Although the blast freezers at Junior’s Cheesecakes & Desserts, Burlington, NJ, are often full of products, they don’t stick around for long.
“The good news is cheesecake freezes really well because of how we make it,” said owner Alan Rosen. “If you let it get to room temperature, it’s just as creamy and rich as if it just came out of your oven. When I take them home, I leave them out on the counter all weekend. That’s me. So the key to enjoying a good cheesecake is room temperature.”
The bakery employs four FoodTools slicing machines for the 10-inch cakes sold for customers who sell cakes by the slice, placing paper dividers between slices for easy serving later.
Before being packaged on one of five lines, frozen cheesecakes are sent through one of two short tunnel ovens, which are Middleby Marshall and XLT pizza ovens, in order to help with easy depanning. Jason Schwartz, Junior’s president, explained that one of them was left in the building when the company bought it, and the bakery bought another for this task.
Workers depan the cakes and place them on a disc for packaging. The cakes are collared with a cardboard sleeve before going into boxes.
“It’s a window box because that homemade feel that we just showed you in the baking process, people can see on the cakes,” Mr. Rosen said. “The reason we collar it is because a lot of retailers like to stand it up, so that way the cake won’t hit the front of the box.”
A Delkor box forming machine feeds two packaging lines with Junior’s signature orange-and-white-striped boxes. On this day, the 6-inch cakes are packaged in the boxes with a window on top. The box former makes the boxes and glues them before they go down the line. The bakery has five packaging lines, putting cakes in either boxes or in clear-domed plastic, and each line is equipped with Shanklin sealing machines and heat tunnels.
Once the cakes are packaged, they receive stickers identifying the product, nutrition information and batch numbers.
On another line, cartons are being folded by hand before being loaded with the finished product. Another features a White Chocolate Raspberry going into clear domes. All of the cakes are run through either a Safeline, Fortress or Mettler-Toledo metal detector before being hand-packed together in corrugated boxes. And at the end of the line is a Lantech pallet wrapper.
The company’s Little Fellas are packaged in nine-count tearaway boxes that can be displayed in retail stores. Little Fellas are produced during the overnight shift along with Minis, which are 1.5-oz snack-sized cheesecakes. The Minis are packaged in 12-count boxes for retail and 24-count for club stores.
The company will soon have four new Fanuc robotic arms up and running to package Little Fellas. This will allow the bakery to put up to four different varieties in one box.
The decorating and frosting are done mostly by hand. However, along one side of the room is an automated Unifiller cake line, which the bakery installed a year ago.
During Baking & Snack’s visit, Italian cream cakes were being assembled. Workers placed two layers of the yellow cakes with walnuts side-by-side on the production line. Frosting is deposited on one side, then the second half of the cake is placed on top by an employee. The cake goes down the line, and the frosting is deposited on the top and sides of the cake, then a bit of touch-up work can be done manually as needed. Before it’s finished with coconut around the sides, an Apex Motion Control Baker-Bot pipes icing swirls around the top edges of the cake.
“They can mirror anything a human can do,” Mr. Rosen said of the Baker-Bot.
It is a versatile piece of equipment that can handle a variety of different applications and finished patterns like stripes or dots. A Unifiller enrobing machine covers cakes in chocolate ganache. A large part of the room on this day is filled with workers piping on whipped cream and putting sprinkles on heart-shaped cakes.
One Topos Mondial and four Hobart mixers are used to make all the creams and frostings for the cakes, including butter cream, whipped cream, chocolate fudge and more.
“We don’t hold anything over,” Mr. Rosen explains. “It goes from the mixer right onto the cake.”
It’s also where the specialty cakes are assembled, which can take some effort. Take the 12-lb Skyscraper Devil’s Food, for instance.
“We put a chocolate cake on the bottom, then a layer of fudge, push the cheesecake down into the ring, then another layer of fudge, another layer of cake, another layer of fudge, another layer of cake. Push that down with a stamper. Then we freeze it,” Mr. Rosen explained. “We blowtorch the ring, slide the ring off and frost the outside. We finish with the crumbs and the chips.”
Building 4 is where the cakes that are not cheesecakes are baked. This includes the layer cakes as well as the ones sliced horizontally for the cheesecake bases. A Topos Mondial mixer handles the cake batter mixing, and a Unifiller line is used for greasing the pans and depositing the batter. Two Gemini rack ovens and three Reed ovens in this area bake the cakes.
“They’re making chocolate cake right now,” Mr. Schwartz said. “Today is a chocolate day. We try to make the same cake all day long so less changeover.”
For the cheesecake bottoms, the cooled cakes run through Krumbein cutting machines. One cake provides five ¼-inch cheesecake bases, and the domes are used as crumb toppings.
“When we started, we did this on a deli slicer,” Mr. Rosen said. “I’m talking about when we were baking them above the restaurant.”
Mr. Rosen said the bakery is at about 40% to 50% capacity at this point. He’s eyeing more automation for packaging for his next investment and is optimistic despite inflation concerns.
The bakery raised prices 3% to 5% recently although costs for raw ingredients are up by double digits. Increasing volume, working smarter and ensuring that nothing is wasted is all part of the plan to keep costs manageable. And the bakery is staying vigilant in the wake of supply chain problems.
“We’re going to keep our eyes on it,” Mr. Rosen said. “We’re buying plastic in the summer that we’re going to use in the fourth quarter. That’s a lot of cash to keep on the floor, but we do it because you can’t put a cake in nothing. You’ve got to put it in a plastic dome or a corrugated box. We’re way out in front on packaging.”
He plans to continue along the path of organic growth, holding onto tradition by sticking with that 72-year-old cheesecake recipe while seeking out new formats for it. He runs on the philosophy that the bakery is only as good as its last cake, so he and his team members need to stay on their game.“I don’t think we’re ever going to be the biggest bakery around,” he said, “but I want to be the best.”
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.