Blackout Cake from Ebinger’s

This Brooklyn blackout cake, like the original from Ebinger's in Brooklyn, is easy and, more importantly, magnificently delicious. Certain to fix your chocolate fix.

Blackout Cake Recipe

When I was a kid, my family spent summers at my grandfather’s house in Brooklyn, New York. My mom was a great baker but never baked in the summer. She didn’t have to—she had Ebinger’s Bakery. It was just a few blocks away and sold blueberry crumb pies, lemon meringue tarts, and Parker House rolls that were just as good as homemade. And for company dinners, there was Ebinger’s special chocolate blackout cake. It had three layers of chocolate cake, a creamy chocolate filling, and was covered with thick fudge frosting and chocolate cake crumbs. Ebinger’s is long gone, but the cake recipe has appeared now and again in publications. My “new and improved” blackout cake has the same pudding-like filling, though I made it slightly thicker so it stays firmly in place between the cake layers. This dark chocolate cake also has the same tender texture, but unlike many such cakes, it’s easy to mix and doesn’t require beating the egg yolks and whites separately. The best thing? You never have to wait for company dinners to enjoy this cake. It’s yours for the baking. Originally published April 12, 2010.Elinor Klivans

Brooklyn Blackout Cake Recipe

Blackout Cake Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 2 H
  • 3 H, 40 M
  • Serves 12

Ingredients

  • For the filling
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For the cake
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • For the frosting
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water, 88°F to 90°F (31°C to 32°C)
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  • Make the filling
  • 1. In a medium saucepan, heat the cocoa powder, hot water, sugar, and chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly until the cocoa powder dissolves and the chocolate melts. Add the dissolved cornstarch and the salt, increase the heat to medium-high, and boil gently for 1 minute, stirring constantly, especially where the sides and bottom of the pan meet.
  • 2. Remove the pan from the heat, add the butter and vanilla, and stir until the butter melts. Pour the filling into a bowl and press plastic wrap onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until the filling thickens, at least 5 hours or up to overnight. It should be the consistency of soft pudding.
  • Make the cake
  • 3. Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter the bottom and sides of two 9-in round cake pans with 1 3/4- to 2-inch sides. Line the bottoms with parchment paper and butter the paper.
  • 4. Place the chocolate, cocoa powder, and milk in a heatproof bowl (or the top of a double boiler) and place it over, but not touching, barely simmering water in a saucepan (or the bottom of the double boiler). Stir until the chocolate is melted, the cocoa powder dissolves, and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool to lukewarm.
  • 5. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.
  • 6. In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed beat the butter and sugar until light in color and smooth, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Add 2 of the eggs and mix until each incorporated. Add the remaining 2 eggs and the vanilla and mix until incorporated. Beat for 1 minute more. Reduce the speed to low and mix in the cooled chocolate mixture until blended and smooth. Add the flour mixture, mixing just until the flour is incorporated and the batter looks smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.
  • 7. Bake just until the tops of the cakes feel firm when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Use a small, sharp knife to loosen each cake from the sides of the pan, and invert each cake onto a wire rack. Carefully remove the paper and place it loosely on the cake. Let the cake layers cool thoroughly, then discard the paper.
  • Make the frosting
  • 8. Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl (or the top of a double boiler) and place it over, but not touching, barely simmering water in a saucepan (or the bottom of the double boiler). Stir until the chocolate and butter are melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly. Check with your fingertips that the temperature of the lukewarm water feels similar to that of the chocolate. (It should be 88°F to 90°F (31°C to 32°C) when measured with an instant-read thermometer.)
  • 9. Add the lukewarm water all at once to the chocolate mixture and gently whisk until the frosting is smooth. It will thicken slightly when the water is added. Stir in the corn syrup and vanilla. Let the frosting sit at room temperature until it cools and thickens slightly, about 30 minutes.
  • Frost the cake
  • 10. Invert a serving plate on top of one of the cake layers and turn it so the cake is top up. Tuck a strip of wax paper under the edge of the cake all the way around to keep the plate clean. Use a long serrated knife, cut the cake layer horizontally into two even layers, leaving the layers in place. Carefully slip the removable bottom of a tart pan or spring-form pan between the layers, lift the top layer, and set aside. Use a thin metal spatula to spread about half of the cold filling over the bottom half of the cake layer, leaving a 1/2-inch plain edge around. Carefully slide the top half of the cake layer on top of the filling, centering it over the bottom layer. Spread the remaining filling over the top.
  • 11. Invert the second cake layer onto a plate so that it is top up, and cut it horizontally into two even layers. Carefully slide the top layer on top of the filling-topped stacked cake layers. You will have a three-layer cake. The remaining cake will be crumbled and used to cover the frosted cake.
  • 12. Use the thin metal spatula to cover the top and sides of the cake with a thin layer of the frosting. Refrigerate the cake for 15 minutes to firm the cake and filling. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the chilled cake.
  • 13. Using your fingers, crumble the remaining cake layer into small crumbs. Sprinkle the crumbs over the top of the cake and press them onto the sides, using all of the crumbs to make a thick crumb coating. Remove the wax paper strips. Use a large, sharp knife to cut the cake. The cake can be covered and refrigerated up to 2 days. Let it sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes before serving.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

