Cook's Country: Chocolate Blackout Cake (Ebingers)

[Scroll down to view recipe and video]

With my recent creations including blueberry muffins, apple turnovers, focaccia bread, pizzas, etc., I wanted to continue the baking trend. With the holidays under way, what comes with it is a marathon of family get togethers. I decided that I wanted to bake a cake for my family gathering for Christmas. I had no idea why I wanted to bake a cake, but I guess it seemed like a good challenge for me since I’ve never baked a cake in my life - not even cupcakes nor using those boxed cake mixes. I didn’t know what to expect because most often times if I needed a cake, I’d go out and buy one at a bakery or grocery store. That and it was a good dessert for a party of close to 20 adults and children.

Ebinger's Chocolate Blackout Cake made in my kitchen
Ebinger's Chocolate Blackout Cake made in my kitchen. I know I'm gonna have to put a better picture than this the next time I make this.

Choosing the type of cake was a no brainer: chocolate cake, why what else would it be? I narrowed my choice to the Chocolate Blackout Cake from Cook’s Country (Season 1 Episode 1: Forgotten Cakes). I went with the Chocolate Blackout Cake from Cook’s Country, a spinoff of America's Test Kitchen, simply because the recipe didn’t look too complicated and you didn’t even need to have a mixer! The recipe is actually adapted from my Cook's Country Blue Ribbon DessertsCook's Country Blue Ribbon Desserts cookbook cookbook.

Here’s a little history lesson for you. Apparently, the Blackout Cake originated in a bakery called Ebinger’s in New York (specifically Brooklyn). The difference between a chocolate blackout cake and a regular chocolate cake is that the blackout cake is characterized by the pudding used as the frosting and the crumbled bits of cake as a topping which creates the "blackout" part of the cake. The cake was named after the night time blackouts that were used to hide targets of interest and whole cities from enemy aircraft during WWII. The Blackout Cake was a favorite among locals and was Ebinger’s signature item. Despite its strong following in the New York metropolitan area, Ebinger’s closed its door in 1972, and with it the Blackout Cake met a similar demise - until now!

layers and crumbled topping of the chocolate blackout cake
The crumbled topping and layers of the chocolate blackout cake

When I first made this cake, I wasn’t entirely happy with it. I don’t know why, but I just wasn’t satisfied even though I hadn’t tasted it yet. I figured people wouldn’t like it either. After I tried a slice of it, I just thought it was ok. I wasn’t going to throw it out even if people didn’t touch my cake because I tend to get hungry at night anyway, so it’d be a great midnight snack with a glass of milk. Boy was I wrong - people loved my cake! Some of my sisters even took whole portions of the leftover cake home. I even found myself going to the refrigerator to get some leftover cake not because it needed to be eaten, but because I naturally wanted to have cake. When you cut a slice out of it, it looks deceivingly way too chocolate-y, but it really wasn’t. It was quite moist and light and not too sweet unlike the boxed cake mixes and store-bought frosting you would get from the grocery store. It isn't overwhelmingly rich that you need a tall glass of whole milk to drink with a slice of cake. At the end of the day though, it was a good cake that I know I'll be making for future birthdays and social gatherings. It would truly make a good birthday cake for anyone celebrating their birthday.

FlavorFool's Notes

  • Be sure to take however much time you need to get the pudding to thicken before refrigerating. No amount of refrigeration will thicken it if you put it in the refrigerator while it’s still soupy/liquidy.
  • I would recommend leaving the frosting out a few hours if refrigerating overnight to get it to room temperature before having to frost the cake; otherwise it will have the consistency of refrigerated peanut butter. This will make it easier to spread your pudding on the cake and not tear the cake layers as your frosting it.
  • I just used 2 9-inch cake pans instead of 8-inch pans since that’s what I had. 9-inch pans are fine if you don’t mind a wider cake with thinner layers. Just be careful when frosting your cake. Thinner cake layers will be easier to tear as your trying to frost your cake. Although 9 inch pans did the job for me, I highly recommend using 8 inch pans instead for next time - frosting and cutting the cakes will be easier using 8 inch pans.
  • In the future, I will not use the fourth layer as a crumbled topping because the crumbled cake pieces would tend to get stale too quickly. I found that using all four layers and covering the entire cake with the velvety pudding seals in the freshness. Even though the crumbled topping is a defining characteristic of Ebinger's blackout cake, I'd rather keep the 4th layer intact within the frosting instead. This cake will definitely keep its freshness for several days in the refrigerator.
  • I recommend sifting the flour through a strainer to avoid clumps of flour in your cake.
  • Ebinger's Chocolate Blackout Cake Recipe

