Published March 1, 2002. From Cook's Illustrated.
Can any store-bought brands compare to a homemade cheesecake?
Our recipe for New York-style cheesecake isn't difficult to make, but it does require some planning. It's at least seven hours from the first crack of an egg to the first bite of cake. What to do, then, when the cheesecake craving strikes suddenly and without warning? Are any store-bought versions passable substitutes? We gathered four such cheesecakes, sliced them up, and assembled a taste test, throwing in our homemade cheesecake as a secret contender.
Our group of cheesecake contestants was comprised of national chains, gourmet dessert companies, and supermarkets. The results were not very surprising. Our homemade cheesecake was far and away the leader of the pack, with tasters praising its "smooth and creamy" texture and "perfectly balanced" flavor. The distant second-place finisher had a "meltingly soft" texture, though some found the flavor "artificial" and "plasticky."
One entry was unanimously deemed objectionable. Comments ranged from the simple "yuck" to the more substantive "one-dimensional and boring." The familiar graham cracker crust was sorely missed on this lone crustless contender.
Any way you slice it, the results are the same: You may be able to buy convenience, but you can't buy flavor.