All I can say is fabulous, fabulous, fabulous. If you like chocolate, this blackout cake is for you. What I liked most about this recipe was that its spongy cake layers and decadent filling were rich, without being too sweet. Although the recipe instructs that the cake should be served at room temperature, I preferred to eat my slice still a little cold from the fridge. Tips: The cake takes some time to prepare, so plan accordingly. Also, be careful as you’re cutting the cake layers—this cake produces a lot of crumbs!

I may have been giving a few elbows to some teenage boys as I tried to assemble all the components of this cake. The house was full of a rich chocolate aroma that had everyone running into the kitchen. A rich, dark chocolate cake with a wonderfully thick chocolate pudding centre and an intensely chocolaty frosting and a finish of some more chocolate crumbs. Fabulous!

Notes:
Some of the comments were regarding high altitude baking and since I live at a high altitude this is definitely can be an issue for me.

I followed the recipe exactly and the filling and frosting turned out perfectly. The filling came together quickly and easily and started to thicken as soon as I added the cornstarch and water. I put it in the fridge and let it cool while I made the other components.

The cake came together nicely and made a nice thick batter. The batter spread out well in the nine inch pans and baked around the edges to almost level with the top. The centre of the cake was slightly sunken and mottled. Although, just slightly and not enough for it to be a real problem with assembly later on. At a high altitude it might help to reduce the sugar by a couple tablespoons. Or possibly the baking soda. The cakes were fully baked at 30 minutes. They didn't rise and fall as some people had commented. The centre just baked slightly lower. I let the cakes cool as per the recipe and then froze the layers for approximately an hour to help with any crumb problems and slicing.

For the pudding filling, I checked it at 3 1/2 hours and found it a nice thick consistency and so went ahead with assembling and decorating the cake. I did find I needed to refrigerate the frosting for about 15 minutes to thicken before I put it on the cake. My kitchen was warm so I think leaving it at room temperature wasn't going to be enough.

The cake layers sliced nicely and I didn't have any problems at all with crumbs. The filling spread out nicely and I used slightly less than half for the first layer with and extra spoonful in the middle to even things out. As per the comments I made sure to only use as much as needed and left 1/2 inch around the edge. I do have some left over but I'm sure that will disappear quickly.

The frosting was still a bit runny when I spread out the first layer on the top but it firmed up nicely when I let it set in the fridge for 15 minutes. I also placed the bowl of icing in the fridge while the cake set and needed to stir it a few times to get it back to a spreadable consistency. The crumb topping hid all my mistakes and made for a fun finish. And everyone got to sneak a few bits before we cut into the final product!"

