Junior's Original New York Cheesecake

juniors-cheesecake.jpg
Junior's Original New York Cheesecake. © 2013 Mark Ferri
  • Total: 2 hrs 30 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 2 hrs
  • Yield: 1 Cheesecake (20-24 servings)
Ratings (78)

Junior's in Brooklyn, N.Y., is one of the world's iconic delis, if not the quintessential deli. This recipe for Original New York Cheeescake is from "Junior's Home Cooking" (Taunton Press, 2013) by Alan Rosen and Beth Allen.

The authors say, "As the name implies, the recipe for Junior’s famous original cheesecake has been baked the very same way since the 1950s. And for good reason. It’s simply The Best cheesecake you can find.

In the Village Voice on July 26, 1973, Ron Rosenblum wrote, “There will never be a better cheesecake than the cheesecake they serve at Junior’s on Flatbush Avenue ... it’s the best cheesecake in New York.”

The next year, a jury of six cheesecake lovers for New York magazine named Junior’s the Champion Cheesecake. When Alan Rosen was asked what makes his cheesecake so special, he said, "It’s light but not crumbly, oh-so-creamy but not dense, and with that heavenly cream cheese flavor that makes Junior’s New York cheesecake famous the world over.”

The authors say this is one of the easiest cakes to make. Just follow the instructions in this recipe that has been  adapted for a home kitchen, and you'll soon proudly be slicing up the best cheesecake you’ve every tasted!

No one really knows just whose idea it was to use a sponge cake crust for Junior’s cheesecake, but it worked, and that same recipe continues to work today. Directions are given for your choice of an 8- or 9-inch cheesecake. The cake must be refrigerated overnight before serving, so plan accordingly.

What You'll Need

  • Directions for a 9-inch cheesecake
  • Sponge Cake Crust:
  • Softened unsalted butter, for buttering the pan
  • 1⁄3 cup sifted cake flour
  • 3⁄4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of table salt
  • 2 extra-large eggs (separated)
  • 1⁄3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 drops pure lemon extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Cheesecake Batter:
  • 4 (8-ounce) packages PHILADELPHIA cream cheese (use only full fat), at room temperature
  • 1 2⁄3 cups sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 3⁄4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • _____________________________________
  • Directions for an 8-inch cheesecake
  • Sponge Cake Crust:
  • Softened unsalted butter, for buttering the pan
  • 1⁄4 cup sifted cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of table salt
  • 2 extra-large eggs (separated)
  • 1⁄4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 drops pure lemon extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Cheesecake Batter:
  • 3 (8-ounce) packages Philadelphia cream cheese (use only full fat, at room temperature)
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream

How to Make It

Make the Sponge Cake Crust

  1. Heat the oven to 350 F and generously butter the bottom and side of a 9- or 8-inch springform pan, preferably a nonstick one. Wrap the outside with aluminum foil, covering the bottom and extending it all the way up the side.
  2. In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks on high for 3 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly add 2 tablespoons of the sugar and continue beating until thick, light-yellow ribbons form in the bowl, about 5 minutes more. Beat in the extracts.
  1. Sift the flour mixture over the batter and stir it in by hand, just until there are no remaining white flecks. Blend in the melted butter.
  2. In another clean bowl, using clean, dry beaters, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together on high until frothy. Gradually add the remaining sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form (the whites will stand up and look glossy, not dry). Fold about 1/3 of the whites into the batter, then the remaining whites. Don’t worry if you still see a few white specks, as they’ll disappear during baking.
  3. Gently spread the batter over the bottom of the prepared pan and bake just until set and golden (not wet or sticky), about 10 minutes. Touch the cake gently in the center. If it springs back, it’s done. Watch carefully and don’t let the top brown. Leave the crust in the pan and place on a wire rack to cool. Leave the sponge cake crust in the pan and leave the oven on while you prepare the batter for the cheesecake.

Make the Cheesecake Batter

  1. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment if your mixer has one, beat 1 package of the cream cheese, 1⁄3 cup of the sugar, and the cornstarch together on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl several times. Blend in the remaining cream cheese, one package at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each.
  2. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat in the remaining sugar, then the vanilla. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in the cream just until completely blended. The filling will look light, creamy, airy, and almost like billowy clouds. Be careful not to overmix! Gently spoon the batter over the crust.
  1. Place the cake pan in a large shallow pan containing hot water that comes halfway (about 1 inch) up the side of the springform. Bake until the edge is light golden brown, the top is light gold, and the center barely jiggles, about 1 1⁄4 hours. If the cake still feels soft around the edge, let it bake for 10 minutes more (the cooking time will be about the same for both the 8- and 9-inch cheesecakes).
  2. Remove the cheesecake from the water bath, transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 2 hours (just walk away -- don’t move it). Then, leave the cake in the pan, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until completely cold before serving, preferably overnight or for at least 6 hours.

To Serve

  1. Release and remove the side of the springform, leaving the cake on the bottom of the pan. Place on a cake plate. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. Slice with a sharp straight-edge knife, not a serrated one, rinsing the knife with warm water between slices. Refrigerate any leftover cake, tightly covered, and enjoy within 2 days, or wrap and freeze for up to 1 month.

Kitchen Notes

Always bake the cheesecake in a water bath as they do at Junior’s. It keeps the heat in the oven moist and helps the cake bake slowly, gently, and evenly. It also helps to ensure that your cake will have a smooth top, with no large cracks.