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Kara's Sights & Bites: Start planning now for (some form of ) Easter cheesecake

By Kara Kimbrough


Four spring trips for ILR
Strawberries and cream cheesecake squares still say "Easter" when a full-scale cheesecake doesn't make the cut.

Easter is on the horizon and that means it’s time to start thinking about cheesecake. Some think about (and make) cheesecake all year long, but for the most part, the thick, cream cheese-laden dessert makes its annual springtime debut on the Sunday dinner table when Easter rolls around. The world-famous cheesecake served at Junior’s in New York City and at the original in Brooklyn is the best choice for Easter cheesecake (more on the recipe below). However, there are quicker versions that will produce a more-than-acceptable Easter dessert, including one I discovered last week.


   But first, a little more about Junior’s and its decadent, irresistible cheesecake. The restaurant was founded in Brooklyn by Harry Rosen in 1950. But, Rosen’s family had operated a diner in that location under a different name since 1929. Rosen decided on the Junior's in honor of his two sons, Walter and Marvin. Two more locations followed; one in Connecticut and another in New York City’s Times Square, a location I’ve now visited twice.


   After reading about the history of Junior’s in a book about New York’s most famous delis and making a version of their famous cheesecake using the book’s recipe for Easter several years ago, I was hooked. Filled with several bars of cream cheese and whipping cream on a base of sponge cake, it was simply the best cheesecake I’d ever tasted – and not because I made it. The recipe is just that good. I’ve since replaced the sponge cake bottom with Martha Stewart’s recipe for vanilla sugar cookie crust; a sturdier base for the heavy cheesecake filling.


    Visiting Junior’s in Junior’s in order to sample their famous cheesecake was one of the top things on my to-do list when I visited the city in 2019. After enjoying a mammoth pastrami sandwich, a large slice of cheesecake was placed before me. I still remember the excitement I felt as I took the first bite. It was 10 times more delicious than I’d anticipated it might be and – I don’t mind sharing – much better than my version.


   I missed the opportunity to dine at Junior’s on a nonstop, busy trip in 2021, but made sure I allotted plenty of space on my January itinerary to enjoy a meal at the legendary spot. As luck would have it, the restaurant was just a few blocks from the Hilton Times Square, the hotel at which I was staying. As a result, I was able to enjoy not one, but two meals there. But unbelievably, I never had the chance to enjoy a slice of cheesecake and here’s why.


    First, the hotel’s concierge recommended Junior’s breakfast when asked about the best places in the area. A bountiful breakfast of bacon, biscuits, bagels and unbelievably, grits that were actually delicious was the perfect carb-loading meal before a long day of walking. Cheesecake at that time of day just didn’t make sense, no matter how tempting it looked on the menu.


    Then, my last dinner in the city before flying home the next day was enjoyed at Junior’s. Despite my plans, I decided combining a rich slice of cheesecake with the gigantic pastrami sandwich I’d eaten might not be the best plan before boarding a plane. In hindsight, I think I would’ve been fine and yes, I regret not ordering that slice of cheesecake when I had the chance. As I said, the homemade version, even when topped with strawberries and glaze, just doesn’t come close to the original.


   So, looks like I'm going to be FORCED to return to NYC soon to satisfy my longing for Junior’s cheesecake.


   In the meantime, email me and I’ll send you Junior’s cheesecake recipe, along with the one of the sugar cookie crust. There are some versions online, but mine is taken directly from Junior’s cookbook.


   If making time-intensive cheesecake isn’t something to which you can devote the needed time during Easter weekend, here’s a shortcut version of a cheesecake-like dessert that, despite its crust of crescent roll dough, is surprisingly tasty. Just don’t reveal the secret ingredient when someone asks how you made it. Crescent roll dough doesn’t sound very impressive, but it adapts well to recipes and just like Junior’s cheesecake, is uniquely delicious in its own way.


Strawberries and Cream Cheesecake Squares Can of crescent rolls

2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

Cinnamon sugar coating:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cinnamon


Strawberries and cream topping:

2-3 cups sliced strawberries (add sugar and place in refrigerator)

3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk   


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out crescent dough on floured surface. Mix cinnamon and sugar together for coating.   On a parchment paper lined baking dish (8x8 is best, but you can use a similar size) sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture.   Cut crescent roll dough in half. Use one half for the bottom. Other half will be for top. Mix cream cheese, egg, vanilla and sugar together until smooth. Then add to dough in the baking dish.


   Add second half of dough on top of the cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture on top. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.   Allow to cool for at least 1-2 hours. Then refrigerate until chilled. Top with fresh strawberries and drizzle with sweetened condensed milk for the “strawberries and cream” flavor.


    Note: increase pan size to 9x13 if needed, but an extra can of crescent dough will be needed. Cheesecake layer will be thinner (but still good) unless you increase the filling ingredients.


Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer and travel agent from Mississippi. Email her at kkprco@yahoo.com.





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