You know how sometimes, when you have a piece of chocolate cake and it is "just too much." and you're unable to finish it? This blackout cake is no such cake. I rewarded myself with a slice of cake at 10:30 this evening, I'm eating it as I write my review, and it will be gone before I finish typing--no crumbs spared. Although it took 5 hours from start to end, it's worth closely following the recipe to produce the exact result described by the author.

Below are my notes and any tips I'd offer the next baker:

1. Making the fillling
• It took approximately 20 minutes to properly melt the chocolate at a low temperature before adding the dissolved cornstarch.
• When adding the cornstarch, be sure to scrape every last bit from the bottom of the cup to ensure proper thickness when combined with chocolate mixture.
• Bring to a full boil before cooking the 1 minute, the cornstarch needs a bit of time to meld with the chocolate.
• The consistency was a nice pudding texture even prior to refrigerating for 5 hours.

2. Making the blackout cake
• Thoroughly butter the pans (bottom and sides) as well as the parchment paper, do not skimp on the butter.
• Be sure to use cake flour as stated in the recipe, this ensures a lighter cake texture and the desired crumb.
• Follow the electric mixer times stated (2 minutes for the butter/sugar, 1 minute additional after all eggs and vanilla have been added). and fold in the flour mixture to be certain you do not over mix and create too much air. Too much air in the batter would cause sunken cake as stated in the comments.
• The cake batter should be similar to chocolate mousse in texture. Because it is a thicker batter be sure to smooth out the batter when placed in the pan to remove any possible air pockets.
• My cakes were baked in dark metal pans and the 40 minute bake time was exact. The tops were just firm and toothpick came out clean. There is only a slight dip in each cake, no sunken appearance.
• Cool the cakes in pans on a wire rack for exactly 10 minutes and not much longer. This helps to distribute the heat evenly and acclimate the cakes to room temperature.
• The cakes came out of the pans quite easily after 10 minutes.

3. Make the frosting
• The most important part of the step: use a thermometer to get the chocolate mixture and water to the same temperature. It should easily gel together with minimal amount of whisking. It did take about 20 minutes to get the chocolate mixture to 90°F before combining with water.
• After adding the corn syrup and vanilla, the frosting is already a nice thick consistency.

4. Frost the blackout cake
• A sometimes precarious stage of making a layered cake with filling and frosting, this cake made it easy! The layers sliced smoothly, the filling and frosting both spread with ease.
• I did not let it sit for 45 minutes before slicing (maybe 15 minutes). I wanted to be able to eat it before midnight on the day of the solar eclipse. It sliced perfectly and tasted delicious!

This is a cake just made me happy. I am trying not to think about the fact that it is in my fridge right now as I am afraid that I will eat the entire thing myself. The filling came together perfectly and easily, but note that it took nearly 20 minutes for everything to dissolve at low.

I followed the directions exactly and did experience an indent on each cake. However, I just was careful when slicing the layers to make them as even as possible. I used one indented layer as the middle and just put a bit more filling in that layer, which made the center of each slice my favorite bite due to the extra filling. The other indented section I used as the section to crumble, so my cake still ended up even and lovely in the end, even with the dip in the baked cakes.

Though I tested the water and chocolate with an instant read thermometer before combining, the frosting was a bit thin initially, so I popped it in the fridge for about 15 minutes which gave it a perfect consistency.

When assembling the cake, I found the tip about using the bottom of my tart pan to assist was so very helpful, I will use this every time that I make a cake. Also, be prepared to clean up a lot of cake crumbles as you assemble, or you can just eat them as you go...

Comments

  1. Ahhh, Ebinger’s. I just was talking to my wife about that a few weeks ago. She had grown up in New Jersey, the Philistine, and knew nothing of the sublime beauty of an Ebinger’s cake with milk.

