Junior’s Famous No. 1 Cheesecake {Recipe}

There was an episode of David Letterman many years ago in which Dave set out to find the best coffee in New York City. He sent a camera crew out, and they found dozens of shops, restaurants, Bodegas, and diners, all claiming to have the City’s best coffee. So it is with New York-Style Cheesecake. There aren’t quite as many claimants, but who invented this delectable treat depends on who you ask.

One of the places that makes a colorable claim of creating the original New York-Style Cheesecake is Junior’s Restaurant in Brooklyn. So I was excited the other day at JoAnn’s to find a Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook on sale. Actually more of a magazine, the book has 40 cheesecake recipes from Junior’s. Chief among them, of course, is a cheesecake variably known as Junior’s Famous No. 1 Cheesecake, Original New York Cheesecake, and Junior’s (or the World’s) Most Fabulous Cheesecake.

I’m not here to debate the origin of the cheesecake as a New York icon. Nor am I here to argue about who makes the best New York-Style Cheesecake. But I am here to tell you that I made Junior’s cheesecake, and it is far and away the best cheesecake I have ever tasted!

One of the unique things about Junior’s cheesecake is that it uses a sponge cake crust. I wasn’t sure how I would like this, as it seemed like it could get soggy, but it was really good and held up well, even after a few days in the refrigerator.

Junior’s Famous No. 1 Cheesecake

Thin Sponge Cake Layer for Cheesecake

1/3 cup cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 extra-large eggs, separated
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 drops pure lemon extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and generously butter a 9-inch springform pan. Cover the bottom and sides of pan with foil. Sift the cake flour, baking powder and salt together into a medium-sized bowl and set aside.
  2. Beat the egg yolks together in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed for 3 minutes. Then, with the mixer still running, gradually 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 vanilla and lemon extracts.
  3. Sift the flour mixture again over the batter and stir it in by hand until no more white flecks appear. Then blend in the melted butter.
  4. In a clean bowl, using clean dry beaters, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together on high speed until frothy. Gradually add the remaining sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form (the whites should stand up in stiff peaks but not be dry). Stir about 1/3 of the whites into the batter, then gently fold in the remaining whites — don’t worry if a few white specks remain.
  5. Gently spoon the batter into the pan. Bake the cake just until the center of the cake springs back when lightly touched, about 10-12 minutes (watch carefully). Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack while you continue making the cheesecake filling. Do not remove the cake from the pan.

Cream Cheese Filling

4 (8-ounce) packages regular cream cheese, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar, separated
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

  1. Keep oven at 350°F and while the cake cools, make the cream cheese filling. Place one 8-ounce package of the cream cheese, 1/3 cup of the sugar, and the cornstarch in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping bowl a few times. Then beat in the remaining 3 packages of cream cheese one at a time, scraping the bowl after each addition.
  2. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat in the remaining 1 1/3 cups of the sugar and then the vanilla. Blend in the eggs one at a time, beating the batter well after adding each one. Add the heavy cream. At this point mix the filling only until completely blended. Be careful not to overmix.
  3. Gently spoon the cheese filling on top of the baked sponge cake layer. Place the springform pan in a large shallow pan containing hot water that comes about 1-inch up the sides of the pan. Bake the cheesecake until the center barely jiggles when you shake the pan and the top of the cheesecake is golden tan, about 1 hour.
  4. Cool the cake on a wire rack for at least 2 hours. Then cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it’s completely cold, at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove the sides of the springform pan. Slide the cake off the bottom of the pan onto a serving plate or serve directly from the removable bottom of the pan. If any cheesecake is left over, cover it with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Makes 12 to 16 servings.

As you can see, my cheesecake didn’t come out picture perfect. I overbaked it slightly and had a little trouble unmolding it. But the taste was out of this world. I’m actually kind of glad it didn’t come out perfectly. Now I have an excuse to try again. And again….