Molly O’Neill’s Blackout Cake

8 Aug

Molly O'Neill's blackout cakeI am on a mission – to find the blackout cake of my childhood. My sister and I had this amazing cake when we were little – it was served in the embassy where we grew up. We used to watch like hawks when it was served, to see if we could shave infinitesimal amounts off the cake to share. We always got a slice, but we always wanted more. Our mother used to order it in these large logs – and we had at least 2 or 3 as “back up” desserts in the freezer room downstairs. My sister and I used to dream of that cake … and when I realised that it was a form of blackout cake, I decided to test a few.

Last week, I made the blackout cake from The Week, by Jeremy Sauer from Cook’s Country. It was delicious but it lacked a certain something. It was too sweet, and I think too milky. The pudding was made with a cream/milk mixture, and while it was phenomenal, it wasnt the cake of my childhood and my memory. This week, I decided to try Molly O’Neill’s blackout cake from her book, The New York Cookbook: From Pelham Bay to Park Avenue, Firehouses to Four Star Restaurants.

If last week’s cake was a chocolate extravaganza, this week’s cake was a chocolate obliteration. No milk, save for a little in the cake, and dark as a blacked out night. Seriously. The cake is so dark, that you can only tell its been cut if you look at it from the top. Its dark dark dark. It was overwhelming favoured by my taste testers – they loved the deep dark chocolate layers, the balance between chocolate and sweetness, and the textures of the cake, pudding, topping and crumbs. It is truly a phenomenal cake. It comes much closer to the cake of my memory, but I think it might need more of a touch of bittersweet – next time I make it I think I will adapt it with a bit of coffee.

As Ezril said, “Eating this cake is an intense experience!” Making it was pretty intense as well. I love baking, but this cake… so many different processes involved in creating all the layers, the custard/pudding and the topping. The cake itself not only creamed the sugar, and bloomed the chocolate and chocolate powder, but also needed whipped egg whites folded in. By the end, I was covered head to toe in flour, chocolate and butter. I could have baked myself! I learned an important lesson. Even though I read the recipe many times over, and I knew what I was in for, I think I would have been better served if I laid out my ingredients, measured them out, and then started to cook. As it was, there was a fair bit of chaos, and a fair bit of mess. Given all of that, it was worth it. Delicious, deep, dark chocolate cake, layers of pudding, a bittersweet glaze, and the rubbly texture of the crumbs on top. Wonderful and very very satisfying!

Molly O’Neill’s Blackout Cake

Cake

  • ½ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened slightly
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 190C degrees. Butter and lightly flour two (8-inch) round cake pans. Place cocoa in a small bowl and whisk in boiling water to form a paste.

Combine the chopped chocolate and milk in saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently until the chocolate melts, about three minutes. Remove from the heat. Whisk a small amount of the hot chocolate milk into the cocoa paste to warm it. Whisk the cocoa mixture into the milk mixture. Return the pan to medium heat and stir for one minute. Remove and set aside to cool until tepid.

In the bowl of a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, and the vanilla. Slowly stir in the chocolate mixture. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a spatula or a wooden spoon, slowly add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture. Fold in until just mixed.

In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Using a spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans on rack for 15 minutes.

Gently remove the cakes from the pans and continue to cool.

Note: in my oven the cakes only took 30 minutes to bake. Check after half an hour as timing and heat can vary widely.

Filling

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 ¾ teaspoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • ¾ cup plus ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water (use 2 tablespoons cornstarch for a runnier filling*)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

While the cake is baking, combine the cocoa and boiling water in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in the sugar and chocolate. Add the dissolved cornstarch paste and salt to the pan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and butter. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until cool.

Note: I added 100 g chopped bittersweet chocolate to this filling as I felt it was not chocolatey enough. I added it just before adding the cornstarch paste. I used the maximum 4 tbsp cornstarch, and it was just fine. I also sieved the pudding to make sure there were no lumps.

Frosting

  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over hot, not simmering, water, stirring until smooth. Remove the top of the double boiler from the heat and whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Return the top to the heat, if necessary, to melt the butter.

Whisk in the hot water all at once and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the corn syrup and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate for up to 15 minutes before using.

Assembly

Black Out Cake SlicedUse a sharp serrated knife to slice each cake layer horizontally in half to form four layers. Set one layer aside. Place one layer on a cake round or plate. Generously swath the layer with one-third of the filling. Add the second layer and repeat. Set the third layer on top. Quickly apply a layer of frosting to the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, crumble the remaining cake layer. Apply the remaining frosting to the cake. Sprinkle it liberally with the cake crumbs. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: