Chocolate Fudge “Blackout Cake”: our take on a Brooklyn legend

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Chocolate cake.

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Yeah, chocolate cake.

If those words (and this picture) don’t cause a significant uptick in your baking adrenaline, then you might as well stop reading right now.

Because you’re simply not a chocolate cake fan. And this post is ALL about chocolate cake. In fact, it’s about one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever made.

Just ask my family; the guys at the auto shop, and the volunteers at our local nature preserve. Each and every one of my impromptu taste testers said, “Oh, man, this is THE BEST chocolate cake I’ve ever had!”

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Now given, these folks aren’t professional foodies; they’re normal people, people whose palates aren’t honed to perfection. Most would probably just as gladly down a Twinkie as tiramisu.

Still, they’re all regular recipients of my baking abundance. And as such, they’ve tasted some pretty darned good stuff. Just ask them about the chewy chocolate chip cookie bars sometime.

But this chocolate cake? Epic success.

And it all came about because I decided a recipe on our site needed updating…

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This recipe was born years ago. And, like many of us in the same boat, it needed some sprucing up. My main goal for baking the cake was to shoot a new photo; but as I got into it, I found all kinds of things I wanted to try.

Substituting Cake Enhancer for the ClearJel or cornstarch, for one. Cake Enhancer is a relatively new product, and works a bit better in cake than either of the two starches previously called for, in my opinion.

I love the Double Dutch cocoa blend this recipe originally called for, but Cocoa Rouge is a new favorite, as well; it adds a pleasing hint of deep red to chocolate cake and cookies, as well as rich flavor.

And espresso powder – seldom do I bake a chocolate recipe these days without adding anything from a pinch to a couple of teaspoons of espresso powder, an all-purpose chocolate flavor enhancer.

Then there was that filling… readers had noted that the current size can of Chocolate Schmear we sell is smaller than the can called for in the recipe; it just wasn’t working anymore.

So I thought, well, ganache is certainly the same consistency as Schmear, so why not substitute?

For the icing, yes. But the more I looked at photos of Chocolate Blackout Cake online, the more convinced I was that the filling needed to be different than the icing; in fact, it shouldn’t be icing at all, but pudding. Chocolate fudge pudding.

No, not Jell-O. Quick Pots de Crême. I can do that.

Anyway, I make no claim to this recipe assiduously following the ingredients and technique of the original Chocolate Blackout Cake, a cake made famous by Brooklyn’s Ebinger’s Bakery, and beloved by New Yorkers everywhere.

But I do hew to the spirit of that lost but not forgotten icon: a moist layer cake, filled with pudding, coated with icing, and smothered in cake crumbs.

And all of it chocolate, chocolate, CHOCOLATE.

Ready to add another chocolate cake to your recipe repertoire? Give this one a (chocolate) shot. While the steps below may seem numerous, none of them demands any particular skill – other than the ability to read and follow directions!

Let’s start with those pots de crême. Only we’re not filling individual pots – we’re turning this classic dessert into cake filling.

blackoutpuddingPut the following in a food processor or blender:

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder, optional; for enhanced chocolate flavor

Pulse until finely ground. Add 1 large egg, which you’ve brought to room temperature. Don’t want to wait? Submerge the egg in a glass of hot tap water for 10 minutes.

Pulse just until the mixture is fairly smooth.

Heat 1 cup heavy or whipping cream to just below a boil, with small bubbles forming around the edge of the saucepan (or microwave-safe bowl). Turn on the blender or processor, and slowly add the cream. Scrape down the sides of the container if necessary. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and pulse to blend.

Pour the pudding into a shallow bowl, and refrigerate it until chilled and thickened, 2 hours to overnight.

IMG_4949Or, try what I did: line an 8″ round cake pan with greased parchment, and pour the pudding atop the parchment. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

One caveat – if you only have two 8″ round cake pans, don’t try this; you’ll need both for the cake.

Next: the cake.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 8″ x 2″ round cake pans. Line them with 8″ parchment rounds, if desired, and grease the parchment; this step will ensure your cake’s crumble-free turnout from the pan.

