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Dani VennPlant Based Vegan, Raw-Some, Sweet Treats

Over the years I have created many manifestations of the baklava. Some, I’m sure, would make a purist shudder.

On MasterChef I infused the signature flavours of a baklava – honey, citrus and cinnamon – into ice cream and then sandwiched it between layers of nutty and syrupy filo. For dinner parties I’ve paired pomegranate jelly with baklava inspired panna cotta, complete with pistachio praline and feathery Persian fairy floss. I’ve even gone all out and travelled to Turkey to learn the art of making traditional baklava (which is still controversial if you ask a Greek!).

But it’s my latest interpretation that I find the most intriguing, for it is a raw whole foods dessert that contains all the flavour elements of a traditional baklava but without the refined sugar or pastry. I’m sure it would start a riot if it were sold on the streets of Istanbul, but allow me to explain myself.

The base of this raw cheesecake is made from stars of Eastern Mediterranean cuisine, pistachios, walnuts, dates, cinnamon and honey. It forms a crunchy yet chewy element, similar to the pastry of a baklava. The filling of the cake made from cashew nuts, lemon juice and coconut is where it goes askew, but slivers of orange zest and fragrant rosewater are added to remind us of the desserts heritage. I may be taking things to far in the eyes of an entire continent, but when it comes to desserts, some traditions can be meddled with. Enjoy… Dani x


Serves 10 baklava radicals

Takes about 30 minutes to make, plus setting and soaking time

Number of ingredients 11



80g pistachios

80g walnuts

1 cup medjool dates (about 20)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ cup raw honey


350g cashews, soaked overnight or for an hour in boiling water

1 cup thickened coconut cream (see tips)

1/3 cup softened coconut oil

1 lemon, juice only

2 tablespoons raw honey

2 oranges, zest only

2 teaspoons rosewater

Extra nuts, dried rose petals and orange zest for garnish


Line a 20 – 25cm loose based cheesecake pan with baking paper

Process nuts in food processor until roughly chopped, you don’t want them being too fine. Add dates to food processor or blender and process till a paste forms. Add nuts, cinnamon and honey and pulse until just combined.

Take base mixture and pour into the base of the pan and press out with your fingers to form a smooth, even base.

Rinse out food processor or blender, then add in soaked cashews, coconut oil and cream, honey, orange zest and rosewater and blend on high, scraping down sides as needed, until an extra smooth consistency is achieved. This might take some time depending on how high-powered your food processor or blender is.

Pour filling onto base and set in the fridge for at least four hours, but preferably overnight. Garnish with nuts, petals and zest to make it look pretty.

Remove from pan to serve. Keep cake chilled.


  • Keep coconut cream in fridge overnight and use top thick layer to add to your filling, alternatively place in the freezer for an hour or so if short of time. Use thick part only, not runny watery part of coconut cream.