What Happens When You Don't Soften The Cream Cheese For Your Cheesecake

Cream cheese is delicious, versatile, and a refrigerator staple for many of us. It's used in many different applications but, of course, is a classic bagel condiment (especially when topped with lox and paper-thin red onions). It was an accidental invention –- in 1872, a man in Chester, New York, was trying to recreate the French cheese Neufchâtel but instead ended up with cream cheese (via ThoughtCo.). Made by mixing cream and unskimmed cow's milk, the result is a tangy, slightly salty yet sweet, and spreadable cheese. Some have compared the flavor and texture of cream cheese to mascarpone (via Cheese.com). It can be in sweet or savory dishes — it just depends on what you mix the cheese with.

Cream cheese is especially prevalent now that the holidays are here, and because it's so versatile, we see it used in everything from a spinach and artichoke dip appetizer to a classic cheesecake for dessert. But in the chaotic rush that is the holiday season, sometimes we might forget about an important step – softening the cream cheese.

You should treat cream cheese like butter; soft but not melted

As you go about your preparations for the holidays, if your cheesecake recipe calls for softened cream cheese -– do not skip this step (via Julie Blanner). Sure, you may be pressed for time, or you forgot to get it out of the fridge (we've all been there, trust us), but it is a crucial step in making sure your cheesecake is flawless. Cold cream cheese – like cold butter – will form lumps when mixed in with the other ingredients (via Southern Living). We all know the key to a decadent, creamy cheesecake is no lumps. The softened dairy will break down and incorporate better, leaving you with a silky lump-free batter. When recipes call for softened cream cheese, they usually mean room temperature. The cheese will be cool to the touch, and your finger will leave a slight indentation when you press gently. 

If you did forget to take the cream cheese out of the fridge, there are a few things you can do to soften your cream cheese, like cubing it and leaving it out for a bit or putting it in the microwave (without the foil wrapping) for 10-20 seconds at a time. If you do leave your cream cheese out to soften, don't leave it for longer than one to two hours, as bacteria will grow quickly (cream cheese is still fresh cheese, after all).