IMG_4938Here they are: some of the updated ingredients I mentioned. That’s Cake Enhancer in front. Let’s put them to work. Whisk together the following in a large bowl:

2 cups sugar
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 tablespoons Cake Enhancer, Instant ClearJel, or cornstarch
3/4 cup (2 1/4 ounces) Double Dutch Cocoa Blend, Cocoa Rouge, or Dutch-process cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional; for enhanced chocolate flavor

blackout1Add 4 large eggs, 3/4 cup oil, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl.

Stir in the water; the batter will be thin.

IMG_4927Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl again, and beat until smooth.

See the thick chocolate “gunk”? This is why you “scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.”

blackout2Pour the batter into the prepared pans. It’s easy to divide the batter evenly between the pans when you use a scale.

blackout3Bake the cakes for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

The picture at left shows the cake when it’s not quite ready; see that ring of puckered, soft dough in the center? At right, the puckering has started to disappear; and when I stuck a toothpick into the center, it came out clean.

Remove the cakes from the oven. Cool them for 15 minutes, then turn them out of the pans to cool completely on a rack.

Since the ganache icing needs to cool for 30 minutes or so, we’ll make that next.

blackout7Combine the following in a microwave-safe bowl or in a saucepan:

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips or chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
3/4 cup heavy or whipping cream

Heat until the cream is steaming and showing small bubbles around the edge.

Remove the chocolate/cream from the microwave or burner, and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture becomes completely smooth, with no lighter areas remaining visible.

Refrigerate the ganache for 30 minutes.

IMG_4946Cut the domed tops off both cake layers; these will become your crumb coating, so hide them somewhere where they won’t get scarfed up by your “little helpers.”

blackout5To assemble the cake: Place one layer on a serving plate. For best presentation, lay strips of parchment around the edge of the plate before setting the cake on top; these will catch the inevitable icing drips, and can be removed once you’re done icing the cake.

Top the cake with the filling, spreading it evenly to the edges. Center the second layer of cake atop the filling.

IMG_5001Now, it you poured the filling into an 8″ round cake pan, you should be able to center it over the cake, tap the pan to release the filling/parchment, then peel off the parchment.

That was my theory, anyway. The implementation was something else again. I thought the filling, with the aid of the parchment, would just sliiiiiiide on out, right onto the cake.

Wrong.

It stuck. I shook the pan. Nothing. I shook harder. PLOP.

Unfortunately, by that time the pan was no longer centered over the cake. So after peeling off the parchment, I had to take a spatula and noodge and spread the filling from its precarious overhang on one side of the cake, to the bare edge of cake on the other side.

IMG_5004All’s well that ends well, right? And frosting, as always, can hide a multitude of cake-baking sins.

Now, back to that ganache.

blackout8Beat the chilled ganache briefly, until it thickens a bit and becomes spreadable; this only took me about 30 seconds at high speed of my KitchenAid.

Spread the icing over the top and onto the sides of the cake. Crumble the reserved cake, and gently press it onto the top and sides of the assembled cake.

Serve immediately, if desired.

IMG_5069However, an hour or so in the fridge helps set the filling, making the cake easier to slice cleanly.

See how neat and tidy the serving plate is once you pull away those parchment strips?

This cake is best served the same day it’s made, or within 24 hours. Freeze, well-wrapped, for longer storage. You may also choose to freeze individual slices – for those times when you HAVE to have a piece of chocolate cake!

IMG_5064In this late afternoon slant of light, you can really see the red from the Cocoa Rouge, can’t you?

So: soft (yet firm enough to slice) filling; fudge-like ganache icing; the cake itself, with its moist crumb and wonderful chocolate flavor; and those soft crumbs pressed over everything… well, it’s not surprising everyone loves this distinctive cake.

And, while it takes quite a few (simple) steps to make it, trust me; it’s worth every one.

Please bake, rate, and review our recipe for Chocolate Fudge “Blackout” Cake.

Print just the recipe.

