Cake Walk

Brooklyn Blackout Cake

October 12, 2016

From the time it opened in its first unit in 1898 until the last Ebinger’s Bakery turned out its lights in 1972, the Brooklyn bakery chain was known for this dark chocolate cake.  This recipe is answer to multiple requests for it and comes to us compliments of Chicago-based chef and baker, Gale Gand.  As Gale puts it, “Ebingers was renowned for the purity of its ingredients, the sparkling cleanliness of its stores, and the deep chocolatey-ness of this cake.”  Long after the last Ebinger’s finally closed Gand says devotees kept Blackout Cakes in their freezers. “I mean, for years!” she laughs.

Recreating the cake, Gand didn’t have access to one of these freezer fossils. Instead, she relied on the taste-memories of Ebinger’s fans who grew up in Brooklyn. Gand included this group as her taste-panel.  Says Gand, “They were a tough crowd, but they told us we finally got it right. The custard filling is finally the perfect deep, velvety, very, very, dark brown.”

Brooklyn Blackout Cake
Serves 12
This dark-chocolate cake was a legendary favorite from Brooklyn's Ebinger bakery chain from 1898 until the bakery went bankrupt in 1972. Gald Gand recreated the recipe.
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  1. Cake Ingredients
  2. 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened at room temperature
  3. 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  4. 2 cups sugar
  5. 3 eggs
  6. 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  7. 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  8. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  9. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  10. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  11. 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  12. 1 cup whole, 2% fat, or 1% fat milk
  13. Custard Ingredients
  14. 3 cups water
  15. 2 1/2 cups sugar
  16. 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  17. 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  18. Scant 2/3 cup cornstarch
  19. 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  20. 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Instructions
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Cut 2 circles of parchment paper or waxed paper to fit the bottoms of the pans, then press them in. Butter and flour over the parchment.
  4. In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream the butter and shortening together. Add the sugar and mix until light and fluffy. One by one, add the eggs, mixing after each addition. With the mixer running at low speed, add the vanilla, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix. With the mixer running at low speed, add about 1/3 of the cake flour, then about 1/3 of the milk, and mix. Repeat with the remaining cake flour and milk and mix.
  5. Pour into the prepared pans and bake until dry and springy to the touch and until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean (a few crumbs are OK), 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks and let cool completely to room temperature.
  6. Using a long, serrated-edged knife, cut the cake layers horizontally in half.LRF note: I slipped waxed paper between layers to make it easier to move and stack these when filling/frosting the cake. Reserving 3 halves for the cake, put the remaining half in a food processor, breaking it up with your hands. Pulse into fine crumbs. (You can also crumble by hand.) LRF Note: I toasted the crumbs in the oven at 300 until they were dry, and then crushed with rolling pin for more uniform, crunchy texture.
  7. Meanwhile, make the custard: Pour 2 1/2 cups of the water, the sugar, corn syrup and cocoa powder into a large nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally. Watch carefully–once it reaches boiling the mixture will volumize quickly and you don’t want it to spill over.
  8. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup of water and the cornstarch. Whisk into the cocoa mixture in the saucepan and return the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly.
  9. Cook, whisking constantly, until very thick, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Pour into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill until firm, about 45 minutes.
  10. To finish the cake, place a cake layer on a cake plate or serving platter (reserving the most even layer for the top) and spread with cooled custard. Top with another layer of cake, then custard, then one more layer of cake. Cover the top and sides of the cake with the remaining custard. Coat the cake with the cake crumbs. Chill until ready to serve, at least 2 hours. Serve the same day.
  1. Gale Gand says, “You can tell this is a commercial baking recipe by the vegetable shortening, which is often combined with butter to keep costs down and quality high. It’s responsible for the cake’s light crumb. Blackout Cake is best made all in one shot, and served the same day it is made.”
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