I need to soften some cream cheese to room temperature. I forgot to take the cream cheese out of the refrigerator and don't want to offset my bake start time letting it sit. Is there a way to quickly soften the cream cheese that doesn't require just leaving it on the counter?
The time it takes is proportional to the thickness of the item heating or cooling. So, you can make the block of cream cheese (or butter, or anything else) warm up quicker by cutting it into small pieces. You need air circulation around the pieces, so they shouldn't be touching.
Especially since you often already want cream cheese cut into small chunks for mixing.
Seal it in an airtight zip type bag, squeezing out as much air as possible. Submerge the cream cheese under lukewarm water for several minutes, until softened, which you will be able to feel through the plastic.
You can also microwave it on low--but do it slowly, and check it frequently, taking off softened portions so that they don't overheat and melt.