Brooklyn-Style Cheesecake: the dairy, dairy best

“WOW… This is the best cheesecake I’ve ever tasted.” – Halley, my boss.

“This is really good. In fact, I think it’s the best cheesecake I’ve ever had.” – Jeff, my co-worker.

“Hey, this cheesecake is REALLY good…” – John, my brother-in-law.

There’s nothing like unsolicited raves from taste-testers to make my day. Especially when what they’re tasting is uncharted territory – at least for me, a New Englander with only the tiniest of connections to New York, from whence this particular type of cheesecake springs.

It’s true, I actually lived in New York for a few years – Yonkers and Mt. Vernon, to be precise – but that was pre-K. All of my growing up and adulthood has been in New England which, aside from scattered pockets, is sadly bereft of an Empire State institution: the New York deli.

A towering corned beef on rye. Hot pastrami, its burned, fatty edges melting in your mouth. Half-sours. Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray, an oddly compelling celery-flavored soda.

To say nothing of lox, bagels, and cream cheese. Whitefish and eggs. Plus liverwurst and onions, a sandwich that’ll drive away unwelcome company for hours afterwards.

And then there’s dessert: fudge layer cake. Rugelach. Rice pudding. In Brooklyn: the famous Blackout Cake.

And cheesecake, the sine qua non of any self-respecting NYC deli.

We’ve all had cheesecake, right? It’s not hard to make, and is universally beloved.

Maybe you’ve made a box mix – add milk, stir, and pour into a graham cracker crust, no baking needed.

Or maybe you’ve made it from scratch; after all, it’s not complicated. Cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla, gently beaten and poured into a graham cracker (or cookie crumb) crust, baked, and crowned with the fruit topping of your choice.

I’ve done it myself; Easy Cheesecake is a never-fail recipe I clipped from The Boston Globe decades ago, one whose grease-stained edges attest to many cheesecakes.

But Brooklyn-Style Cheesecake? Never heard of such a thing, until “Junior’s Most Fabulous Cheesecake & Desserts” restaurant in Brooklyn, self-proclaimed home of the “World’s Most Fabulous Cheesecake,” was featured on the Food Network a year or so ago.

I was fascinated by this cheesecake’s crust: not crushed graham crackers, nor even a cookie crust, like so many New York cheesecake recipes, but a layer of sponge cake.

Cake crust – really?

So say the bakers at Junior’s.

I tried it; found a couple of online recipes purporting to be “Junior’s original.” Followed them faithfully.

The result was OK, but the process was weird and difficult. So I streamlined it, added a couple of practical-sense touches, and voilà! A light, golden spongecake crust.

So, while it’s truly the filling that shines here – “best ever,” says the crowd – I encourage you not to blow off the Brooklyn-style cake crust. Change is good, right?

If you decide it’s “meh,” go on back to your graham crackers. But at least you will have experienced one of New York’s culinary landmarks: a Junior’s cheesecake.

Hanukkah starts tomorrow. With its emphasis on dairy foods, it’s the perfect opportunity to showcase our version of the “World’s Most Fabulous Cheesecake” – Brooklyn-Style Cheesecake.

Click anywhere on this picture to enlarge it to full size – this will work for any of the photos you see in this blog post.

Sponge cake is light, airy, and “spongy,” in the nicest of ways – think Twinkies. This is a great place to use our cake flour blend, a lower protein flour perfect for light, fine-textured cakes. If you don’t have any, never fear; I’ll give directions for all-purpose flour, as well.

Since cream cheese is the star of this particular show, it pays to use the best – which in our book is Philadelphia. You’ll need 2 pounds – four of the 8-ounce blocks. A few hours before you’re going to bake, take them out of the fridge, unwrap, and let them come to room temperature. It’s much easier to make a smooth filling with room-temperature cream cheese than with cold.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ round springform pan or deep 9″ round removable-bottom pan.

This cake is very tall, and requires an extra-deep pan. Measure your pan; if it’s not at least 2 3/4″ deep, don’t attempt this recipe.*

*Another option – make your usual graham cracker crust in a 9″ pie pan, and fill with HALF the following filling recipe.

Wrap the bottom and sides of the springpan with aluminum foil, preferably a single sheet.

To make the crust: Place the following in a mixing bowl –

1/2 cup (2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour Blend*
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter
3 large egg yolks, whites reserved

*If you don’t have cake flour, use King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, reducing the amount to 7 tablespoons (1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon).

Beat until well combined; the mixture will be stiff and somewhat crumbly/pasty.

In a separate bowl, beat the reserved egg whites with 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar until they’re frothy. Add 1/4 cup sugar gradually, beating all the while, until the mixture is stiff and glossy.

