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.)
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.