Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.
When I'm going to be making cheesecakes, I leave the cream cheese at room temp overnight.
I work around food and anything that has dairy in it that is left out must have a four hour code on it.
While I do NOT recommend it...I was traveling to see The Friend, who adores cheesecake. No cream cheese in the country he's living in. My suitcase with the fresh mushrooms, cream cheese, and Vermont Cheddar was stuck at an airport for 4 days. It was winter, and the airport was in a relatively cold climate, so we risked using the cream cheese. The cream cheese was in the sealed plastic tubs -- and it was OK.
The official answer for all soft cheeses is 2 hrs. max. > 40F Because it's unripened and high in moisture, cream cheese, like milk, is considered a high-risk product.
That said, boulangere's answer seems fine for two reasons -- factory-sealed containers and cheesecake comes up to pasteurization temp during baking.
To expand a little, cream cheese frostings made with at least 4 cups of sugar per 8 ounces of commercial cream cheese are considered safe to leave unrefrigerated. Unlike me, bacteria don't like sugar.
True, cheesecake does reach pasteurization temp during baking, and even prior to that, cream cheese is made from pasteurized products. As well, it is relatively low in water, which is the factor you're most concerned with.
Sarah is a trusted source on General Cooking.
In pastry class we left it out overnight all the time - sometimes 18 hours before using. I can almost guarantee this would be how professional bakers would treat cream cheese (though can't speak from direct professional experience on that one).
You just can't speed up softening cream cheese to room temp, it just doesn't react to heat/microwave well. Same for marscapone. We used it for both baked and unbaked cheesecakes / products (e.g. tiramisu).
For food safe purposes, you may wish to restrict this to sealed/unopened containers.
I wouldn't keep it out for more than an hour and 45 min but it really depends on where you are keeping it. Example: sun, shade etc.
I have read that you should not leave it out for more than 4 hours. I make cream cheese frosting all the time and always follow that rule.
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Well played. You deserve a cookie.
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