Gently but thoroughly mix the beaten egg whites into the batter. Take care to keep the batter light; mix gently, don’t beat. You may find at the end there are still some tiny lumps in the batter; that’s OK.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the cake has risen, is barely beginning to brown, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven, and immediately loosen the edges with a table knife or thin spatula. Allow it to cool in the pan while you make the filling. It’ll settle and shrink a bit as it cools; that’s OK. Leave the oven on.

To make the filling: Place the following in a mixing bowl –

one 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch

Mix on low speed until smooth.

Add the remaining three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, continuing to beat on low speed until smooth.

Add 1 1/3 cups sugar and beat until well combined. Again, keep the beater speed on low; you don’t want to aerate this dense filling.

Beat in 2 large eggs, then 1 tablespoon vanilla.

Finally, gently beat in 3/4 cup heavy cream or whipping cream.

The filling should be smooth and pourable.

Place the springform pan into a larger pan, and fill the larger pan with enough hot water to come 1″ up the sides of the springform.

Spoon the batter over the cake in the pan. The filling will expand and rise, so make sure you don’t fill the pan right to the brim.

Place both pans on a lower-middle rack of your oven. Bake the cheesecake for 75 to 90 minutes, until the cake is just barely beginning to turn golden around the edges, and the top appears set. The center will still look jiggly; that’s OK. A thermometer inserted into the center should register about 160°F to 165°F.

Remove the cake from the oven, and gently lift it out of the water bath onto a rack.

Run a table knife or spatula around the edges of the pan to separate the filling from the pan; this will help keep the cheesecake from sinking.

Allow the cake to cool at room temperature, undisturbed, for 2 to 3 hours, until it’s no longer warm to the touch. Refrigerate the cake, covered, until you’re ready to serve it.

To serve, slice with a knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry. Repeat this step after every slice.

This cake is traditionally served without topping; but feel free to add your own favorite, if desired.

Now – I know many of you are itching to tell me that this isn’t a REAL New York cheesecake. It’s not Carnegie Deli’s cheesecake. Nor is it Lindy’s, nor that of the newly trendy Two Little Red Hens.

Junior’s Brooklyn cheesecake, like the borough itself, has attitude – mostly fostered by that sponge cake crust. It’s authentic to Junior’s, in Flatbush, in New York – and that’s good enough for me.

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Brooklyn-Style Cheesecake.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Julie Miller

    I have been making cheesecakes for years now and found this recipe and thought why not give it a try. I have never gone back to my other recipes. This cheesecake without a doubt is the best cheesecake I have ever tasted let alone made. I have made it for our church bake sales and then got private offers to make it for people for special occasions. The only change I made is to put Amaretto liqueur in the batter instead of vanilla. This is just a fantastic recipe and so smooth and creamy.

    Reply
  2. Maharja

    Hey there. So the cake base is technically chiffon, isn’t it? I definitely will give this kind of cheesecake a shot, with a little experiment. But before doing the experiment, I would like to receive your aproval also answers for some questions. So, I’ve seen on TV that many of junior’s cheesecakes are layered just like normal cakes, which means there can be more than one layers of cake-cheesecake. I want to sandwich the cheesecake between two chiffons. Moreover, I will steam the cake inside a stovetop steamer. I will steam two layers of chiffon using ungreased round pan lined with parchment, then cool it upside down. I want the cake base to have more straight sides, so I won’t loose the edges of the cakes. After they totally cools, I will fill one of the pan with the cheesecake batter, than put another layer of chiffon on top of the batter. After it cools, I will loose the edges then transfer it into serving plate. Because this way, I think I wont face the cracking cheesecake problem. What do you think? Will the top layer of chiffon drown into the cheesecake batter? Will it giva any sort of advantage by using steaming method? thanks in advance!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      What an interesting idea! Our bakers here think that steaming this specific recipe might not give you great results (gummy texture). If you’d like to use the steaming method, use a cake recipe that you know works well with this application, otherwise just bake the two cake layers separately. You’ll also want to bake the cheesecake layer separately to prevent the cakes from soaking up the cheesecake batter. To prevent cracking, consider baking it in a water bath and don’t over bake it; the internal temperature should reach 160-165°F when it’s done. Assemble all the layers once they’re finished. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    2. Maharja

