Tag Archives: blackout

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.

Blackout Cake

1 Aug

blackout cake version 1What is blackout cake? Simply put, very dark, almost bitter sweet, very soft cake, layered and iced with dark chocolate pudding. Cake crumbs adorn the outside of the cake. Its a study in chocolate, with no distractions. Not too sweet, rich but not overbearing, so dark that light will never penetrate. Cream is a good accompaniment, but you dont really need anything at all … Just a deep respect for all things chocolate.

If you say the words Ebinger’s Blackout Cake to people who lived on the eastern seaboard of America during the 1970’s, from New York to DC, but particularly those who lived in Brooklyn, you will be greeted by moans of delight and loss. Blackout cake is a cake from a very specific time, but oh my good goddess, it is perfection in chocolate. Ebinger’s was a bakery in Brooklyn that unfortunately closed down in the mid 1970’s — and the recipe for the original blackout cake went with them. There is a huge amount of online debate about the true recipe for blackout cake, and I have often wondered which one tastes the closest to my own memory.

I grew up in Washington DC during the 1970’s and 80’s, living in an Embassy. We hosted fancy dinners for dignitaries and my mother’s go-to dessert was a version of blackout cake. It was served in long rectangular logs, each serving 20 people. My sister and I used to hover in the kitchen, making sure that any scraps were summarily dealt with. We looked at each full slice of blackout cake, floating in cream, with longing and hope… May be when we were grown up, we would have blackout cake at our dinner parties too!

I have done a lot of research about blackout cake, and I have finally decided to try the recipe posted in The Week in 2008, from Jeremy Sauer in Cook’s Country. I had hoped this cake would come close to my memory … but unfortunately, it didnt. Dont get me wrong, it was superb. Dark, chocolaty, very moist… but there was something missing. It was just a little too not-blackout. Not sure why, or where, or how, but it wasnt the cake of my memory. I have one more recipe which I will try next weekend… but for now, this blackout cake version has made us all very happy.

Pudding

  • 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

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. It will thicken like a pudding. Make sure that you mix it well enough so that the pudding does not burn at the bottom.

Stir in vanilla and transfer pudding to large bowl. Lightly butter the top of the pudding, and butter one side of sheet of greasproof paper. Place the greaseproof paper over the top of the pudding so that a skin doesnt form, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.

Cake

  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick), plus extra for greasing pans
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting pans
  • 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

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 165 C. Butter two 8-inch cake pans, line the bottom with greaseproof paper, and shift a bit of cocoa powder over the buttered cake pan. This will help in removing the cake from the pan after baking.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl. Set aside.

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in cocoa and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. You will smell the perfect smell of cooking chocolate.

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.

Assembly

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.