There’s something about firsts. You know the ones, big first time moments in your life – girls, foods, songs, authors, cities, etc. One of the big firsts I always think about this time of year is when I first fell in love with creamy versions of pumpkin. It was a cup of pumpkin frozen yogurt, topped with black chocolate sprinkles, eaten outside on a crisp autumn day – crunchy dead leaves gathered at my feet. While I always loved pumpkin pie, enjoying it in cold, melty, frozen form was something new to me, and I haven’t let go of that swirly passion for the last 15 years. It is with that sense of glowing nostalgia that I crack into my first pumpkin ice cream of the season with Ben & Jerry’s Pumpkin Cheesecake, which combines a pumpkin cheesecake ice cream with graham cracker swirl.
This flavor is much less mix-in reliant and heavy than a lot of Ben & Jerry’s pints, which means the base has to be really strong in order for it to succeed. As I scoop into the pale off-orange autumn abyss of the container scarecrows begin to sing and crows ca-caw with pumpkin-y bliss; this base is most definitely a success. The texture is incredibly smooth and decadent but not too dense. It isn’t light by any means but it carries a perfect velvety feeling that transcends a lot of what B&J’s offer in their bases and is pleasantly pumkin-y rich.
The one-two punch of pumpkin purée and cream cheese high on the ingredient list helps translate the pumpkin cheesecake vibes without being too in-your-face. While the ice cream doesn’t have any pronounced tang to it, it does have a nice cheesiness that plays beneath the layer of squash and spices. The pumpkin flavor is very deep and impressively true with subtle notes of cinnamon and nutmeg that are present but far from aggressive. It isn’t terribly spicy but it is very accurate to the balance of flavors I would expect from a slice of spiced cheesecake.
Graham crackers are one of my favorite mix-ins ever, not only for their general flavor but in the way they work so well with dairy. The swirl here is full of graham flavor with a gritty salty mouthfeel and hints of butter. It’s a perfect crumbly sweet and salty accompaniment to the creamy spiced base, but as usual with graham, I just want more. There are occasional pockets of medium sized chunks but the swirl is mostly as described – a swirl. Unfortunately this comes across much more like crumbs for most of the experience, and as the lone mix-in there’s not much room to be too crumbly.
This ice cream is really easy to eat. Due to its lighter density and balanced base flavor it goes down quick and is all around delicious. It’s one more swirl or a little more graham away from being a perfect pint, but it’s definitely one of the best frozen autumn treats you’ll find at the grocery store this season, and very true to its cheesecake destiny.
Found at: Target ($4.49)
Quick Nutrition: 1/2 cup (103g) – 260 cal – 15g fat – 7g sat fat – 140mg sodium – 30g carb – 25g sugar – 4g protein