 

 

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Lorraine Fina Stevenski

    Thanks for the memories! My Aunt from Brooklyn brought Ebinger’s Blackout Cake to many Sunday dinner gatherings to my Mom’s house on Long Island. The arrival of that big white box simply tied with a thin white and red string was so exciting to us all. So many years ago…but I still remember that cake was absolutely the best dessert ever. The crumbs were almost dust-like and the cake was melt in your mouth. Then the filling was so purely chocolatey (a word?) that even after we ate our huge Italian dinner we still devoured every single slice of that cake. I’ll bet the cake cost less than $5 at that time! Too bad Ebinger’s is no longer in business. PJ…I look forward to baking your version and revisiting those memories. Thanks again for a great recipe.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Lorraine, thanks so much for your input – so valuable from someone who’s actually tasted a “real” Blackout cake!From your description, I fear I was too heavy handed with the crumbs on the frosting; let me know what you think, OK? I’ll look forward to hearing from you again – PJH

    2. JL

      Grew up in Brooklyn a few blocks from Ebingers & always remember this cake. I agree the crumb was finer than in the photos here, but they were definitely crumbs rather than a “dusting.” (now it’s the baker’s preference.)
      if memory serves me, the blackout cake was created by one of Ebinger’s bakers named Jacobi. Jacobi eventually left Ebingers & started his own bakery featuring his signature blackout cake. he began producing it commercially for sale at supermarkets (NYC Boroughs & LI.) That didn’t last too long.
      Maybe he went too big too fast, but it’s definitely too bad.
      BTW, I found a knock-off of the blackout cake at one of the big box stores a few years ago. It was merely a crumb covered sheet cake, no layers and despite claims on the box it was in no way authentic. The proof; served it for dessert after Christmas dinner and there were leftovers. Anyone who’s had the real blackout knows that never happens.

  2. RSM

    PJ, you might want to add HOW MUCH water to the above, I had to go to the real recipe to figure out what water you were talking about adding. Cake looks gorgeous.

    Reply
  3. Anne

    Ooooh, NOT fair PJ!

    I just packed the majority of my baking things and more are being packed this week so I can move. I already wanted to bake spice cake, and now I want to do this as well. NOT nice. :)

    Out of curiousity, how do you think this would do as filled cupcakes?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Anne, something to look forward to after the move, for sure! I think this recipe would do just fine as cupcakes – and that’s a smashing idea. Go for it, and let us know how they turn out, OK? In the meantime – good luck in your new home. PJH

    2. JL

      Cupcakes sound gr8. I would cut off the rounded tops to use as the crumbs, invert the cupcakes & then ice & crumb coat the entire upside down cupcake, like little individual blackouts :)

  4. Elizabeth Higginbotham

    Loved reading your post. My chocolate-loving son is graduating in May, and I might just have to make this for him then. Maybe a practice run is needed…

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Good luck! This is certainly a cake worthy of a celebration and no doubt a crowd-pleaser as well! Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

    2. PJ Hamel , post author

      Elizabeth, I highly suggest a trial run, so you can tweak the recipe how you like – and of course, LOTS of taste-testing will be the added bonus! :) PJH

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Rosie, there are no baking sins. And no Baking Police. And no baking moral high ground. Each of us should do whatever makes us (and our family and friends) the happiest, right? Go for it! PJH

    2. rosie

      PJ,
      I should have put quotes around “sin” with a smiley face after. I was just thinking outside the box a little.

    3. PJ Hamel , post author

      Always think outside the box, Rosie! You never know where those flights of fancy will lead you. Right now, I’m imagining how to add more vanilla flavor to a plain, unfrosted vanilla cake. Brush with a water/vanilla glaze just prior to pulling out of the oven? I don’t really want to add sugar, but maybe just the merest touch along with the water… so much fun to contemplate these things, isn’t it? :) PJH

    4. wendyb964

      Oh, what a wicked good idea! I might cut the layers in half, use raspberry filling on those split layers and then the chocolate pudding/pot de crème filling for the center-most layer. I only have Valrhona cocoa powder so will use it even though not sure if dutched or not. Yummm. Ty to all.

    5. Karen Nelson

      This is the best chocolate cake. ever. in the history of the world. The only thing that didn’t work was the crumbling of the domes. After I cut them off they were so moist and delicious, that I knew to crumble them wouldn’t work. I tried drying them out in a low oven for about 30 minutes, but they still didn’t really crumble. Nevertheless, this cake is CRAZY GOOD!

