Junior's New York Cheesecake Features A Unique Crust

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If you love cheesecake — that classically rich and decadent dessert of a sweetened cream cheese custard baked until soft, creamy perfection — it's probable that you've heard of Junior's Restaurant. A storied New York City diner that's been going strong since it opened in downtown Brooklyn in 1950 (via its official website), Junior's epic-length menu features greasy spoon favorites ranging from tuna melts to Western omelets to chicken tenders, but there's no doubt that its world-famous selection of cheesecakes is what the eatery is known for.

Boasting a straightforward cream cheese, heavy cream, egg, and vanilla extract batter (via CBS News), the decadent cheesecake is available topped with a variety of fruits, from strawberries to cherries to blueberries, as well as infused with the flavors of chocolate, tiramisu, and carrot cake (via Junior's). But many cheesecake purists undoubtedly opt for its plain, New York-Style cheesecake, which boasts a twist when it comes to the crust underneath all that creamy filling.

Junior's cheesecake is built atop a thin layer of sponge cake

Google New York-style cheesecake and you'll find that the majority of the recipes call for a graham cracker crust. There's no denying the compatibility of crunchy graham crackers and smooth cheesecake — but cheesecake authority Junior's has its very own, 70-year old spin on cheesecake crust that has stood the test of time.

If you've ever eaten in one of Junior's five Tri-State Area locations (via Junior's), or dug into a slice sourced from purveyors as varied as Costco and Amazon, you'll have noticed that the crust at the bottom of its Original New York-Style Cheesecake is actually a cake. As third-generation owner Alan Rosen told Tasting Table, that thin layer of cake has been at the base of Junior's cheesecakes since his grandfather Harry opened the now-iconic eatery.

To make it, Rosen told us, Junior's bakers bake a layer of vanilla cake and slice it horizontally into five, quarter-inch-thick layers once it's cooled. That layer goes into the bottom of the cheesecake's baking pan, is topped with the rich cream cheese filling, and is then baked until set. For home bakers, Rosen advises simply baking a thin layer of vanilla cake right into the pan the cheesecake will go into and then proceeding with the cheesecake filling, as it would be a bit fiddly (and wasteful) to go through the whole process of slicing a cake into layers at home.

The unusual crust was favored by original owner Harry Rosen

You might be wondering: Why did this iconic cheesecake bakery choose to use such an unusual crust as the base of its famous desserts? Junior's owner Alan Rosen told Tasting Table that back in 1950, when his grandfather Harry opened the restaurant and bakery, the original baker, Eigel Peterson, came up with a variety of cheesecake styles that went through several rounds of taste tests — and Rosen loved the unique sponge cake crust, which is still employed by the restaurant.

What's so special about the crust, according to Alan Rosen? He names texture as the number one factor. Instead of a smooth filling that's interrupted by the crunch of a crust, the New York-style cheesecake is soft all the way through — from the cheesecake above to the cake below. "It eats like a cake," not a pie, Rosen told us. "It just works."