Every time I make a dessert, I have an annoying habit of proclaiming that it’s the greatest dessert I’ve EVER made. But I’m here to tell you that these no-bake lemon cardamom slices now hold the title. I thought it might still be early for no-bake desserts—here in Chicago, the last few weeks still saw me carrying a sweater at all times. But the temps have hit above 80 degrees (a surefire sign of summer’s arrival) and my now softened-by-the-Midwest self caved, anticipating a truly hot day soon when my oven will be officially closed for business.
And while I’m a self-proclaimed lover of delicious cakes and cookies, there is something inherently magical about desserts that require no active baking time. When simple ingredients are mixed together and become something entirely different, the effect is nothing short of magic. All it takes is playing around with a few key components to bring this incredibly bright and flavorful dessert to life. Time to say hello to summer sweets!
Follow These Tips for Perfecting This No-Bake Lemon Cardamom Slices Recipe
How to Make a No-Bake Cheesecake Filling
I’ve experimented with plenty of no-bake fillings over the years and have finally found a winning formula. The issue I have with most no-bake desserts like this one is that the ingredient list almost always includes some kind of condensed milk or powdered pudding. Totally fine, but I never have condensed milk or pudding on hand. But in lieu of those ingredients, I do always have white chocolate in the pantry. (I’m OK if that makes me the odd one out.)
In this no-bake lemon cardamom slices recipe, the white chocolate helps everything bind together, giving the filling a little body. Instead of a fluffy, mousse-like filling, it gives your bars a sliceable texture. Plus, the white chocolate acts as the sweetener, with a flavor that enhances the recipe’s other standout stars.
To ensure your filling stays light and fluffy, gently folding in whipped cream (as you would in a cheesecake recipe), keeps these slices from feeling too dense.
Why Cardamom is the Ultimate Upgrade Spice
I’ve made it my personal mission to make sure everyone knows the beauty of really good cardamom. While I’ll spare y’all my emotional love letter to cardamom (at least for now), I will tell you why it really takes these slices over the top.
On its own, lemon offers a brightness and acidity that basically screams summer. But it does need a flavor friend to round things out. In the context of awards season (because that’s always top of mind), ideally this is an ingredient that can play along as best supporting actor while being nominated for their own stand-alone work—minus validation from the main character.
Did I lose you? No worries. Essentially, cardamom on its own is good. But cardamom with a pal = greatness.
The flavor is warming, floral, and perhaps even a little minty if you know what you’re looking for. I think of it as a little boost—you might not pick up on it right away in a pie or a cup of chai. But if the cardamom’s missing, you’ll definitely notice. In this recipe, the cardamom adds a floral warmth that perfectly complements the zingy lemon. Plus, it’s the perfect contrast to the creamy dairy.
And yes, please grind your own cardamom from fresh, whole cloves. Sure, you can get away with the pre-ground cardamom from the spice aisle, but buying whole green cardamom cloves and grinding them yourself is truly the best way to experience its spicy-sweet joy. I always stock up on my favorite jar of cardamom, but you can also find whole cloves at your local Indian grocery store.
Three Ingredients Give You One Stellar Crust
When it comes to cookie crusts, my philosophy is always this: the thicker the better. Have I attempted a 1:1 ratio of filling to crust? Absolutely. But I know that’s not everyone’s first choice.
Originally, I wanted to blitz lemon cookies in my food processor for a double dose of lemon flavor. Sadly, the grocery store was out (supply chain, sigh). So instead, I opted for the humble graham cracker. Honestly, it’s not a bad consolation prize. To make the no-bake crust, all you need is a cookie blitzed to a crumb, some melted coconut oil or butter, and salt. I would, however, err on the side of caution when it comes to going too sweet. In the end, the graham cracker was a perfect base for the lemony filling. Oh, and adding salt is a must, as it helps balance out the entire bite.
