Cheesecake is one of the most satisfying and delicious desserts. With all the flavor combinations and special ways to customize it, there is surely a cheesecake variety out there to suit anyone’s sweet tooth preferences. Despite being so customizable, most cheesecakes are made with the same core ingredients.
No matter what variety of cheesecake you’re making (or buying from your local bakery, we won’t judge), you’ll likely need some of those same core ingredients to make the basic cheesecake. A basic cheesecake usually requires the following: cream cheese, eggs, and butter. Some varieties even require whipped cream or sour cream.
How long can cheesecake sit out? The heavily dairy-based ingredients used to make most cheesecakes determine how long a cheesecake can safely sit outside of the refrigerator. According to the US Department of Agriculture, cheesecakes shouldn’t be left out of a refrigerator for longer than a maximum of two hours.
What Causes Foods Like Cheesecakes to Spoil When They Aren’t Refrigerated?
Cheesecake recipes commonly contain two of the most quick to spoil foods: milk and eggs. Typically, cheesecake recipes require multiple dairy-based ingredients. When all that dairy is coupled with eggs, this rich and creamy dessert can turn ugly if it’s left out of the refrigerator too long.
While that long-unrefrigerated cheesecake looks innocent on the surface, it’s a breeding ground for tons of yucky bacteria that can make a person very sick. According to the FDA, refrigeration slows the process of bacteria growth on food. Even after only a few hours outside of a refrigerator, the dairy and eggs in the cheesecake can begin to quickly grow hordes of dangerous bacteria.
Refrigeration doesn’t totally eliminate bacterial growth on foods, but it does slow it down drastically. Have you ever found an old block of cheese that was forgotten in the back of your refrigerator? This is an example of how foods can still grow mold and bacteria in a refrigerated environment; it just happens a lot slower in there versus at room temperature.
How Should Cheesecake Be Stored to Avoid Any Bacterial Growth?
To keep your cheesecake fresh and safe, make sure you refrigerate it after everyone’s had a slice. If you’ve just prepared a cheesecake, refrigerate it once it’s cooled down enough post-baking. The best way to avoid bacterial growth is to be vigilant about getting it back to a refrigerator.
Cheesecake’s two main concerns for causing a foodborne illness–eggs and dairy–need to be refrigerated at at least 40 degrees or lower. This is considered a standard safe temperature for refrigerators according to the FDA. You can make sure your refrigerator is adjusted to the correct settings by following the adjustment instructions in the user’s manual.
In the refrigerator, your cheesecake should be stored in a sealable container. If you buy a cheesecake from the store and can’t get the original packaging to seal correctly after opening it, transfer the leftovers to a dish that will seal completely closed for maximum protection.
What are Some Common Symptoms of a Foodborne Illness?
If you’re worried that you may have eaten some spoiled cheesecake (or some other variety of food that was left out too long to be safe for consumption), understanding the symptoms can help you make the best of the situation.
People with foodborne illnesses (also called “food poisoning”) can experience a wide array of symptoms, including but not limited to:
- Abdominal cramping
- Body aches
Foodborne illnesses can last anywhere from one to seven days with symptoms varying in severity from person to person. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have over 250 different foodborne illnesses identified.
There are no cures for common foodborne illnesses or food poisoning. To help your body recuperate, treat the symptoms and keep well-hydrated until you’re feeling better again.
Q: I ate cheesecake that was definitely left outside of a refrigerator for longer than two hours. What should I do?
A: Don’t panic. Monitor your symptoms to determine if you’re going to be affected by the unrefrigerated cheesecake. If it wasn’t too long past two hours, you may be okay. If you do begin feeling ill, get in touch with your doctor as soon as possible.
Q: I need to travel with a cheesecake. How can I transport it while also keeping it at a safe temperature?
A: Invest in a good cooler. You’ll be surprised at how often you’ll use a sturdy, well-insulated cooler. Besides traveling with your cheesecake, it’s also a great tool for traveling with other foods that require safe temperatures. Besides transporting foods, they also make great companions for beach days, sporting events, and picnics.
Q: I left my cheesecake out longer than two hours, but it seems to be OK. Can I still refrigerate it and eat it again later?
A: For safety’s sake, this cheesecake should be tossed in the trash. If you know for sure (or even suspect) that a cheesecake was left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours, don’t risk developing a serious illness over eating the leftovers. Tossing it in the fridge after two hours is still a gamble.
Q: Are there any dairy-free and/or egg-free options for making a cheesecake?
A: Making a dairy and egg-free version of a cheesecake won’t only make your vegan or lactose-intolerant friends happy–it’ll make it a little safer to leave out of the refrigerator, too! You can find dairy and egg-free varieties of cheesecake recipes all over the web.
If you know (or even suspect) that a cheesecake has gone unrefrigerated for longer than two hours, throw it out. The US Department of Agriculture, the FDA, and the CDC warn about the dangers of developing foodborne illnesses from eating unrefrigerated foods like cheesecakes.
Due to the heavy dairy and egg-based ingredients, bacteria can form quickly on a cheesecake after it’s been unrefrigerated for over two hours. While cheesecake is super delicious, eating a possibly spoiled one is a dangerous gamble. When in doubt, throw the leftovers out!