When anyone asks about the Big Apple’s most notable dessert, there’s no doubt one answer comes to mind: Junior’s. The New York-style cheesecake ranks among Gotham’s most iconic foods and is right up there with the city’s best pizzas and bagels.
The cheesecake at Junior’s, which started in downtown Brooklyn, is highly sought after whether you’re a jaded New Yorker seeking some nostalgia or a tourist looking to check off a bucket list experience. While we can’t visit the restaurants (there are two locations alone in Times Square), we can recreate these lovingly handcrafted cakes—which features a fluffy sponge cake crust and rich cream cheese filling—in our very own kitchens. As it turns out, you can have your cheesecake and eat it, too.
Junior’s Original New York Cheesecake
One 9-inch cheesecake
Here’s what you’ll need:
For sponge cake crust
- 1⁄3 cup sifted cake flour
- 3⁄4 teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 2 extra-large eggs, separated
- 1⁄3 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 drops pure lemon extract
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1⁄4 teaspoon cream of tartar
For cheesecake filling
- Four 8-ounce packages of cream cheese (full fat, at room temperature)
- 1 ⅔ cups sugar
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 extra-large eggs
- ¾ cup heavy or whipping cream
Here’s how to make it:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Wrap the outside with aluminum foil, covering the bottom and extending all the way up the sides. The first step is to make the cake crust.
- In a small bowl, sift the cake flour, baking powder, and salt together.
- Beat the egg yolks in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high for 3 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly add 2 tablespoons of the sugar and beat until thick light yellow ribbons form, about 5 minutes more. Beat in the extracts.
- Sift the flour mixture over the batter and stir it in by hand, just until no more white flecks appear. Now, blend in the melted butter.
- Now, wash the mixing bowl and beaters really well (if even a little fat is left, this can cause the egg whites not to whip). Put the egg whites and cream of tartar into the bowl and beat with the mixer 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 one-third 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.
- Gently spread out the batter over the bottom of the 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 oven on while you prepare the batter.
- Put one package of the cream cheese, 1⁄3 cup of the sugar, and the cornstarch in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl several times. Blend in the remaining cream cheese, one package at a time, scraping down the bowl after each one.
- Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat in the remaining 1 1⁄3 cups sugar, then the vanilla. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after adding each one. Beat in the cream just until completely blended. Be careful not to overmix! Gently spoon the batter over the crust.
- Place the cake in a large shallow pan containing hot water that comes about 1 inch up the sides of the springform. Bake until the edges are light golden brown and the top is slightly golden tan, about 1 1⁄4 hours. 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, preferably overnight or for at least 4 hours.
- To serve, release and remove the sides of the springform, leaving the cake on the bottom of the pan. Place on a cake plate. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Slice the cold cake with a sharp straight-edge knife, not a serrated one. Cover any leftover cake and refrigerate or wrap and freeze for up to 1 month.