wishin’ n hopin’ – chocolate blackout cake

by hungryrabbit on September 1, 2011

Chocolate Blackout Cake

When you have a blog filled with desserts and confections, making your own birthday cake would be a natural next step. I’d prefer to let my birthday slip quietly by with M (he’s the same way) instead of throwing a big party—or, shudder, be fooled into attending a surprise party. The cake, however, isn’t to be ignored.

That morning I’d woken up to many birthday wishes on both Twitter and Facebook. It took some time to read through and reply, but after 30 minutes, I decided to make a cake because I felt like all these lovely folks had shown up at my party and I had to serve something festive.

The cake couldn’t be too elaborate or I’d never finish it, but I wanted it to have some sort of assembly. After much chatter with my friends on Twitter, I narrowed it down to chocolate cake and then Blackout Cake, essentially an old-fashioned chocolate cake with a pudding-like frosting.  Ebinger’s Bakery in Brooklyn created the Blackout Cake during World War II, when the Civilian Defense Corps held drills at night when all exterior city lights were turned off and all residents were required to cover their windows with dark drapes. Enemy planes and ships would have a harder time seeing the coast line or U.S. battle ships leaving port.

As with my Chewy Horlicks Cookies, I was feeling nostalgic. Ironically, chocolate was not a big part of my childhood. In fact, good chocolate was a rare treat, and great chocolate was even more rare. The scarcity of it made me crave it all the more. All my birthday cakes growing up were vanilla sponge with fluffy vanilla buttercream icing. The only difference was the additional candle to signify another year had gone by. Oh, how I wanted to grow up fast and be an adult. I would get a different cake every year and definitely start with the most extreme chocolate cake available.

Well, years have gone and I’d never thought much of those vanilla cakes until this past birthday. I swiftly went into the kitchen and made the Blackout Cake.

Chocolate Blackout Cake

Recipe adapted from Cook’s Country


1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup whole milk
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate , chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), plus extra for greasing pans
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour , plus extra for dusting pans
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Table salt
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder. sifted
1 cup strong black coffee, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Frosting: 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 should have a pudding consistency.) Stir in vanilla and transfer frosting to large bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of pudding and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours or up to 1 day. Clean sauce pan, to be use for cake batter.

2. For the cake layers: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl, set aside.

3. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in cocoa and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in coffee, buttermilk, and sugars until dissolved. Whisk in eggs and vanilla until combined, then slowly whisk in flour mixture.

4. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes. Cool layers in pans 15 minutes, then invert onto wire rack. Cool to room temperature, at least 1 hour.

5. To assemble the cake: Cut each cake in half horizontally. Pick the least ‘good-looking’ cake layer and crumble 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 on the side of cake, pressing lightly to adhere crumbs. Serve. (Cake can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

Recipe Notes:

1. If you like sweet frosting, you can add up to a 1/4 cup of granulated sugar to the frosting.

2. Instead of just  the side of the cake, you can cover the entire cake with the cake crumbs as well.

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica / Green Skies and Sugar Trips September 1, 2011 at 10:31 am

When was your birthday?!?!?!!! I never saw anything about it on twitter, how did I miss it?!! So sorry I did, and Happy Belated Birthday!

I never knew about “Blackout Cake” or the blackouts in general, what a lovely piece of history to learn!

The cake sounds divine, pudding frosting!!! who knew?, love that!!! And I love the cake crumbles on the side (I do that too) :-)

Well done! <3

SMITH BITES September 1, 2011 at 10:32 am

awwwwww Ken . . . this is such a beautiful cake . . . and i now see how a cake is supposed to be frosted – HAH!! am so glad you baked yourself a cake for your birthday – love, love, love!

nicole September 1, 2011 at 10:35 am

looks heavenly! I love the cake on cake action. cake on the inside is not enough… must coat cake in more cake!

Hope the new year ahead is filled with happiness and joy. (and more chocolate cake!)

Elizabeth September 1, 2011 at 10:37 am

Oh my yes. I do love a good chocolate cake and that frosting looks positively dreamy! I’ve never had a frosting that had no butter…I will have to try this out next time. My mister prefers a non-sweet frosting, but I’m tired of just whipped cream based. This looks so much more substantial.

A happy birthday to you sir! I hope it was a great one!

foodwanderings September 1, 2011 at 10:40 am

Hey Mr. Ken, Happy B-day again. Love the Cake more importantly the tid bit of history behind it and me too, didn’t grow up with chocolate as a childhood repertoire. Not really an Indian food or desserts staple. The chocolate I knew were bars I would pick up, not often, at the corner grocer.

Katrina @ In Katrina's Kitchen September 1, 2011 at 10:42 am

Stunning! Truly you did an awesome job! Pudding frosting huh? Mmmmm

Barbara | Creative Culinary September 1, 2011 at 10:46 am

What a unique cake…both the crumb layer on the outside and the history behind it. Thanks for sharing YOUR birthday cake with us; hope it was a great day Ken.

Sanjeeta kk September 1, 2011 at 10:49 am

Like the crumble around the cake…and hope you had a wonderful time!

Mdivani September 1, 2011 at 11:01 am

So bummed that I missed your Birthday fellow Virgo! Totally agree with you that everything else can be skipped, but a Birthday Cake is a must!! And this one is amazing!!

