Monday, April 20, 2015

Brooklyn Blackout Cake

Blackout Cake was developed by Ebinger's Bakery and actually dates back to World War II and the blackout drills conducted in Brooklyn at the time. The purpose of these blackout drills was to prevent enemy aircraft from seeing our ships when they sailed from New York's harbors.

By turning off all of the lights, and even covering windows with black material, this was intended to provide a stealthier environment for our ships to pass. The city would conduct actual blackout drills, similar to fire drills, in order to prepare.

Fast forward many many years and the cakes inspired by this historical event are still ever popular and delicious. Their concept is quite basic: layers of chocolate cake filled and frosted with rich chocolate pudding and then coated with tons of chocolate cake crumbs. Pure chocolate decadence.

This particular recipe originally comes from Cook's Illustrated, so you know it's solid. The pudding filling relies solely on cornstarch for thickening--no egg yolks necessary--so it's actually a bit easier than making a chocolate pastry cream-style pudding.

A Dutch-processed cocoa will yield a darker chocolate cake, but you can substitute regular cocoa powder in a pinch by adding some extra baking soda to your dry ingredients. That's what I've done here, and the cake still turned out delicious even if it's more brown than black.

The pudding is a bit less stable as a frosting than an actual frosting would be (it reminds me more of the softer texture of a cream cheese frosting actually), but it is still easy to frost since it's quite thick for a pudding. Once you press the crumbs all over the cake and then refrigerate it, it does hold together well.

Brooklyn Blackout Cake
Makes one 9-inch round cake, about 12 servings
(Adapted from Cook's Illustrated via Baking Obsession)

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, plus more for the pans
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (if you're using regular cocoa powder instead of Dutch-processed, increase the baking soda to 1 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted (I used regular cocoa powder and increased the baking soda to 1 teaspoon)
1 cup brewed coffee (I used espresso)
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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

To make the cake: Center an oven rack and heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper circles. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the cocoa and cook until fragrant, about a minute. 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. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans and smooth with a spatula.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the cake pans halfway through baking. Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack. Cool the cakes completely before frosting.

To make the filling: Cook the sugar, chocolate, half-and-half, milk, cornstarch, and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth, shiny and thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes from start to finish. Off the heat, stir in the vanilla. Transfer the pudding to a large bowl and refrigerate, with plastic wrap pressed flush against its surface, until cold and set, at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

To assemble the cake: Using a large serrated knife, slice each cake into 2 even layers. Crumble one cake layer into medium crumbs and set aside. Place one cake layer on a cake plate or cardboard round. Spread 1 cup of the pudding over the cake layer and top with another layer. Repeat with 1 cup more pudding and the last cake layer. Spread the remaining pudding evenly over the top and sides of the cake. The whole construction might look a bit jiggly at this point but after you press the crumbs all around it will get more stable, especially after some refrigeration time. Sprinkle the cake crumbs evenly over the top and sides of the cake, pressing lightly to adhere the crumbs.

The cake can be made a day ahead and kept under a cake dome in the refrigerator.


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