Good question, reader Babs! The answer is yes…and no. Home-made cream cheese can be very good, but when made with home kitchen equipment it comes out quite crumbly compared to the stuff you get in the foil packet.
Why? The reason is that cream cheese’s consistency is dependent on precise timing and control of temperature. Cream cheese is made by warming a milk/cream mixture that contains a bacterial culture and allowing it to ferment…but only briefly. The reason, because one of the by-products of fermentation, as you fermented dairy freaks out there already know, is acid — and acid causes coagulation and curds.
For any other type of cheese, curds are what you want. Not with cream cheese. Getting a nice, smooth batch means carefully monitoring the pH as it heats, then when it’s at just the right point, quick-heating it to kill the off the bacteria. Even minor fluctuations in temperature or timing can ruin a batch, which is why an equivalent of Philadelphia cream cheese is all but impossible to make at home. And unfortunately that’s what you need — a smooth, homogenous commercial consistency — to make a good Japanese cheesecake.
Sorry to be a wet blanket, Babs! But if you’re interested in making fermented dairy products at home, just check out the Dairy section in the Pastry Components menu over to the left. There’s lots of good stuff there.