Recipe Review

Martha Stewart’s No-Bake Cheesecake Has One Clever Ingredient That Sets It Apart

published Sep 6, 2022
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Cheesecake on plate with fork and water labeled 'Martha Stewart'.
Credit: Photo: Dane Tashima; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen; Headshot: Martha Stewart; Design: Kitchn

I’m a big fan of sweetened condensed milk. When I was a kid, my mom would drizzle it over sliced fresh strawberries or peaches, and I would go bonkers for the combo. I now do this for my kids, who react the same way. When I see a can listed in an ingredient list, chances are high I’ll like the recipe, which is why I was delighted when I came upon Martha Stewart’s No-Bake Cheesecake.

Beyond the sweetened condensed milk, the filling calls for cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla. That’s it. I was curious to see how well the cheesecake would set up without gelatin, whipped topping, or whipped heavy cream for a textural assist.

Credit: Photo: Dane Tashima; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen; Headshot: Getty; Design: Kitchn

How to Make Martha Stewart’s No-Bake Cheesecake

Start by crushing graham cracker sheets in a zip-top bag to make the base of the crust. (This was more time-consuming than using a food processor, but it was fun and rewarding.) The crumbs will be more irregular in size than what you’d get by pulsing the crackers in a food processor — some very fine, others pebble-sized. Then combine the crumbs with a little sugar and a good bit (11 tablespoons!) of melted butter and press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. The crust goes into the freezer while you work on the filling.

To make the filling, beat softened cream cheese until smooth, then beat in sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, and vanilla. Pour the filling into the crust, then cover and refrigerate the cheesecake for about three hours. 

My Honest Review of Martha Stewart’s No-Bake Cheesecake

There was a lot of crust — too much for the amount of filling. The recipe says to pat the crumbs 1 1/2 to 2 inches up the sides of the pan. The filling, however, doesn’t rise to that level, leaving you with a crust “collar” that wants to crumble into the filling.

After three hours of chilling, the cheesecake still seemed quite soft, so I chilled it a couple of hours longer. At that point, slices cut cleanly, and while the filling was a bit soft, it still held up. Texture-wise, the crust was a little dense and soggy. Two working theories: there was too much butter and/or maybe the irregularity of the crumbs played a role. The filling, though, had a lovely creamy consistency.

The flavor of the filling was very sweet (sweetened condensed milk does that) and quite tangy from the lemon juice. I had thought that I might get Key lime pie vibes from the combination of the thick canned milk and citrus juice, but the flavor was more akin to overly sweet yogurt. And it didn’t really taste like cheesecake. Bottom line: It’s a lovely, tasty dessert, but lacks the classic cream cheese-y cheesecake flavor.

If You’re Making Martha Stewart’s No-Bake Cheesecake, a Few Tips

  1. Reduce the amount of crust. There’s just too much for a 9-inch springform pan. Try decreasing the amount of graham crackers to 14 rectangular sheets and the amount of butter to 7 or 8 tablespoons.
  2. Speed up prep with a food processor. While I enjoyed crushing the graham crackers by hand, by pounding and rolling the bag that contained them with a rolling pin, that process does take about five minutes. The food processor does the job in just a few seconds and yields consistently fine crumbs that might get less soggy.
  3. Try less lemon and more vanilla. To get a more classic cheesecake flavor, try cutting the amount of lemon juice in half and doubling the vanilla. 

Overall rating: 7.5/10