Wednesday, April 30, 2003


The original Blackout Cake was a 1950s-era specialty of Ebinger’s Bakery in Brooklyn, New York. What makes this cake so famous, and so fondly remembered, even today? Well, it has several differentiating characteristics: it’s multi-layer, rather than just double-layer; the layers are sandwiched around a creamy pudding-type filling, rather than icing; and the thick chocolate icing is sprinkled heavily with cake crumbs, giving the finished product a distinctly “chocolate fur” look. This cake is best eaten the day it’s assembled, but it’s easy to assemble all the parts ahead of time, at your leisure, then combine them when you’re ready.

The original Blackout Cake recipe, which we found in a number of places online, called for some very funky ingredient amounts (3/4 cup + 1 teaspoon + 1/2 teaspoon sugar? Oh, come on!) In addition, it was more complicated than it needed to be, the amounts of filling and icing were off, and the filling didn’t thicken. So—given all that—we changed it enough to make everything work, and gave it a new name to boot. But judging by the reactions of everyone who sampled it, it’s a good match for the original; the stuff chocolate cake dreams are made of.


1/2 cup (1 5/8 ounces) Dutch-process cocoa
2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
3/4 cup (6 ounces) boiling water
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) soft butter
2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour


1/2 cup (3 ounces) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) butter
3/4 cup (5 1/2 ounces) sugar
1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) milk
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cocoa (Dutch-process or natural)
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon espresso powder*
*Optional, but espresso powder, like vanilla, really accents the flavor of the chocolate.


1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter
1/3 cup (2 5/8 ounces) hot water
2 tablespoon (1 3/8 ounces) light corn syrup
2 teaspoons espresso powder (optional, but good)
2 teaspoons vanilla

CAKE: Place the cocoa and chocolate in a heatproof bowl or small saucepan. Add the boiling water, and stir until smooth. If the chocolate doesn’t completely melt, microwave or heat over low heat briefly, just until melted. Set the mixture aside to cool to lukewarm.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat the butter until light. Add the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla, and beat until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition.

Mixing at medium speed, alternately add the flour and lukewarm chocolate mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Pour the batter into two greased and floured 8-inch round pans.

BAKING: Bake the cakes in a preheated 350°F oven for 38 to 42 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean, and they’re starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove the cakes from the oven, and after 10 to 15 minutes, turn them out of the pans to cool completely on a rack.

FILLING: In a medium saucepan set over low heat, melt the chocolate and butter, then stir in the sugar. Dissolve the cornstarch in the milk, and stir this mixture into the melted chocolate along with the cocoa, salt, and espresso powder. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, rub a bit of butter over the top of the filling so it doesn’t develop a skin, and allow to cool.

ICING: In a microwave, or in a saucepan set over low heat, melt together the chocolate and butter, stirring till smooth. Remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in the remaining ingredients, stirring till smooth.

ASSEMBLY: Cut one of the cake layers across the center to make two round, thin layers. Cut about one-third off the top of the other cake layer; if it’s domed in the oven, simply cut off the dome to make a flat top.

Put one of the layers on a plate. Put strips of waxed paper or parchment under the edges, to catch any overflow of filling or icing. Spread half the filling onto the cake, add the second layer, and top with the remaining filling. Add the third layer, and use about half the icing to frost the cake, top and sides. Refrigerate the cake for 15 minutes or so, to give the icing a chance to harden. You can prepare the cake up to this point, then refrigerate overnight and serve the next day (or two days later), if desired.

Crumble the reserved piece of cake. Frost the cake with the remaining icing, then coat it with the cake crumbs, gently patting them onto the sides and sprinkling them on top. Yield: 1 cake, 12 servings.

NOTE: The only part of this cake that doesn’t keep well is the crumbs on top. Feel free to make the cake several days ahead of time, if desired; but don’t coat it with the final layer of icing, and the crumbs, until just before serving. A nice sprinkling of chocolate jimmies would be lovely in place of the crumbs, if you want to finish the cake well ahead of time.
April 29, 2003

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