    1. Then of course, there’s Tia Maria . . . Amaretto . . . even Grand Marnier. Any excuse to add a little booze.

  2. What a fabulous cake, but one for TRUE chocolate lovers. I made this for my teen daughter this past week and it was a hit. Lengthy to make but worth every second you put into it.

  3. I made this cake for Mother’s day. It was a hit! I found the cake was a tad crumbly but still delicious! Everyone loved this cake, it is a chocolate lovers dream. I will make this cake again!

    1. We know others who have had that exact same experience, Alexis. A tad crumbly yet so darn good they can’t stop making it! I think the texture may have to do with the slightly finer crumb common to some cakes back in the day…?

  4. I want to try this cake recipe, but I’m hesitant because of the “crumbly” comments. If I switch the milk component to buttermilk or sour cream, and change some of the granulated sugar to brown sugar would it make the cake less “crumbly?”

    1. Hi Pat, this is one cake where you want to have a lots of crumbles. They are used to make the gorgeous topping.

    1. Sharmin, you could, although there’s a very good chance the consistency of the frosting will not be the same after thawing. We suggest you instead bake and cool the cake layers and then wrap them individually and freeze them. Let them thaw overnight and then make the frosting and slather it all over the layers at the last moment, if that’s an option. Good luck!

  5. I only made the cake, but didn’t make the filling and frosting. I used chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream as the filling and chocolate ganache as the frosting. And it tasted amazing. The cake itself is super-delicious. One tip for those who worry about the crumbs, freeze the cake first, then it will be less crumbly.

    1. Lovely, Sharmin! And thank you for the freezing trick, I’d never heard of that and can’t wait to give it a go…

  6. Cake sunk a little in the center, how can I prevent that next time? I had to improvise with buttermilk so maybe that’s why? Otherwise, love it!

    1. Hi Marcy, I think that the buttermilk might be the culprit. When you substitute buttermilk, you need to adjust the amounts of baking powder and baking soda so that the cake is not over leavened. Too much leavening will cause the cake to rise then collapse. I would also double check your oven temperature with a thermometer. It might be that your oven isn’t properly calibrated. Hope this helps.

  7. Brought up in Brooklyn, my mom would send me to Ebinger’s on a weekly basis to buy the chocolate blackout cake or an almond buttercream cake, whose name eludes me at the moment. I can still recall the pale green box the cakes were placed in and the twine used to tie them up into a neat package. Those were the days.

  8. I’m from DH, Brooklyn. And every time we had an occasion, we got our cakes from Ebinger’s. And, of course, my favorite was their Blackout Cake. I can’t wait to make this!

    This was posted in 2010–how did I miss this?
    So happy I got it now!

    1. Patricia, when you do make it, come back and let us know what you think. And the fact you missed this recipe for seven years is why we republish our favorite recipes!

  9. Hi. We live in South Central Illinois. Direct path of the Eclipse. I will be on my boat in a remote lake with no artificial light sources to hamper the moment. Very excited. (I hate sounding like a nature geek.)

    Made your grilled fish tacos last night, maybe cake for Monday????

  10. I tried this very cake several years ago for my friends birthday who is from Brooklyn and grew up with this cake. I am wondering about the adjustments needed for high altitude as the cake was not up to par…..according to my friend. She blamed the high altitude, any suggestions ?

      1. Awesome and thanks for the suggestion about baking at High Altitudes, I will certainly take a look at this book.

        1. You’re so very welcome, Debbie! Best of luck with your baking and kindly let us know how it goes!

  11. So, I just took my cakes out of the oven and it’s completely sunken in the center. I did not change anything and was extremely precise in all my measurements. Unfortunately, it’s for a party tomorrow so I’m just gonna have to go ahead. I’m just wondering… I did read the comments about too much leavening can cause it to rise and fall… But I was pretty exacting. Is there anything else that would cause it to sink in the center? I’m going to consider this a three for now because I haven’t completed it… But all the components taste pretty good.

    1. Hi Andrea, cakes can be tricky. I have one cake recipe that has never failed me yet, when I needed it for a special occasion, it flopped. There are a number of factors that can influence the rise or fall of cakes.