Margaret September 1, 2011 at 11:03 am

What a beautiful cake for a beautiful person. I love a good chocolate cake and this looks amazing especially the way you frosted it. Gorgeous!

Tina@flourtrader September 1, 2011 at 11:34 am

I am glad you are at a point where extreme cakes are part of your birthday. This one is an excellent choice and it does look amazing. Happy belated birthday!

heather September 1, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Happy birthday my friend! The cake looks delicious and the crumb coating is such a nice touch!!

Lisa (This Little Piggy) September 1, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Happy Birthday! Never heard of blackout cakes before. Lovely photos.

Wenderly September 2, 2011 at 8:16 am

Looks lovely Ken! Happy Birthday sweets!

Deb @ knitstamatic September 2, 2011 at 9:04 am

Funny, to this day my dad STILL talks about Ebinger’s. I have vague memories of their blackout cake, I was a bitty thing when they closed but it made an impression on me. Your version looks delicious. Hope you had a fantastic birthday Ken!

Rosie @ Sweetapolita September 2, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Ooooh, this looks amazing! Happy Birthday to you, sweet one! I love the look of this frosting, in particular, but the cake looks pretty darn incredible too. I’d love to give this one a try! Thanks for sharing, and your photos are fabulous! xo

Sasha @ The Procrastobaker September 2, 2011 at 3:52 pm

I literally could not agree more about the birthday situation! Mine was on the 30th August and I specifically requested not to have a birthday this year, but i couldnt NOT make a cake! I will post about mine in the next couple of days but yours looks incredibly hard to top :) Totally gorgeous! and happppyyy birthday!

Ogunquit Beach Inn September 2, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Looks de-lish! Will have to try, soon!
I like the name!

a spoonful of yumm September 3, 2011 at 2:27 am

yummy yumm ! chocolate cake is my fav ….looks gorgeous. belated happy bday !

MikeVFMK September 3, 2011 at 8:34 am

Oh my goodness. Ken, this is one helluva cake! I have a weakness for chocolate cake and this one looks divine!

Sally September 3, 2011 at 9:18 am

Confession: I, too, often make my own birthday cake, for the same reasons you do–and by now, I’m pretty much over birthdays :) Happy birthday again, and I’m glad you had a wonderful day (with chocolate) xxoo

Tres Delicious September 3, 2011 at 9:54 pm

I love it being black out. It looks so delicately prepared. Yummilicious!

Lora ~ cakeduchess September 4, 2011 at 9:25 pm

Mdvani is a Virgo too?:)This cake…oh…this cake! Wow! I so wish you were a little closer so I could’ve snuck over to get a slice of this. Looks incredible, ken! Happy Birthday again. xoxo

Carolyn September 5, 2011 at 3:06 pm

This, my friend, is one seriously gorgeous cake. Happy birthday! I like making my own cake because then I can get exactly what I want.

Simone September 5, 2011 at 5:15 pm

This looks so beautiful Ken! The absolute perfect birthday cake… I never really celebrate my birthday either… Time flies by fast enough without being reminded..lol

Russell van Kraayenburg September 5, 2011 at 6:36 pm

Wow, Ken. I may have just licked the screen… Or more ;-) but seriously this cake looks insane. If I tell you it’s my bday, will you send me one? It’s not, but I’d really like some of this cake.

Jenn (Cookies Cupcake Cardio) September 5, 2011 at 11:44 pm

I think using the cake crumbs to coat the side of the cake is a great idea! I have never seen that before. Can’t wait to try it out on one of my upcoming cakes.

Gail September 6, 2011 at 8:51 am

Beautiful cake, Ken. You captured the true essence of the Blackout Cake here. Mmmm…

Helene September 6, 2011 at 1:18 pm

I love a good Chocolate Cake, always a favorite in my home. I usually end up baking all the birthday cakes for everyone in my family, including me. :)

Jamie October 20, 2011 at 6:58 am

Oh, Ken, how did I miss this? What a gorgeous, luscious, tantilizing cake! Wow! Now I want one and I will not wait for my birthday! But I agree, that a birthday just isn’t a birthday without a chocolate cake!

Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets October 20, 2011 at 10:59 am

Mmm how divinely delicious!

Michelle January 14, 2012 at 12:18 am

Is there a replacement for the 1 cup of coffee. I don’t like the taste of coffee, but the cake looks divine.

hungryrabbit January 14, 2012 at 6:19 am

I guarantee the cake will not taste like coffee. Coffee is used to enhance the flavor of chocolate, but if you feel the need, you can replace it with another cup of buttermilk.

Jeannine September 25, 2013 at 4:11 am

wow, I made this for my birthday yesterday, and it turned out so much differently! The two cakes only baked about half an inch high, so I couldn’t really cut them in half, thus no crumb for the outside and really tiny cake. And the pudding frosting was so runny, even though being in the freezer! It was kind of really sad :(

hungryrabbit September 25, 2013 at 8:41 am

Hi Jeannine, happy belated birthday. Sorry to hear about the cake. Perhaps it’s due to the failure of the leavening agents (baking soda, powder). Did you buy them for the cake or they’ve been in your pantry for a long time? -Ken

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