Growing up, everyone in our family looked forward to Sunday dinner, and the dessert finale was always the highlight for us kids.
All of the aunts, uncles and cousins came from miles around just to be together at Mom’s table. I fondly remember my Aunt Marie’s homemade blackout cake as the hit of our Sunday dessert table. Although the cake was fabulous and very rich, it was always a little lopsided. We found out years later why: My Aunt Marie would cut a tiny sliver of cake to taste it, and then push the cake together so no one would know a piece was missing.
This rich, intensely chocolate cake was inspired by the original Ebingers blackout cake, a puddinglike cake that had a cult following among Brooklynites. Ebinger Baking Co. opened its first location in 1898 on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. The single storefront grew to a baking empire with more than 50 locations around Brooklyn and Queens.
According to a 1969 New York Times article, the blackout cake was named during World War II, when blackout drills were performed in homes around the borough to avoid silhouetting battleships leaving the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Long gone by 1972, Ebingers bakery inspired so many versions of their famous blackout cake.
My Aunt Marie’s version was created from her love of chocolate and to mimic the original blackout cake. Neither the original Ebingers nor my aunt’s recipes were ever given out, but I created this recipe from my memories of enjoying a slice of both versions. I have named the cake after my hilarious Aunt Marie. My son calls this a “puddin’ cake” and that would be a perfectly Southern name for a Northern dessert.
Be sure to refrigerate the filling at least until it is firm, preferably overnight. It is best to bake the layers and make the pudding the day before serving, so plan ahead if possible. Assemble the cake and refrigerate a few hours before serving, as this cake tastes best cold from the refrigerator.
Aunt Marie’s Famous Brooklyn Blackout Cake
For the pudding filling:
3 cups whole milk, divided
⅔ cup cornstarch
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 ½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
For the cake:
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
½ cup canola oil
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Make the pudding filling: In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together ½ cup milk and the cornstarch, whisking until smooth with no lumps. Set aside by the stovetop. In a large saucepan, add remaining 2 ½ cups of milk, sugar, corn syrup and cocoa powder. Constantly whisk together over medium heat and bring to a slow boil.
Add the cornstarch mixture into the simmering cocoa mixture and return to a slow boil while constantly whisking. Continue to whisk until very thick, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla. With a rubber spatula, scrape into a large bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding so it does not form a skin. Cover the top of the bowl with another piece of plastic wrap and chill about 1 hour, or until firm and chilled.
Remove the pudding from the refrigerator and scrape into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add confectioners’ sugar. With the wire whisk attachment, beat on medium speed just until smooth with no lumps. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, for at least 1 hour to firm up again before finishing the cake.
Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line three 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper. Spray with cooking spray. In a large measuring cup with a spout, whisk together the milk, canola oil, eggs and vanilla. Set aside.
To the bowl of an electric stand mixer, add the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix on low speed just until blended with no lumps.
On low speed, slowly pour in the milk mixture and beat on medium-low speed for 1 minute. Pour in the hot coffee and beat on low speed for another minute. The batter will be thin.
Fill each baking pan halfway. Gently bang on the counter to release extra air bubbles. Bake all three pans on the middle rack in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the cakes begin to pull away from the sides of the pans. Cool in the pans 15 minutes and then remove to a rack to cool completely to room temperature before assembling.
After the cakes have cooled, cut the domed top off each cake layer with a large serrated knife; these pieces will be your crumb topping. Use your fingers to turn cake scraps into fine crumbs.
Place one cooled cake layer on a plate and evenly spread the top with a third of the cooled pudding. Top with another cake layer, evenly spreading more pudding on top, then add the final layer of cake. Cover the top and sides of the cake evenly with the remaining pudding. Sprinkle the top and the sides of the cake with the reserved cake crumbs. Refrigerate the cake at least a few hours before serving to firm up.
Serves about 16.
Source: Lorraine Fina Stevenski
Lorraine Fina Stevenski is a self-taught baker and award-winning recipe contest addict. This column features recipes that have been entered in contests across America and updated for readers who love to bake and cook. Check out what she’s cooking and creating right now on her Facebook page, LORRAINE FINA STEVENSKI. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.