Since the dawn of civilization cheesecake and pie have been wrestling in a titanic struggle of after-dinner supremacy. No flavor or ingredient has been off limits. From plump summer blueberries to decadent combinations of chocolate and peanut butter, the two desserts have been firing salvos at each other for years
Thanks to an urban chic food trend in embracing American comfort food, pie seems to have delivered most of the damage (calorically, of course) in recent years. It’s even become part of our lexicon, practically becoming synonymous with all things Americana and just damn yummy. That’s not to say cheesecake hasn’t had some good showings, but with fall dawning on us and Dairy Queen doing double-duty with seasonally themed Pumpkin Pie and Apple Pie Blizzards, it’s going to take more than a proverbial trip to The Cheesecake Factory to steal some of the glory.
Fortunately, Baskin-Robbins is fighting back, indulging my love for both pumpkin and cheesecake with September’s Flavor of the Month. With both a cream cheese ribbon and cheesecake ice cream base it covers almost enough dairy as a Wisconsin 4-H fair, adding gingersnap cookie pieces which promise to add a bit of crunch and crust to the pumpkin ice cream.
That’s right, pumpkin. Not “pumpkin flavored,” and not just orange color with some vague spice flavor, the ice cream base nails an authentic pumpkin taste buttressed by a wonderfully autumnal sweetness and cinnamon spice. Bordering on cloying but thankfully neither earthly nor artificial, its distinct brown sugar notes are balanced by the taste of fresh cream and milk. It’s that taste which keeps the base from the heavy connotation pumpkin pie sometimes conjures up, and despite what I’m sure is a veritable calorie overload thanks to no less than 11 different sweeteners in the recipe, a modest-sized cone isn’t enough to make you want to unbuckle your pants and watch Tony Romo throw six interceptions on Thanksgiving.
The cheesecake flavor is really quite splendid, and I mean this in the most endearing way possible. Despite a fascistic ONE SCOOP FOR YOU policy instituted by my local Baskin-Robbins, a thorough probing (also known as licking) of the base reveals a well-integrated cream cheese ribbon with varying degrees of tang and richness.
There’s a smooth mouthfeel throughout, and no sign of the chalky or gritty “cheesecake” chunks that one sometimes finds in frozen yogurt shops. On two separate swipes on the tongue I caught a burst of tang, which illuminated my palette amidst the sweet cream high. It encompasses both a distinctive cheesecake vibe and indulgent cream cheese texture, and together the two elements of cultured dairy work magnificently.
Insofar as flavor is concerned, the gingersnap pieces aren’t bad—the distinct taste of ginger adds a great balancing depth to the sweetness of the ice cream—but the crushed snaps aren’t exactly crust worthy. With a soggy texture and almost no crunch to speak of, they’re actually kind of lost amidst the overly viscous ice cream, which seems especially prone to melting on even a modestly warm fall day.
Actually, my biggest gripe was the deteriorating texture of the ice cream. While it starts off exceptionally creamy and smooth, it doesn’t hold up to the tongue and quickly melts, leaving one with less with the impression of pumpkin ice cream and more with the notion of chilled pumpkin bisque. It’s enough to make me kind of wish I was getting pie.
Is Baskin-Robbins’ Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream enough to deal a game-changing victory in the war between pie and cheesecake? Not quite, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious or seasonally appropriate. With a no-nonsense pumpkin flavor and distinctive cheesecake richness and tang, it definitely fires the first shots in this year’s fall flavor battle.
(Nutrition Facts – 4 oz scoop – 260 calories, 110 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of sodium, 135 milligrams of cholesterol, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 27 grams of sugars, and 4 grams of protein.)
Item: Baskin-Robbins Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $3.39
Size: Regular Scoop
Purchased at: Baskin-Robbins
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Pumpkin cream cheese base has loads of cinnamon and brown sugar flavor. Avoids gritty fake cheesecake pieces. Gingersnap crumbs contribute good spice. Nice bursts of cheesecake tang. A solid showing by team cheesecake in the never-ending battle of desserts. Thank God I’m not a Cowboys fan.
Cons: Gingersnap pieces aren’t very crunchy and get lost amidst the ice cream base. Melts entirely too quickly. Feeling like Oliver Twist as the Baskin-Robbins employee haphazardly scoops my ice cream.