      Well I have no idea about the possibility to bake the cheesecake layer separately. How do we assemble the layers then? In here, the type of cake that usually get steamed is oil/butter cake that relies on baking powder. So, I somehow feel that something as light as chiffon might work on that method. I insist on using chiffon because I feel that the texture and the moisture will go well together with the cheesecake. If gumminess (is that even a word?) is the issue, will covering the pan with cling wrap or tin foil prevent that from happening? If there is a possibility for the cake to soak up the cheesecake batter, by how much according to your brooklyn style cheesecake trial? Was there any obvious textural changes to the cake base? I came up with twice steam and sandwiching idea for several reasons: 1) I dont want to bother with oven bain marie 2) I want the layers stick to each other 3) I dont want doming surface on my cheesecake (because the cheesecake is sandwiched afterall) 4) I want to prevent drying of the top layer, which I feel it might be happening if baked inside oven. 5) I want to frost the cake using glacage miroir (to make it more into pattiserie style) 6) It may sounds unrealistic and annoying, but this time I dont want browning.
      I want to convert one recipe of cheesecake that has sweetened condensed milk and lime juice into dulce de leche without the lime juice. I understand that we can replace condensed milk wilk dulce de leche right away, but can I just ommit the lime juice? Or should I use water as placebo? My people dont like toothaching sweet desserts as the americans do. For most us, we feel those kind of desserts are nearly inedible. Is it possible to reduce the sweetness? By how much? If I also want to introduce salt to temper the sweetness, how much salt should be added? Here’s the recipe:
      3 250 gram packages of cream cheese, at room temperature

      1 300 mL tin sweetened condensed milk

      1 Tbsp freshly grated lime zest

      2 tsp vanilla extract

      2 large eggs, at room temperature

      1 large egg yolk, at room temperature

      ½ cup fresh lime juice

      Thanks in advance

    3. PJ Hamel, post author

      Maharja, if you include a top layer of cake, then I’d say there’s a good chance it will get gummy (and yes, gumminess is a word). Plastic wrap might protect it, though not sure how much. I didn’t notice the cake soaking up the cheesecake filling; as the filling is quite thick, it just sits atop the crust as it bake. And how about substituting brewed coffee or tea for the lime juice? Either of those flavors would marry well with dulce de leche, I think. Good luck with your cake — PJH

    4. The Baker's Hotline

      Maharja, try baking the cake and cheesecake elements separately and then assembling them once they’re cool if you’d like to have multiple layers. This will be much easier than baking all at once. Good luck! Kye@KAF

  3. Sam

    I made this for my dinner guests yesterday. I added a mixture of fresh berries macerated in a little sugar and OMG… it was heavenly. That cake base!!… it’s the best cheesecake I’ve ever eaten. A total delight. I won’t be making any other cheesecake from now on. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  4. Melanie

    I have a question: The directions fot the Brooklyn-Style Cheesecake it does not mention when to remove the spring form pan. I would appreciate some help.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Melanie, I would recommend running the spatula around the edge of the pan after it comes out of the oven, allowing the cake to cool at room temperature, and then covering well and refrigerating, with the springform pan still attached. Leaving the pan on will provide more support and protection for the cheesecake. When you plan to serve, release the edges again with a spatula and then remove the sides of the pan. Barb@KAF

  5. Nicki

    I haven’t even tried the finished product but tried the cheesecake batter and my mouth is watering- can’t wait! My 14 year old daughter wanted cheesecake without the graham cracker crust. Thank you for the walk through of the recipe!

    Reply
  6. Carol Wilkie

    I have used a 10″ spring form pan for over 30 years. Recently in using a new recipe the pan leaked. I thought I needed to buy a new one. I bought one that had a non stick finish. The cheesecake got really dark on the sides almost burnt looking. I followed the recipe that I had always used, but for the 9″ size. I had never used a non stick pan. Does that have anything to do with how the cake came out?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Carol, if the finish of your new pan is dark (as I suspect it is), and the old pan was light-colored, then that’s the issue. Dark pans bake faster than light pans. Next time, you could try reducing your oven temperature by 25° and see if that helps. Good luck – PJH

  7. preyn49

    I read over the recipe for the sponge cake and I believe there is a typo. A 1/2 cup is actually 4 ounces so that was a little confusing. I did 4 ounces not 2 and it came out fine.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Actually, 1/2 cup flour is actually 2 ounces, as the recipe indicates – not 4 ounces. Glad it worked well for you despite having double the amount of flour – speaks to its versatility! PJH

  8. Jib

    I have a Shortbread Cookie Mold!!Its Pottery but not glazed! Can II use it to bake in or is this type of mold only for molding the dough and then baking separate on a cookie Sheet! Would appreciate help

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Jib, I believe you should be able to bake in it; we sell unglazed bakeable shortbread molds, so I assume yours is bakeable, as well. To be sure, though, you’d best contact the manufacturer. Good luck – PJH

  9. LindaJOG

    Made it for my husband’s birthday. When I mixed the crust it was loose. I had to add 1/4 c of flour for it to get stiff. When I added the egg whites the flour mixture was like clay. Took forever to mix it together! Plus it tasted too salty. Loved the filling once everyone peeled the crust off.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hello Linda, it sounds like there may have been a measurement issue if your batter turned out that way. I would suggest to give our Baker’s Hotline a call if you’d like to troubleshoot. 855 371 2253 Jon@KAF

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