Customers of Junior’s Cheesecakes & Desserts are big fans of the brand’s Original and Strawberry Swirl cheesecakes, but seasonal items are popular, too, and the team understands the importance of seasonal offerings and innovation.
“That’s part of our secret sauce, keeping the fresh bakery fresh across the country,” said owner Alan Rosen. “Our retailers need to compete.”
Much of the innovation stems from customer requests as well as responding to current trends. Some items begin in Junior’s restaurants, and then are rolled out to retail customers. But any new recipe that is being considered begins the same way.
“We have a pastry chef. We have a small mixing bowl, and we make it like you make it at home,” Mr. Rosen said. “We develop it from one recipe that can be repeated over and over again. ... The same way my grandfather developed products in 1950 is the way we do it today. We bake, we taste, we test, we make another sample. And we keep doing that until we’re happy with it.”
Mr. Rosen is the chief taste tester when new recipes are developed. He and his team try a recipe, discuss it, agree to some changes then try again. On the day Baking & Snack toured the bakery, he stopped to inspect and discuss a new cheesecake in development with a chocolate cookie crust.
And he and the rest of his team take pride in the precision that goes into all of the recipes.
“When you see a cake and it’s swirled to within a half-inch of the cake, that’s on purpose,” Mr. Rosen said. “That’s because in every bite we want you to have this flavor. We don’t do it along the edges because the cake will crack. There’s nothing worse than getting an apple crumb cheesecake or a dessert that’s supposed to have something in it, and you’re picking around trying to find it.”
The Colborne Foodbotics swirler on one of the cheesecake production lines deposits flavors throughout the cheesecake while telescoping up and down as it goes around. Jason Schwartz, company president, said innovation can be one of the most challenging aspects of the bakery, but one that’s vital to business success.
“You’ve got to take chances on some new flavors and some new ideas,” he said. “If you try something and it doesn’t work, you’ll try something else. If one or two things hit, they could be big opportunities.”
One of the new products that will be offered to retailers soon are cheese pies, which have cheesecake fillings mixed with strawberry or another flavor.
“This is something we’ve served in our restaurant for 72 years, but we never sold it in retail,” Mr. Rosen said. “We’re making an 8-inch version that’s going into retail in the next six months. I like to say we’ve been practicing for 72 years.”
While the fourth quarter is still the busiest time of the year for the bakery, the company is busy year-round, and part of that can be attributed to the seasonal flavors and specialty cakes made for all occasions.
For summer, Junior’s offers Red, White & Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake, Key Lime Cheesecake, Lemon Coconut Layer Cake and Cherry Crumb Cheesecake. There are pumpkin and apple variations in the fall, and heart-shaped cakes for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.
The bakery did not reduce SKUs during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and maintained a 100% fill rate for customers.
“We line up our production each week customer by customer,” Mr. Rosen said. “We’re not making product to go everywhere. Some of it is. But some of it is customer-
specific product. We’re a just-in-time bakery.”
And though the bakery is scaling up in volume and customers, it’s still fulfilling orders made by individuals at Junior’s restaurants for birthdays and other special occasions. Customers can specify colors and messages for just one cake.
“I don’t want to lose sight of our tradition, our heritage and where we came from,” Mr. Rosen explained.
This article is an excerpt from the June 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Junior's Cheesecakes & Desserts, click here.