  5. JuliaJ

    Is the original recipe using Chocolate Schmear still online? This version sounds more yummy but opening more than one can of Chocolate Schmear and finding uses for the leftover (yum!) wouldn’t be a problem in my house! (I don’t remember the original size of the Chocolate Schmear can so if that version is re-posted, please add a note on quantities.) Thank you!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sorry, Julia, the recipe’s no longer available; I looked for an older version, and couldn’t find it. As I recall, the can of Schmear was mixed with enough cream to make it spreadable, then it was used as both filling and icing. With a bit of simple experimentation, I’d bet you can make it work. Good luck – and enjoy! PJH

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      The heat of the simmering cream is sufficient to cook the eggs, Fran. Once it chills, it thickens nicely. PJH

  6. Paule-Marie

    Oh my goodness. Can’t wait to make this for my quilt guild. They will probably throw me out of the church hall where we hold the meeting for the pure sinfulness of the cake. They are my guinea pigs for my baking and cooking since it’s only two of us at home.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I bet they are some lucky recipients Paule-Marie! Enjoy this recipe! Elisabeth@KAF

  7. "meg krantz"

    I’ve recently discovered a love of the square cake. So easy to slice into beautiful thin (or thick!) slices. I use 3 8″ square pans instead of 3 9″ round. But – what to do with a recipe that calls for 2 8″ rounds?

    Reply
  8. DE

    From the same Brooklyn neighborhood, from the same era, does anyone have a recipe for a “7 Layer Cake”? I remember it as a small, rectangular layered cake with very thin vanilla cake layers, mocha frosting between, and dark chocolate ganache on the outside, It, along with the Ebinger’s Blackout Cake were my childhood favorites. We have been trying to reproduce this cake and have not been successful. Any help?

    Reply
  9. Judy

    I’m in the process of making this right now and do not know how the filling gets thick enough to use. It has no thickeners in it. Hope it works. Will be a lot of trouble if not!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Judy, I hope you are now enjoying your cake. The chocolate and the egg thickened your cake’s filling.~Jaydl@KAF

  10. Judy

    As I said earlier the filling did not set up after five hours, so took it out of refrigerator put in a pan added 2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with some of the chocolate mixture, whisked until smooth added to rest of choclate mixture cooked until came to a boil(yes it did lump but was easily whisked smooth) put back in refrigerator about 30 minutes, added 1 tablespoon vanilla whisked until smooth and put between layers worked perfectly!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Judy, congratulations on your resourcefulness! Sometimes, due to variations in the way all of us bake (and in our kitchens), recipes need a bit of personal tweaking; I’m glad you were able to rescue the filling and I hope you enjoyed the cake. :) PJH

  11. Johna191

    Can you add a Blackberry template? This web page is tricky to read otherwise for those of us browsing with cell phones. Otherwise, in the event you can place a RSS link up, that would be good also. ecegkbdgddck

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thank you for letting us know of your concerns and I will be sure to pass along your recommendation to the right people. Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  12. Leslie

    PJ – when I read your description of the Blackout Cake I knew it would work perfectly for my daughter-in-law’s birthday cake. Luckily, I had time to order the espresso, cake enhancer, and Cocoa Rouge (LOVE that name!). I followed the directions exactly and the cake was SUPERB!! It definitely satiated every craving for chocolate we’ve had … WOWZER! I’ll make that cake again!
    I really enjoy reading your recipe blog posts.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Leslie, your DIL has a thoughtful MIL for sure! I’m glad the cake turned out the way you’d hoped. I love the recipe; as you say, it’s definitely something to make again. Thanks for sharing here – PJH

  13. Robin Birnbaum

    After several attempts with other recipes I was thrilled to see your updated one. I had so much trouble with the cream filling prior to making yours. I have a friend waxing nostalgia for his hometown of Brooklyn, so all attempts were for him. I’ve copied his e-mail to show the results.

    The Black Out cake is almost completely eaten now.
    Delicious!!!!
    In recognition of your feat of having replicated so authentically a now extinct Ebinger’s bakery Brooklyn tradition and on behalf of Brooklynites everywhere, including Barbara Streisand and Billy Joel + Steven Spielberg, I now designate you to be an honorary Brooklynite. This status entitles you to an egg cream drink the next time you come to our house.
    With much appreciation,
    Ken

    Thank you, P.J! Love, love love KAF.

    Reply
  14. Noorein

    Hi, I just love the entire post and beautiful collection of. And I make sure to visit your site often.I would like to thank you for sharing this information.
    Noorein

    Reply

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