There’s not much better than a homemade pie in July… except a homemade pie in your nice, cool kitchen! This recipe is a family favorite, a simple no-bake* dessert that really shows off your best summer fruit, and can be made with just a few hours notice and little effort. It’s reminiscent of cheesecake, but so much lighter. You don’t need whipped cream or ice cream to garnish. My mom usually makes it with strawberries, and we agreed that both raspberries and peaches would also be delicious. I chose to use red cherries for a few different reasons. First, cherries are flavorful and plentiful in Seattle in July. I needed a quick dessert to take to a 4th of July barbecue and had enough cherries in my kitchen to make a pie, without shopping. Definitely a plus! Second, strawberry season was quite early this year, so for the first time in memory, I had no fresh strawberries to use on July 4th. That was a bummer– but this pie helped me overcome my sadness. Third, and maybe most important to me, I can use easy-to-find red cherries instead of hunting for elusive pie cherries. I love how the sweetness of Bings plays against the creamy filling, and the very delicate shade of rose pink the pie takes on– it’s so pretty on the table! And then there’s the heat factor: make a no-bake cherry pie on a hot summer day, or heat your kitchen for an hour plus to bake a traditional cherry pie? I’ll take the no-bake option, please!
A few more notes about this pie: it’s low in sugar, which I like a lot. Factoring in both crust and filling, there’s only 1/2 c. total in the entire pie, and it serves at least eight generous pieces. That’s a drastic difference from most traditional fruit pies. If you’re pressed for time, or want a truly no-bake option, you can use a premade graham cracker crust, readily available in most grocery stores. The filling can be made with non-dairy whipped topping in place of the cream, though I prefer the texture of the real cream version. And you can really punch up the cherry flavor by substituting kirsch or almond extract for the vanilla. I had some cherry pit liqueur to use, which tastes like unsweetened amaretto, and I thought it was a great twist. Lastly, if you use a store bought crust, add 1/4 tsp. cinnamon to your filling when you add the salt. I find the cinnamon note in this pie is the perfect little finishing touch.
So, while cherries are ripe and plentiful, grab an extra pound or so and make this lovely no-bake cherry cream pie. Instead of lingering in the hot kitchen, you can spend extra time relaxing, chatting with friends and family… or eating pie.
No-Bake Cherry Cream Pie (serves 8 or more)
For the crust:
- 1 1/4 c. graham crackers crumbs (about 1 sleeve of graham crackers)
- 6 T. unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 c. white sugar
For the filling:
- 2 c. pitted fresh red cherries, plus more to use as garnish
- 2 c. (1 pint) heavy cream
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract, or almond extract
To make the crust: preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Melt the butter in the microwave or a small saucepan. Combine the melted butter with graham cracker crumbs, cinnamon, salt and sugar and mix until you have a wet sand-like consistency. Pour into a 9″ pie plate and use the bottom of a glass, measuring cup, spoon or your fingers to firmly press the graham mixture into an even layer that covers the bottom of the plate and goes slightly up the sides. Bake for 10 mins. and set aside to cool completely before filling. You can make the crust up to 48 hours in advance, or substitute a store-bought graham cracker crust.
To make the filling: pit enough fresh cherries to measure a generous 2 c. Set aside. Add the heavy cream to the bowl of a stand mixer and whip on medium to high speed until peaks form. Do not overwhip the cream; you will make butter. Underwhipping can also be problematic, so watch the cream carefully and stop when you can lift the beater out and a trail of cream will stand in a peak below it. Use a rubber spatula to transfer the whipped cream to a clean bowl.
To the same, now empty mixer bowl, add the softened cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until evenly mixed and slightly fluffy. You may want to scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice. Add the pitted cherries and beat just until they are mixed through, no need to pulverize. Remove the bowl from the mixer, clean off the beater into the bowl and add the whipped cream. *Use the rubber spatula to fold in the whipped cream by hand.* This is not a job for the mixer. When the filling is mixed thoroughly but still light and airy, dollop it into your cooled crust and spread out evenly. Garnish with extra cherries if you like. Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.
No-bake cherry cream pie is best on the day it’s made, but will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
*Okay, so technically you have to bake the crust for 10 mins. But, you can make the crust up to 48 hours ahead, or use a premade crust, and then go from there.