“I hate The Cheesecake Factory,” said no one ever. That’s clearly why so many people (including us) have copied their dessert and appetizer recipes, the restaurants are explosively popular, and The Cheesecake Factory’s spin-off line, The Cheesecake Factory at Home, offers plenty of products and mixes at grocery stores around the country. When something’s good, you just go with it.
In case you don’t take product announcements as seriously as I do, 2020 has been the year for incorporating all sorts of sugary foods into ice cream. Cereal-inspired ice cream cartons, namely Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Lucky Charms, hit the frozen food aisle at the beginning of the year—you know, back when we still had hope. The breakfast trend continued with the launch of Good Humor’s Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tart bars. Earlier this month, gourmet-to-store brand Jeni’s launched a collection inspired by fairtime foods, and although I have not tried them all, I can vouch that the Watermelon Taffy flavor is legit. Unexpected, maybe, and wonderfully sour, but still delicious. The Cheesecake Factory at Home’s ice cream line may not be the most recent example of border-breaking ice cream, but it’s definitely worth a spot on your radar if you consider yourself an ice cream fan.
What’s so great about this stuff, you ask? Well first, we can start at the base. None of The Cheesecake Factory’s ice creams are simply ice cream, but rather, cheesecake ice cream, which makes them all luscious and creamy right off the bat. There are also some stellar mixins, depending on which flavor you choose: birthday cake pieces, chocolate cookies, and buttery graham cracker crust are just a few of the examples you’ll find.
But since there are seven flavors and it’s not exactly practical to buy $35 worth of ice cream at once (these retail for $4.99, by the way), I went ahead and undertook the challenge of sampling them all for you. Which I don’t particularly recommend unless you’re looking for a tummy ache.
Cookies & Cream
Cookies & Cream did not taste how I expected it to, and I mean that in the best possible way. It’s super, super smooth, and the chocolate cookie bits are beautifully dispersed rather than simply lodged inside. The cheesecake flavor comes in pretty strongly here, reminding you that this is not your average cookies & cream. There are some nice cookie clumps that are a lot like what you’d find in a cookies & cream milkshake. A faint chocolate syrup ripple adds just enough extra flavor. Cheesecake Factory ties aside, this is what you'd call an amplified ice cream.
Full disclosure, salted caramel is probably already my favorite ice cream flavor, and it was the first of this batch that I actually tried. Regardless, there was an immediate and undeniable wow factor. Another thing: I don’t know if it’s more from the texture of the ribbons of salty caramel, but this flavor feels expensive. If this were a blind taste test, I would guess that this flavor came from an independent, specialty ice cream maker. This may be a step below Cookies & Cream, but it's a small step for sure.
The Original flavor is exactly what you want in a cheesecake ice cream: tangy, creamy, and slightly sweet. The sour cream mixed in leaves a nice taste on the palate, and helps balance out the sweetness in the crust. Original is definitely a step down from the other two flavors, but maybe you don’t like caramel or chocolate cookies. In that case, it’s the next best thing.
The Strawberry flavor has a nice pink, creamy base and jammy bursts of fruit. It’s good, and you can easily eat half the container on the couch without realizing it. I did find myself wishing it was just a touch tangier, especially since the graham cracker crust pieces are so sweet.
At first, all you taste is a pretty good chocolate ice cream (kind of like Blue Bell’s Dutch Chocolate), but then the lingering cream cheese and sour cream come through. It’s not necessarily tangy, which is fine if you prioritize chocolate over cheesecake. But if you really want something that tastes like chocolate cheesecake, you may just want to walk a little farther down the frozen foods aisle to the premade cheesecakes.
Key Lime Pie
The key lime flavor here is subdued, resulting in an ice cream that isn’t overwhelmingly tangy. The sweetness is good, but what is cheesecake without those tangy notes? If you’re a true lover of key lime pie and all its zing, you may be disappointed. But if you’re more into slightly sour notes, much like what you’d find in lime sherbet, you’ll dig this.
Not Our Favorite
Birthday Cake, on its own, is already a pretty divisive flavor. As an ice cream or frozen yogurt, it’s often avoided for being too rich. With this birthday cake, you’ve got the cake bits, the frosting flavor, and the sprinkles, plus the added bonus of cheesecake’s taste and texture. I would probably eat it if I were having a bad day or at a kid’s birthday party, but under other circumstances I’d say avoid it. Maybe just let the kids have this one?
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