drizzle with chilled toffee sauce and top with sliced bananas, then cover with a spoonful of coconut whipped cream. Add another layer of bananas and a drizzle of toffee sauce, then sprinkle with the crumbled digestive biscuit.
Assembled banoffee pie jars can be kept in the refrigerator for up to three days, though they definitely taste best within the first 24 hours.
Yield: 4 jars