I always believe that you can get to know a city by eating your way through it. While researching Before the Flood, I got to know quite a few lost treasures of the Big Apple. One of these featured in the novel is Lydie’s birthday cake: the legendary Brooklyn Blackout Cake. Lydie never passes up a good piece of cake and neither can I.
The Brooklyn Blackout Cake was made famous by Edinger’s Bakery in Brooklyn, New York. It was a favorite hostess gift, a beloved birthday cake, and a holiday staple of yore. Ebinger’s signature green box tied with string evoked memories of anticipation and joy to those who knew it. Legend has it that the Blackout Cake was coined from blackout drills in Brooklyn during World War II.
The recipe posted on Politico’s article (http://politi.co/2gdDULd) is not the exact recipe from Ebinger’s (the bakery closed years ago and they took their trade secret with them) but according to the article, it does pass muster with those who knew the cake from its heyday. It’s a full on chocolate experience. These are my notes from testing.
Make no mistake, chocolate is the star of this cake in all its glory. The recipe calls for the best chocolate you can get because it is front and center. With a devil’s food cake, cooked chocolate pudding filling, and an intense bittersweet frosting traditionally topped with a crumb coating, this is chocolate upon chocolate with more chocolate. The recipe is labor intensive with many steps, but they are worth it.
Let’s start with the chocolate pudding filling. This is now perhaps now one of my favorites. My grandmother used to make stove-top chocolate pudding when I was a child, and this takes me right back to hers. I could have eaten the entire bowl of it had I not needed it for the cake. The only suggestion I would make after trying it is to perhaps make more. First because you are going to want “sample” it while you are waiting for the cake to bake, and second because I found that perhaps a bit more could be used in between the layers. I tend to like more filling in my cake. That’s up to you. The cornstarch paste/slurry gives it the thickening it needs. Be sure to place your cling-wrap directly on top of the pudding to ensure a film doesn’t form. It sets up and thickens more in the fridge.
The batter for this cake is time-consuming with many steps, but not essentially difficult if you bake regularly. Prepare to spend some time on this batter as this isn’t your boxed cake mix variety. If you aren’t familiar with whipping egg whites and folding them into a batter, then you might want to think twice.
When the batter is finished, it will have a mousse like consistency. Indeed, you might be tempted to eat it straight as is. I divvied it out between the two pans using a measuring cup to make sure the layers were even. As an aside, I dust my pans with cocoa powder instead of flour. I just like it on a chocolate cake, but you can use flour that the recipe calls for.. Do not over-bake. I baked mine for 40 minutes, but your oven might be different. The pudding filling definitely helps to keep this cake luscious and moist.
On the layering: the cake calls for three layers with the fourth reserved for the signature crumb coating. I filled the layers, covered the cake, and set it in the fridge overnight to let the cake set up a bit. My top layer wanted to slide a bit, so I decided to cooling it the fridge would help it to set. As recommended in the article, you can use toothpicks or help from sliding.
The frosting reminded me more of a ganache with the corn syrup added in to give it a firmer consistency. It won’t harden as much as say Magic Shell will. It’s more like Boston Creme Pie frosting consistency. I used a seventy percent cacao bittersweet chocolate that reminds me more of European cakes that tend to be a bit less sweet.
This classic NYC cake is a show stopper. I would definitely make this for the holidays or a really special occasion. There are a few bakeries in New York that make a version of the Blackout, but if you aren’t near NYC and want an intense chocolate cake, try this one. It reminded me of being in some of my favorite European bakeries. I would even consider shaving some chocolate curls on the top if you don’t want the crumb coating, but that might deviate from the original nostalgia. It’s possible to make more of the filling and use it as a frosting.
Pros: intense chocolate experience, solid cake, intense flavor, pudding is a must have on its own
Cons: labor intensive, can be expensive depending on how dear the chocolate is
If you have any memories of the Blackout Cake or have made it, please feel free to drop me a line!