        • The oven is not properly calibrated and thoroughly preheated.
        • The ingredients are not at room temperature.
        • The eggs are added all at the same time.
        • The flour and leavening are not sifted together.
        • The butter and sugar are not creamed properly and the bowl is not scraped down while mixing. You are making an emulsion and all components must be properly blended.
        • You put the batter together but don’t bake it right away. Baking relies on chemical reactions and these reactions start when you mix the wet and dry ingredients. Heat is a necessary part of this equation and leaving the batter to rest while the oven heats can have lopsided results.
    2. Andrea, first, I am so sorry that happened. When I’ve had that happen, it tends to be because my oven temperature is off or I didn’t leave the cake in long enough. (Actually, it happened DISASTROUSLY two weeks ago when The One and I were making zucchini bread. Huge crater. The problem? The One used a larger loaf pan than the recipe specified and took out the bread at the time stated for the smaller pans. Bam! A crater.

      1. Hi, it’s me again. So, even though it sunk a little bit in the middle, which happened to a lot of people, I sliced it and used 3 bottoms and the one less sunken top. The frosting actually turned out pretty well, I did have to chill it for a bit… Of course I had an 88° kitchen….go figure.

        My filling ended up a little bit on the loose side, even after chilling, so not sure what to do to correct that. I had no problems frosting it, and it did seem like quite a bit of crumbs were left over… Mostly on my counter and my floor.

        But… Overall… Beautiful, amazing, and delicious. I would definitely make it again, hoping for a few tweaks!

        1. Andrea,

          So happy that it ended up working for you. The cake is a bear, I must admit. My friend Katie Workman, over at The Mom 100, writes about the work that goes into the cake. (She’s referring to the original version.) I’m going to take into account all these wonderful comments form readers and see if we can synthesize them in to a tweaked recipe.

          BTW, your cake looks gorgeous!

  12. Made the cake and yes, it is crumbly. Decided not to split the layers when the first (bigger) layer really crumbled when I cut it. Neither the filling nor the frosting thickened although I followed the instructions. Put the frosting in the fridge to see if it helps. Thoughts?

  13. I made this! My brother in law asked for a dark chocolate cake for his birthday, and being that the family is from NYC, it seemed like a dream come true. I’d recommend really reading the recipe throughly – I made the mistake of starting the cake 4 hours before my family came over. It can be done, but it was more stressful than it probably should have been. If you are doing this, utilizing the freezer and chilling the filling in an ice bath inside the freezer are your friend. :) The cake was moist and flavorful, the filling was delicious, and the frosting was a dream. When I was making the frosting, it wasn’t a typical fluffy frosting, so it didn’t seem like it would work, but all of a sudden, things just – came together. Don’t skip a step – everything is listed for a reason. Make it – my family loved this cake and it was a hit – albeit a very sloppy and slightly crooked one!

  14. Ok, I’m back with a couple of suggestions. My cake did fall in the middle. I think that’s why it was lopsided. I was very careful wth my measurements as well, so I was surprised when the cake domed and then fell, and so then I was very, very careful with the slicing of the layers. I put the bottom layer down on the cake plate, placed the filling, placed the second layer, and the remainder of the filling. Then the third layer. Then the frosting, which was unlike a traditional frosting. I spread the frosting on the top of the cake, but the cake was very crumbly, and so it didn’t spread onto the sides of the cake as one would typically experience with a traditional spread. The better practice, for me, was to go from the bottom up. It was a much better spread. As soon as I finished, I immediately transferred the cake to the freezer for ten minutes, and put the remainder of the frosting back into the fridge for the same amount of time to thicken it up. After ten minutes, I took it back out, and it was easier to spread. Then I patted the crumbs onto the cake, and they stuck – probably a bit too much crumb, as you can see in the image above, haha. Pop the cake back into the fridge so nothing goes sliding. Hope that helps!

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