When you cook with cream cheese, many recipes specify softened cream cheese. Softened cream cheese simply means cream cheese allowed to warm to room temperature. If you do not have time to leave cream cheese warming on the counter, you can speed up the softening process in the microwave oven. You will know when cream cheese is softened by its texture and appearance.
Look at the cream cheese to help determine softness. Soft cream cheese will be slightly runny around the edges with the sharp corners looking soft and rounded.
Touch the spoon into the cream cheese to assess its softness. If the cream cheese dents easily by the spoon, the cream cheese is soft.
Insert the beaters of the electric mixer into the cream cheese and turn the mixer on. Soft cream cheese will whip easily and turn into a creamy mixture when you beat it with the electric mixer.
If the cream cheese does not easily cream into a soft mixture when you mix or stir it, it needs additional softening time or a few more seconds of microwave cooking to soften it completely. Unwrap cream cheese before you soften it so the aluminum foil wrapper does not stick to the cream cheese after softening. To soften cream cheese, leave the unwrapped cream cheese sitting on a plate at room temperature for about one to two hours. To soften cream cheese in the microwave, Kraft Foods recommends placing an unwrapped brick of cream cheese in a bowl. Microwave the cream cheese for 10 seconds on high. To soften more than one brick of cream cheese at a time, add 15 seconds for every additional brick of cream cheese.