Thursday, 16 June 2016

The Great Cream Cheese Mystery...

My friend and Sugar Moon customer Deborah - you can read her beautiful blog here , where she writes about her life in West Wales (and takes fabulous photos!) - recently set me a challenge. She wondered why she (and several of her friends and neighbours) could no longer obtain good results when using Philadelphia cream cheese to make cream cheese frosting and recipes from U.S cookbooks, such as cheesecake. There was no problem with U.K recipes, just American ones. She wondered whether there was a different formula to the British product (and suspects it has changed recently, although she had no answer from Kraft when she contacted them to ask!) This really intrigued me, as I have never had a problem. At Sugar Moon , we don't use cream cheese in general...but I do when baking for friends and family and I almost exclusively bake from U.S cookbooks too. So I decided to experiment!
I made my usual cream cheese frosting - a staple of the Blue Angel Bakery repertoire, essential for Carrot Cake, Mango & Coconut Cake and many others. I used full fat Philadelphia ('light' versions just will not work as there is too much water and other ingredients in need the fat!)
I always make the frosting in my trusty Magimix Pro food processor. I started with softened unsalted butter...
...added icing sugar....
...then I processed the two together to mix thoroughly before adding the cheese..., it does tend to go a little runny to start with. But I just left the motor running and pretty soon (within a minute or two), it all came together to make a thick, smooth and shiny frosting...

Voila! As a balance, I also made exactly the same recipe but used a tub of Sainsbury's own-brand full fat soft cheese. Although this actually had a slightly higher fat content (25% as opposed to 21.5% in the Philadelphia) it didn't work nearly as well...
As you can see from the photo above, it 'split' slightly and had a grainy unpleasant texture.
Back to the Philly version. I wanted to check that it would pipe well and stand up as a proper frosting, so I filled a disposable bag and... did the job perfectly. So I hope that helps, Deb? It kept well and was just as good texture-wise three days later (kept in a lidded plastic container in the fridge). I would say that several things definitely help; use a food processor if at all possible, because it works so quickly and seems to help with the mixing and texture of the finished frosting. Also, I think mixing the butter and sugar together first helps too. And lastly, perhaps, the proportions? The temptation when it's a bit runny is to add more icing sugar to stiffen it up, as this works so well with fondant or glace icings. But more sugar just makes cream cheese frosting runnier. It's the fat content that keeps everything firm...

The proportions I use are:

butter - 50g
icing sugar - 125g &
cream cheese - 1 family size tub which is 280g (and yes, Philadelphia, I have noticed that it used to be 300g for the same price....!)
Scale up as necessary depending on how much frosting you need!

I will test a US cheesecake recipe next and post it on our Facebook page for all those that are interested!
And after my last post ended with my lunchtime sourdough & tomato bruschetta, I thought I'd end this one with my Saturday (and many other) breakfast! More toasted sourdough - I really adore it - with homemade hummus (chickpeas soaked and boiled,plenty of flat leaf parsley, tahini, garlic and lemon juice) sprinkled with a little Maldon seasalt , lots of black pepper and a glug of olive oil. My favourite summery way to start the day (preferably eaten outside!)

We baked, packed and sent a LOT of Father's Day brownie boxes their should be many smiling and chocolate-filled Dads on Sunday! If your Dad is still with you, or your children have a lovely one, or you have someone you think of as a Dad - make sure to give him a VERY big hug on Sunday. They are precious things!

Have a great weekend! xx


  1. How can I {we} begin to say thank you! Who would have guessed we weren't beating enough! Interesting that Sainsbury's own brand didn't do as well despite the higher fat content, proving it is not the fat. Life was so much easier in the days of the old block we had to soften first.
    Hugs, Deb xoxo

  2. I use Philadelphia cream cheese with my bagels: spread a generous quantity of it, then smoked salmon, then a slice of tomato, then onions, then capers And a bit of lemon juice to go with it.

  3. I love that you did this---you're just a cute-pie, you know it? I loved reading this and seeing the outcomes- how nice of you!! xoxo


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