Light Cannoli Cheesecake

Learning how to cook will save you money, calories, and your life. Don’t scoff – cooking for yourself is almost always healthier than restaurant food and long life is an indirect result of a healthy diet. There is a downside to cooking; the mystery calorie curtain is lifted and your entire view of food will change a bit. You can no longer pretend that cheesecake is good for you because cheese has protein.

I used to order cheesecake every time I saw it on the menu, but then I learned how to bake. Cheesecake. Is. Bad for you.

Ever eat at Season’s 52 or Harvest? They offer 300 calorie desserts that are approximately two bites big. Did they change their cheesecake by making it “light”? No, they just cut the portion size to a depressing amount. Restaurants want their food to taste good, so they use too much fat, too much sugar, and too much salt. If you make a cheesecake at home you can make a few swaps so that it’s not scary bad for you but it’s still cheesecake! Also, cheesecake is positively elementary when it comes to preparation…it’s easier than your standard butter cake by a LOT.

And who doesn’t love a cannoli? Termini’s in South Philly – swoon. They are made with ricotta cheese (yes, that is the same stuff in lasagna). It’s such a basic flavor that it can easily go savory or sweet. Cannoli can have an almond or cinnamon flavor and sometimes contains candied fruit. Mini chips and powdered sugar are staples. This cheesecake has ricotta for texture, almond, cinnamon, orange zest, and mini chips in the batter; the powdered sugar on top makes it pretty.

To make it light, we are going crustless! Our graham cracker “crust” is now on top – without any added butter. We are using some fat free cream cheese, low fat ricotta cheese, and egg whites instead of whole eggs. The egg white is a mere 17 calories, is fat free, and contains half of the protein. This recipe clocks in at just over 300 calories per serving, whereas the dulce de leche cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory, for instance, is 1,079 calories. Yes, you read that right. In fact, the “light” labeled lowest calorie option there is still 570 calories.

Traditional cheesecake is made in a springform pan. This pan is round, has a removable bottom and a latch to loosen the sides. Though I used my springform pan, I am sure this would work in a pie plate. Whichever you use, make sure to spray it with a nonstick spray – I had no problems at all releasing it from the pan.

Light Cannoli Cheesecake

Serves 8-10

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

8 oz. fat free cream cheese, softened

3/4 c. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. almond exract

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

3/4 c. low-fat ricotta cheese

3 egg whites

2 tbsp. fresh squeezed orange juice

1 tsp. finely grated orange zest

2 tbsp. flour

1/2 c. semisweet mini chocolate chips


2 sheets lowfat graham crackers (honey or cinnamon)

1/4 c. chocolate sauce or fudge topping, purchased or homemade

powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Spray an 8 in. springform pan or pie plate with nonstick spray.

3. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, almond extract, cinnamon and ricotta cheese together with electric mixer until smooth.

4. Add egg whites, orange juice, zest and flour and beat until just combined. Once the egg whites are added, you don’t want to overbeat the batter. This will create air bubbles that will make your cake have cracks in the top. 

5. Fold in mini chips with a rubber spatula.

6. Pour mixture into pan or pie plate. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until you gently shake the pan and the middle stays firm (instead of jiggling like jello).

7. Cool on a wire rack and then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to two days.

8. An hour or two before serving, make topping. Crumble graham crackers with your hands to break into 1/2 in. pieces. Spread in the center of the cheesecake. Drizzle with warmed chocolate sauce and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

9. Let cake sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving. Cut into 8-10 slices.

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