    Cook's Country - season 1 episode 1, Forgotten Cakes
    Makes 1 cake


    - 2 tsp of vanilla extract [2 tsp seemed too much so I only used about 1.75 tsp of vanilla]
    - 1 cup of whole milk
    - 1/4 cup of cornstarch
    - 1 1/4 cups of granulated sugar
    - 1/2 tsp of salt
    - 6 ounces of unsweetened chocolate, chopped [I recommend Ghirdelli unsweetened chocolate]
    - 2 cups of half-and-half

    - 1/2 tsp of baking soda
    - 1/2 tsp of salt
    - 8 tbsp (1 stick) of unsalted butter plus another 2 tbsp to grease both pans
    - 2 tsp of baking powder
    - 1 cup of buttermilk, room temperature
    - 1 cup of granulated sugar
    - 1 tsp of vanilla extract
    - 1 cup of strong brewed coffee, room temperature
    - 2 large eggs, room temperature
    - 3/4 cup of Dutch-processed cocoa powder [don't go cheap, make sure to get Dutch-processed and not Natural cocoa powder. I recommend E. Guittard Dutch-processed cocoa powder]
    - 1 cup of packed light brown sugar
    - 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)


    1. Whisk the granulated sugar, cornstarch and salt together in a medium saucepan and slowly whisk in the half-and-half and milk.

    2. Over medium heat stir in the chocolate and cook, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, 2 to 3 minutes [took me about 5-7 mins].

    3. Off the heat, stir in the vanilla. Transfer the pudding to a large bowl and press wax or parchment paper directly on the surface. Refrigerate the pudding until cold, about 4 hours.

    4. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease two 8-inch [I used 9-inch pans because that's what I had] cake pans with the 2 tbsp of butter, then dust with flour and line the bottoms with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.

    5. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in 3/4 cup of the cocoa and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

    6. Off the heat, whisk in the coffee, buttermilk and sugars until dissolved. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla, then slowly whisk in the flour mixture until no streaks remain.

    7. Give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure it is thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and gently tap the pans on the counter to settle the batter. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes [30-31 mins was perfect for me], rotating the pans halfway through baking.

    8. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the edge of the cakes, then flip them out onto a wire rack. Peel off the parchment paper, flip the cakes right side up, and let cool completely before filling and frosting, about 2 hours.

    9. Line the edges of a cake platter with strips of parchment paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Slice each cake into two even layers using a long serrated knife. Crumble one of the cake layers into medium-sized crumbs [as noted above in the notes section, I excluded the crumble topping and kept it as a 4th layer inside the frosting].

    10. Place one of the cake layers on the platter. Spread 1 cup of the pudding over the cake right to the edges. Top with a second cake layer and spread with another 1 cup of pudding. Place the remaining cake layer on top and press lightly to adhere. Frost the cake with the remaining pudding. Sprinkle the cake crumbs evenly over the top and press them onto the sides of the cake. Remove the parchment strips from the platter before serving.

    Video: Bridget Lancaster from Cook's Country shows Chris Kimball how to make Ebinger's Chocolate Blackout Cake (part 1 of 2)

    Chris Kimball tells the Today Show's Al Roker all about the Blackout Cake (part 2 of 2)


    Candygirl7 said...

    Boy oh,boy, do I remember this cake! I grew up in East Flatbush section of Brooklyn NY and fondly remember the Ebingers bakery. Why they went out of business is a mystery to me as the place was always packed out with a line of customers.

    FlavorFool said...

    Hello @Candygirl7,
    Thank you for writing! It's so good to hear from someone who knows all about Ebinger's bakery first hand! Unlike yourself, I haven't had the privilege of tasting the chocolate blackout cake from Ebinger's. But from what I've heard, it was probably one of the best chocolate cakes around. If you ever get the chance to make the Cook's Country recipe of the blackout cake, please write back and let us know how the recipe compares to the original blackout cake from Ebinger's. I'm sure readers (along with myself) would be very interested to hear your thoughts on whether this recipe is a good representation of the original blackout cake from Ebinger's. Cheers!

    Anonymous said...

    I remember this making a comeback in the supermarkets OMG 20 years ago, and my mom loving it!
    I'll have to give this a try for her birthday next month.

    FlavorFool said...

    @Anonymous, thank you for the NY Times article. I'm glad to see that Ebinger's blackout cake has such a strong following even after all these years. I hope this recipe comes close to the original blackout cake and that your mom enjoys it on her birthday. Let us know how it turns out. Good luck!

    Jen said...

    My first job, at 16 years old, was at a bakery in southern California. They had a wonderful Blackout Cake I'll never forget. It was exactly the way you describe -- deep dark chocolate cake, chocolate pudding filling and icing, and chocolate crumbs on the outside. YUM! Thank you for sharing this recipe; it brings back great memories.

    FlavorFool said...

    Hi @Jen, I'm glad to hear that you're making good use of the Cook's Country version of the Chocolate Blackout Cake. Is that bakery that you used to work in still around? If so, what's the name. People in the LA area may want to check this bakery out if it's still there.

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