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I have tried making cheese cakes a couple times before. And each time, it ends with discouragement and exasperation.

After spending on even the cheapest cream cheese and sour cream, and a lot of time, the cheese cake ends up being more expensive (including electricity) than the one they sell at Walmart. Also the time I have to spend preparing and cleaning up.

Such that every time I think of making a cheesecake, I would simply buy a ready-made one from Walmart.

  • Why does it take so much time to make the cheesecake?
  • What are the techniques to reduce the time I spend making the cheesecake?
  • Can I substitute graham crackers with animal crackers, because I find animal crackers less messy and an easier task? I also like the taste of animal crackers much better than graham crackers.
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    Hi Cynthia, I had to remove the question on price. It is a purely economic question and has nothing to do with cooking - indeed, earlier questions of this type tended to have wrong answers based on bad assumptions about price policies. The factors which create the price of a homemade cheesecake and a walmart cheesecake are totally different, there is no reason to expect that homemade will be cheaper, and there is nothing wrong with a homemade cake being more expensive than a storebought one. A study on the price structure of a walmart cake would be interesting, but not doable here. – rumtscho Aug 12 '16 at 8:42
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    This really isn't unique to cooking... making something yourself will nearly always cost more in time and/or materials than a store bought one... If I were to crochet an afghan and charge what I would want in time spent and materials, I'd have to charge $500+ for it... and I can buy one for $50 or less... If you're having a difficult time with making cheese cake, I recommend trying something else. Cheesecakes are difficult to make, which is why I don't make them... good recipes are hard to find... your problem may be the recipe you're using... but you haven't given that, so we can't know that. – Catija Aug 12 '16 at 15:13
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    It takes so long because when you cook it, you have to heat it up long enough that the cream cheese and egg custard, which is what it essentially is, heats through, sets, is fully cooked, but not so much that it is baked or overcooked. That takes time. Are graham crackers really that expensive? Do a simple Google search on "fast easy cheesecake" if you're looking to reduce time, effort, and your standard is topping what they have at Walmart. – PoloHoleSet Aug 12 '16 at 15:15
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    There are tons of recipes out there for "no bake" cheesecakes... these are completely different but take very little "active" time... just time to chill in the fridge... This is an example of what I mean when I say "try a different type of cheesecake". – Catija Aug 12 '16 at 15:17
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    I don't see how any of those things are faster. You say yourself you marinate the chicken for two weeks... which means you're implying that buying cooked chicken at the store takes you longer than two weeks... You're also saying that buying premade sushi at the store takes longer than going to the store, buying the ingredients, cooking the rice and assembling the sushi... You seem to have little concept of the time you're putting in vs the time the store is putting in for you. – Catija Aug 14 '16 at 15:59
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Time is a critical component of cheesecake making, as you need to bake it a low temperature so that the middle of the cheesecake gets cooked before the outside gets overcooked.

It doesn't necessarily need to be attended time, however, as there are plenty of recipes that call for shutting off the oven after a few minutes, and leaving it overnight.

The time to mix the filling mostly depends on both preparation ahead of time (making sure that you have the cream cheese at room temperature) and what equipment you have (you can just leave a stand mixer to run for the most part, whereas a hand mixer requires you standing there for a while ... and if you have neither ... well, then it's a whole lot of work). It might be possible to work it in a food processor, but I've never tried.

So ...

  • Yes, you can use animal crackers. Or whatever other hard cookie you have (ginger snaps, chocolate wafers, biscotti), although I'd avoid ones with chocolate chips, raisins, or other 'mix-ins' or coatings (eg, dipped in chocolate).

  • Make sure the cream cheese is at room temperature before you start -- take it out of the fridge about an hour before you're going to use it.

  • Find a recipe that calls for unattended baking.

  • Get a stand mixer, if you don't already have one.

  • Get a membership to one of the 'warehouse clubs' (eg, Costco, Sam's Club, BJs) for cheaper ingredients ... but it's only cheaper if you manage to use up the larger sizes before it spoils.

  • Watch for sales on the more expensive ingredients (eg, cream cheese) and stock up when it's on sale (and the 'best buy' date is still a ways off).

And you might also consider that there are other styles of cheesecake that don't use cream cheese, but they're quite different. Italian cheesecake uses ricotta, and isn't nearly as sweet or smooth as Jewish or New York cheesecakes. And if silken tofu is inexpensive in your area, you might be able to substitute for some of the cream cheese (although you generally need to add some lemon zest or similar so you don't lose the slight tang); you can find recipes on the internet.

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