To make the cookie crumb, take your cookie of choice (i.e., a sleeve or two of graham crackers), and blitz in the food processor until crumbly. You can also add the cookies to a Ziploc and smash them with a rolling pin. However, I prefer the more consistent texture you get from a food processor.
To bind, add the butter or oil to the crumbs a tablespoon or two at a time until combined. You’ll know you’ve added enough of your fat when you squeeze a handful of crumbs and it holds most of its shape like wet sand. You don’t want the texture to be wet and soppy, but you need it to have enough oil to firm up and set in the fridge.
A Few Secrets for Maximizing Flavor
With a short ingredient list, elevating your recipe with some simple steps can make a difference. Here are a few tips and tricks for a no-bake lemon cardamom slices recipe that’s out of this world.
- To get the most from your lemon zest, rub the zest into the sugar prior to mixing with the other ingredients. This will help release the natural oils from the zest and amp up the lemony flavor.
- Salt everything properly. I add a pinch of salt to the sugar and zest mixture, a pinch to the crust, and to the cream cheese mixture. Balancing out the sweetness from the sugar and white chocolate perfectly elevates the final flavor.
- If you want to take your cardamom to the next level, add some to the whipping cream and let infuse overnight before whipping. Of course, this is optional and only if you really love cardamom.
- For a firmer texture, freeze the slices for a couple hours before cutting. The texture will still be soft enough to slice through without being icy (similar to frozen pie slices from the grocery freezer aisle). They’ll soften up thawed in the fridge or when left at room temperature.
- 2 cups of cookie crumbs (I used 15 graham crackers, 230g)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4-5 tbsp melted coconut oil (use more as needed)
- scant 1/2 cup granulated sugar (100g)
- zest of 1 1/2 lemons
- 5-6 fresh cardamom pods, shelled and freshly ground
- 1 cup of white chocolate chips (185g)
- 8oz cream cheese at room temperature
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2/3 cup of heavy whipping cream
- to top and serve: whipped cream, lemon sugar, lemon slices
- Line an 8x8 inch cake pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Add cookies of choice to a food processor and pulse to a fine crumb. Add to a large mixing bowl with salt and melted coconut oil. Use your fingers and combine until the texture resembles wet sand and when squeezed in your palm, it holds its shape. Pour crumb mix into the pan and using the bottom of a glass, press into the bottom of the pan to pack the crumb together. Set in fridge while you prep the filling.
- In a small mixing bowl, add the granulated sugar, lemon zest, and cardamom, with a pinch of salt and using your fingers, combine until it becomes fluffy and resembles wet sand. You want to release the natural oils of the zest into the sugar. Set aside.
- Add the white chocolate chips to a microwave safe bowl and melt in 15 second increments, stirring in between, until melted. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Add the cream cheese to a large mixing bowl and using a spatula, mix to soften the cream cheese.
- Add the sugar mixture and lemon juice to the cream cheese and mix with the spatula until smooth.
- Add the whipping cream to a stand mixer and whisk until it reaches medium soft peaks. Set aside.
- Once the white chocolate has cooled, add to the cream cheese mixture. (*The cream cheese needs to be at room temperature and the white chocolate cooled slightly but still melted, otherwise the cream cheese will melt from the hot chocolate or the white chocolate will seize against cold cream cheese.) Mix together until smooth.
- Add the whipped cream to the white chocolate mixture in two batches, folding it into the white chocolate. The mixture should be light and fluffy.
- Take the crust from the fridge and pour the mixture on top. Use an offset spatula to flatten out the mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and let the tray set overnight in the fridge.
- To serve, you can place in the freezer for an hour before serving to allow for firmer slices. Top with whipped cream and lemon slices. Enjoy!
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These look amazing! Any tips for making them dairy free? Would full fat coconut cream work?
Hi Esti! While I haven’t tried a dairy free version myself, I know there are some dairy free cream cheeses out there and coconut whipped cream that could be used instead. Let me know if you try a DF version!