As beloved on bagels as it is cooked into casseroles and whipped into dips, cream cheese is the chameleon of the dairy aisle. But one thing’s for sure -- cream cheese ain’t cheap, so when it goes on sale it’s tempting to stock up. But it doesn’t last long in the fridge, and those pesky use-by dates keep creeping up, and before we know it, we’re throwing away more cream cheese than we ever got around to using. So what’s a budget conscious shopper with a fridge full of Philadelphia to do? Is it possible to freeze cream cheese?
Although the zingy flavor of cream cheese can absolutely survive the freezing process, unfortunately, the texture will never be quite the same again. Previously frozen cream cheese takes on a crumbly consistency, and it also loses the coveted creaminess that gives cream cheese its name. You wouldn’t want to use thawed cream cheese on its own as a spread, but it’s still great in cooking.
You can, but you probably won’t like the results very much. Some types of cream cheeses fare better than others in the freezer. If you intend to freeze your cheese, always opt for full-fat versions if possible. Low fat, fat-free, or lite varieties, like Neufchatel cheese, rarely hold up, although they can still be used in recipes where a smooth, creamy consistency doesn’t matter so much, like baked casserole dishes.
Cream cheese is a soft, unripened, spreadable fresh cheese which is made from a blend of unskimmed cow’s milk and cream, hence its name. To be labeled real cream cheese in the United States, it must contain a minimum fat content of 33%. In the United Kingdom, the bar for cream cheese is set even higher, with a minimum fat content at 44%-65%.
It’s best if you keep your cream cheese in its original packaging or container, ideally unopened. Simply wrap the container in freezer paper or plastic wrap, and drop it in a freezer bag and seal it up. If you intend to use the cream cheese in a dip or in frosting, you can help maintain some of its creamy texture by mixing it with heavy or whipping cream before freezing. Make sure you write the current date on the freezer bag to remind yourself when you put the cream cheese in there, then place it on the middle shelf to keep it at a steady temperature.
Problem: the party’s over, and you still have a lot of delicious cream cheese-based dip that’s probably going to go to waste. Solution: pop that dip in the freezer and whip it out at the next party. While the quality of previously frozen dip won’t be as high as when you first made it, it can safely stay in the freezer for up to a few months. Simply transfer the dip to an airtight, freezer-safe storage container. You can even stir in a smidge of heavy cream if you have it on hand to help it retain its creamy consistency before freezing.
Properly stored cream cheese stays perfectly good in the freezer for about two months. After that time, the quality might deteriorate, but it will still be safe to use. As with any food, the sooner you consume it, the better, but cream cheese that has been kept frozen consistently at 0°F will technically be safe almost indefinitely.
If you’re not in a hurry, simply transfer the frozen cream cheese to the fridge and let it thaw overnight. If time is of the essence, however, and you need to thaw an 8-ounce block of cream cheese quickly, unwrap it completely, and place it on a plate. Microwave the cheese on high for about 15 seconds. For every additional 8 ounces of cream cheese after that, add another 10 seconds. To restore a somewhat less lumpy texture to your thawed cream cheese, you can try mixing it vigorously by hand, or with a blender or mixer.
Cream cheese that has been frozen and then thawed and kept consistently cold in the fridge can be safely stored for about three or four days before using. However, if you’ve microwaved the cream cheese or used water to thaw it, you should use it immediately. How do you know if your cream cheese has gone bad? The easiest way to know for sure is a simple sniff test. If your cream cheese smells a bit off, that’s usually a good indication that its time has come. Another sign of spoilage is a yellowish tinge, but any mold growth whatsoever is a glaring sign that it should go in the garbage.
The lumpy, clumpy, crumbly, dried out texture of previously frozen cream cheese is never going to cut it on its own as a smooth spread anymore. However, thawed cream cheese can still steal the show in recipes such as casseroles, dips, and baked dishes just as well as its never-frozen counterpart does.
Absolutely! Frosting actually insulates and preserves a cake while it’s in the freezer, helping it retain pretty much all of its moisture while at the same time maintaining its freshness. Baking companies often ship frozen, fully-frosted cakes for this reason! A cake decorated with cream cheese frosting couldn’t be more ideal for freezing. It’s sturdy and full of fat, meaning it will fare better than a delicate, fluffy meringue icing, for instance. How do you freeze a cake iced with cream cheese frosting? Bake the layers as you normally would, let them completely cool, then frost them. Place the iced cake on a tray in the freezer, completely unwrapped, and let it chill for at least four hours until it freezes solid. Remove the cake from the freezer and wrap it in a layer of plastic wrap and cover the whole thing with tin foil.
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