Monday, January 15, 2018

Desserts from The Cheesecake Factory

I probably don't need to write an intro the The Cheesecake Factory.

The quick background though, it is not, in fact, just a cheesecake producer.  It is a restaurant chain, started in 1978, with several hundred locations.  And they do everything ... big.

No matter what your thoughts are on The Cheesecake Factory, there are some things about it that do impress me.   In some ways, I feel like it is the perfect place to send visitors to the US to, as it matches just about every stereotype imaginable.  Its also a good place to go with a group that has just way too many preferences, as they serve any type of cuisine you could possibly want.

The menu has 250 items on it.  That is ... insane.   There are small plates, appetizers, flatbreads, pizza, burgers, sandwiches, chicken entrees, meatloaf, tacos, burritos, pasta, seafood entrees, steaks, chops, sides, and of course, desserts.  Seriously, everything.  And they run the gamut of every cuisine imaginable, from Italian, to Thai, to Chinese, to Mexican.  They serve brunch, lunch, dinner, and dessert.  There are some healthy options (kale salad!) and many ridiculously unhealthy, and, um, I'm not just talking about the cheesecake.  The Cheesecake Factory regularly "wins" for most extreme calorific content in dishes.  More than 100 menu items are over 1500 calories.  Some go over 2000.  Yes, in a single portion.   Even the chicken caesar salad has 1,450 calories!  (yes, you read that correctly).

And, well, the place is really popular.  On the rare occasions when I peek into a Cheesecake Factory, there is always a wait.  And the restaurants tend to be huge themselves.  Something about the place appeals to people.

And I kinda understand it.  I remember the first time I went to a Cheesecake Factory very vividly.  I was a teenager.  It was in Boston, the first city I ever visited.  My cousin from California was visiting us, and she wanted to go there.  It was a big deal to be in Boston in the first place, and, no one else in my family had heard of the Cheesecake Factory.  We were also entirely unfamiliar with so many of the cuisines served.  We didn't know what many items were.  But my cousin educated us, and helped us order.

We got the Thai lettuce wraps on that visit, an appetizer (that could easily be a meal, for multiple people).  I remember it because it was so different from anything I had ever had before.  A DIY-style dish, where you were provided with leaves of lettuce, bean sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, strips of chicken, curry noodles, and 3 dipping sauces.  The sauces were Thai-style, one peanut, one sweet red chili, and one other.  She showed us how to make our wraps, and eat with our hands.  I thought it was fun, but, the most vivid part of the memory is the sauces.  There was so much flavor!  Peanut sauce!  Sweet chili sauce!  Where had these been my entire life!

Since then, I've returned a few times over the years, usually for big group birthday parties, or, while at a mall.  I've gotten the wraps, and enjoyed them.  I remember trying a few other dishes, chicken, pasta, and more, and thinking it really was fine.  But, the last time I had food at the Cheesecake Factory was at least 10 years ago.

Until this past year, when I started exploring just the desserts.

Restaurant Delivery

Every Cheesecake Factory also has a very large area devoted to takeout desserts, with all 30 or so cheesecakes on display, plus the other cakes and whatnot.  I think most people can't ever actually order dessert after such ridiculous portion sizes for meals, but feel they "need" to get the cheesecake since they are there, and thus, you get it to go.

Or, you just go to pick up cheesecake, which I've had friends do several times.  I never took any photos or notes during these times though, when they showed up at parties with Cheesecake Factory cheesecake.  I do remember always being excited, the slices look incredible (also, huge), the flavors are ridiculous, but, I don't think I was ever impressed.

So, why would I get cheesecake from there?  Well, they were doing a free delivery promotion, and you know how much I like to use freebies as a good excuse to try something I wouldn't normally do.
Red Velvet.
"Moist layers of Red Velvet Cake and our Original Cheesecake covered with our special Cheesecake Factory cream cheese frosting."

I ordered the amazing sounding carrot cake.  I got red velvet instead.  It was warm.  Warm cheesecake is not appealing.  It clearly suffered getting to me via the delivery service.

But I still tried it.

It was ... well, kinda rich cheesecake and fairly generic red velvet cake, thick layers of each, topped with mushy cream cheese frosting.  Generic whipped cream on the side.

Any single layer of this was a full dessert on its own, combined sky high like this, it was just a massive undertaking.

It is hard to evaluate though as the warmth and resulting texture were just too off putting.

So I put it in the fridge overnight and tried it the next day.  Now, it was at least the proper serving temperature.

But it still was just nothing special.  The cheesecake was mediocre.  Creamy, smooth, but not particularly flavorful.  The cake wasn't too dry, but it also didn't have much going on.  The best parts were the cream cheese icing (a delightfully thick layer) and the white chocolate shavings on the back.

Maybe other flavors are better, but, this about matches my memories.

Wholesale - The Cheesecake Factory Bakery

A lesser known fact is that the Cheesecake Factory also operates a wholesale bakery, The Cheesecake Factory Bakery.  They sell cheesecakes, but, also layer cakes and cupcakes.

Shockingly good cupcakes.  This inspires me to try some of the non-cheesecake desserts at the restaurants.
Blackout Cupcake.
"The ultimate chocolate experience in a cupcake! Decadent chocolate pudding cake with a hint of chocolate liqueur, topped with sinful layers of chocolate frosting and dark chocolate curls."

This was a shockingly good cupcake.

The cake was crazy moist, crazy rich, some of the best chocolate cake I've ever had.  The frosting was light and fluffy, sweet, and totally delicious.  I loved the dark chocolate curls on top.

This was just a winner, all around.  Incredible for a frozen product.
Blackout Cake Bite.
"Dark chocolate cake topped with chocolate cream cheese icing."

They also make cupcakes in mini size, known as "Cake Bites".

The look was slightly different from the full size Blackout, the frosting darker.  But it was equally delicious.

The chocolate cake was moist, great chocolate flavor.  The frosting, a thicker style, was rich and fudge-y, with the fascinating cream cheese undertone.  I loved the dark chocolate curls.

Again, another shockingly good cupcake.
Vanilla Bean Cake Bite.
"Moist vanilla cake topped with vanilla bean cream cheese icing."

Much like the chocolate version, the vanilla bean one doesn't just have vanilla frosting on top, but rather, vanilla bean cream cheese icing.  Infusing the whole cheesecake thing into the cupcakes even.

The frosting was sweet, fluffy, and did have vanilla bean flavor to it.  The cake was decently moist, and had a lovely buttery sweet flavor to it.

Overall, a solid little cupcake.
Red Velvet Cake Bite.

"Moist traditional red velvet cake topped with rich cream cheese icing."

This was my least favorite of the cupcakes, although I know red velvet is often a crowd pleaser.

The cake was moist and fine, but, boring red velvet cake.  The frosting, also fine, thick, rich, cream cheesy, but, fairly boring.

This was a fine cupcake, but, compared to the extra special touches of the Blackout and the vanilla bean (e.g. crazy good chocolate frosting, surprising vanilla bean cream cheese frosting), this one was just a bit pedestrian.

The full size red velvet cupcake comes garnished with dark chocolate curls, but the mini goes for white chocolate curls instead, I'm not sure why.
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