If you want to see a Brooklynite’s eyes well with tears of nostalgia, said Jeremy Sauer in Cook’s Country, mention the Dodgers or Ebinger’s Chocolate Blackout Cake. The Dodgers left Ebbets Field for good in 1957, never to return. The borough went into mourning a second time on Aug. 27, 1972, when the Brooklyn-based Ebinger bakery chain closed its doors. Tragically, none of Ebinger’s recipes was saved—not even the one for Ebinger’s most famous confection, the Chocolate Blackout Cake, a marriage of “fudgy, dark chocolate layers with a rich, creamy chocolate pudding.”
Over the years, various cookbook authors and “Brooklyn grandmothers” have tried to re-create this “forerunner of ‘death by chocolate’ confections.” What all those attempts had in common were “long ingredient lists and complicated cooking techniques.” After sifting through a folder filled with purported recipes for Chocolate Blackout Cake, and failing in my own earlier attempts, I finally created a simpler, easier version. It combines rich chocolate flavor with “the subtleties of the cocoa.” One bite and you’ll understand why, 35 years after Ebinger’s closed, “Brooklynites still talk about this cake.”
Recipe of the week
Chocolate Blackout Cake
Give the pudding and the cake enough time to cool or you’ll end up with runny pudding and gummy cake.
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup whole milk
6 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 tsp vanilla extract
8 tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick), plus extra for greasing pans
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting pans
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup strong black coffee
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the pudding: Whisk sugar, cornstarch, salt, half-and-half, and milk in large saucepan. Set pan over medium heat. Add chocolate and whisk constantly until chocolate melts and mixture begins to bubble, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in vanilla and transfer pudding to large bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of pudding and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.
For the cake layers: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in cocoa and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in coffee, buttermilk, and sugars until dissolved. Whisk in eggs and vanilla, then slowly whisk in flour mixture. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool layers in pans 15 minutes, then invert onto wire rack. Cool to room temperature, at least 1 hour.
To assemble the cake: Cut each cake in half horizontally. Crumble one cake layer into medium crumbs and set aside. Place one cake layer on serving platter or cardboard round. Spread 1 cup pudding over cake layer and top with another layer. Repeat with 1 cup pudding and last cake layer. Spread remaining pudding evenly over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle cake crumbs evenly over top and sides of cake, pressing lightly so crumbs adhere. Serve. (Cake can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.) Serves 10 to 12.