The visual of this cake, with its shaggy coating of dark cake crumbs, harkens back to the Ebinger’s Blackout Cake beloved in the New York area. The bakery closed its doors in the early 1970s and the original blackout cake recipe was never published; our version uses “black” cocoa, which is a specialty product that you can order from King Arthur Flour. It has the color and flavor of an Oreo cookie, and when combined with natural cocoa in this recipe, it gives the cake an extra-deep chocolatey boost. You could use 2/3 cup natural cocoa total if you like; the cake will not be as dark in color or rich in flavor, but it will work.
The filling and frosting is a rich pudding, which was one of the hallmarks of the original cake. The pudding component is best made a day ahead. By the way, this impressive-looking cake is very easy to make and a very reliable party cake – everyone loves a rich chocolate cake and it is so moist that it keeps well for a few days in the fridge.
- ¼ cup sifted cornstarch
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1¼ cups sugar
- 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped, such as Scharffen Berger 99% or Callebaut or Valrhona unsweetened
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- ⅓ cup sifted black cocoa
- ⅓ cup sifted natural cocoa (or ⅔ cup sifted natural cocoa if not using the black cocoa)
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder, such as Medaglia d’Oro
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups warm water
- ⅔ cup flavorless vegetable oil, such as canola or sunflower
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- For the Pudding: Place the cornstarch in a medium-sized saucepan. In a large measuring cup, combine the milk and cream. Drizzle a few tablespoons of the milk-cream mixture over the cornstarch and whisk until smooth. Pour the remaining milk-cream into the pan, then add sugar, chocolate, and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking often, until the chocolate melts, then watch carefully as you bring it to a gentle boil. Whisk often as it thickens and takes on a pudding consistency; it should simmer for about 2 to 3 minutes. The pudding should be thick and glossy and leave whisk marks on top. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Scrape into an airtight container; cool to warm room temperature. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface, snap on the lid, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or preferably overnight.
- For the Cake: Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Coat two 8-inch by 2-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray, line the bottoms with parchment rounds, and then spray the parchment.
- Whisk together the flour, sugar, both cocoas, espresso powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl to aerate and combine. Whisk together the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry mixture and whisk well until combined and very smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Firmly tap the bottom of the pans on the work surface to dislodge any bubbles.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center shows a few moist crumbs when removed. Cool cakes in the pans on racks for about 10 minutes. Unmold, peel off the parchment, and place directly on the racks to cool completely. Trim the layers to be level, if necessary, reserving the scraps. The layers are ready to use. Alternatively, place the layers on same size cardboard rounds and double-wrap in plastic wrap; store at room temperature and assemble within 24 hours.
- For the Assembly: Have all the components ready to use. Slice both cake layers evenly in half horizontally. Three layers will be used to assemble the cake. The fourth should be crumbled by hand into a bowl along with any scraps; this will be used for the exterior of the cake. Place one cake layer on a serving plate, bottom side down. Cover with a thick layer of pudding, top with the second cake layer and another layer of pudding. Top with the third cake layer, bottom side up. Cover the top and sides generously with pudding, which will be thick enough to stick to the cake. Use your fingers and palms to completely cover the cake top and sides with cake crumbs, pressing them into the pudding to adhere. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days before serving slightly chilled.
- Most cakes dry out in the fridge; the blackout cake doesn’t since it is filled and frosted with the pudding, which makes it a great do-ahead dessert for a birthday party or other celebration.
- This is one of those cakes that looks impressive but is actually very easy. It’s always good to have that kind of cake in your repertoire.