Blog……Interrupted: Shirl’s Brooklyn Blackout Cake
It’s been awhile since I posted to my website, but today I am re-posting a recipe that I originally posted almost a year ago (March 2016): Shirl’s Brooklyn Blackout Cake. My life was interrupted, so too was my blog. I lost my voice; for months, I’ve simply had nothing to say. A year ago I could look out my kitchen window at a snow-covered garden with the thermometer on the outside of the window registering about 20 degrees or less. Now, I’m looking out the window at a bright sunny day with palm trees as far as you can see; my phone says 78, with a high of 80 today. So what happened?
My husband and best friend, Robert (Bob) Zagoren, passed away last August and it is taking time for me to absorb that fact. Since Brooklyn Blackout Cake was his favorite, I am re-posting the recipe in his honor. “Bobby”, who will always be the kid from Brooklyn, loved everything about Brooklyn, from the Dodgers to this cake. He also loved Valentine’s Day and used to take me out to dinner to celebrate. Many times, he would buy me a little teddy bear with a Valentine sweater, so I want to say “Happy Valentine’s Day Bobby” and “Happy Valentine’s Day” to all who read this.
Those of you who follow me know that I used to post from Lenox, Massachusetts. I have since relocated to a warm clime, where my son and daughter-in-law, Greg and Alicia Gard, have graciously invited me to live with them. So, in the future, I will be posting from Wellington, Florida, hoping to gradually regain my voice.
The Unlikely Cake Baker: Brooklyn Blackout Cake
This is a tale of two chocolate cakes: Brooklyn Blackout Cake and Chocolate Domingo Cake. This tale starts with the Ebinger’s Blackout Cakes that my husband Bob used to buy years ago at their bakery in Flatbush, Brooklyn. His daughter, Robyn, remembers the time their dog, Bridgette, a big black Labrador, ate the remains of a cherished Blackout Cake right off the dining room table after Thanksgiving dinner. Bridgette was a very big dog, and standing on her hind legs, she could easily reach the cake. What a mess she made! They were more worried about the missing cake than the fact that it might make the dog sick. Robyn remembers Brooklyn Blackout Cake being her father’s favorite (“he always wanted the first and biggest piece” she said); during her childhood Bob would drive to Brooklyn from Long Island a couple of times a year to buy one, which they considered a special treat: “chocolate heaven” as Robyn described it. This website gives a brief history of Brooklyn Blackout Cake including how it got its name: it was named for the blackouts during World War II, when everyone covered their windows with black fabric so that the ships leaving the Brooklyn Navy Yard would not be silhouetted and potentially spotted by enemy planes.
After he retired, Bob moved to Manhattan and became an unlikely cake baker, but his cake-baking adventures did not include the Blackout Cake (he always bought those), but they did include another chocolate cake: Chocolate Domingo Cake. He took classes at The New School, one of which involved some baking. This piqued his interest, and while browsing through the cookbooks at his favorite bookstore, Rizzoli’s (when it was on 57th Street), a brand new just-released cake book caught his eye: it was the Cake Bible (1988), by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Besides books, Bob is also a big fan of classical and operatic music, and when he saw the name “Domingo” attached to a chocolate cake−Chocolate Domingo Cake−that’s when he really started to bake. Bob loves the flavor and texture of Domingo cake. He would bake a Domingo cake and take it to committee meetings of organizations where he was a member; he would bake a Domingo cake when family came to visit. We both still marvel at the idea that Bob randomly selected the most famous cake cookbook of all time and then picked out the most “favorite chocolate cake in the book”, according to Rose Levy Beranbaum herself, in this article on Epicurious about how she named the Domingo Cake. Here is Rose’s recipe for Chocolate Domingo Cake which needs no improvement.
A nice big slice of Brooklyn Blackout Cake:
Shirl’s Brooklyn Blackout Cake
Since “the unlikely cake baker” never made Brooklyn Blackout Cake, and because they are no longer available, I’m going to bake one for him now. He says the best part is the chocolate pudding for the filling, so I will try to make that extra chocolate-y. He tells me that the reason he never made Blackout Cake is that he thought it was too complicated. It really isn’t that complicated or overwhelming if you do it in steps. See my notes below on “How To” organize the making of this cake: Shirl’s version of Brooklyn Blackout Cake.
For more information about Brooklyn Blackout Cake:
Lost Foods of New York City –An article by Leah Koenig
New York Cookbook −by Molly O’Neill (1992)
Cutting the cake rounds and making cake crumbs:
Tools for assembling Brooklyn Blackout Cake:
How to assemble the cakes:
To finish the Cakes:
The final touches:
Here’s “How To” organize the making of this cake:
Shirl’s Brooklyn Blackout Cake
Day 1 – Bake the Devil’s Food Sheet Cakes and freeze in the pans. Make the Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pudding and refrigerate. Make the Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze and refrigerate.
Day 2 – Cut the cake rounds from frozen sheet cakes. Chop up the cake scraps and dry in oven; let cool, then process cake crumbs in food processor to fine crumbs. Assemble the cakes (4 layers of cake + 3 layers of pudding with piped “dams” of Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze, in cake pans and freeze overnight.
Day 3 – Remove cakes from freezer, unwrap and peel off the acetate band. Coat cakes with a smooth layer of Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze (frosting consistency), and coat the entire cake with cake crumbs. Place on cake platters or cake stands and let come to room temperature. Cut each cake into 8 wedges. Serve. Or, if desired, freeze one cake and serve one cake.
|Shirl's Brooklyn Blackout Cake|| |
YIELD: MAKES TWO 6" x 3" (15 cm x 7.5 cm) DIAMETER CAKES - 4 LAYERS EACH
- DEVIL'S FOOD SHEET CAKE:
- YIELD: ABOUT 2000g (4# 6 oz) BATTER
- TWO HALF SHEET PANS (13" x 18" x 1" / 33 cm x 45 cm x 2.5 cm) SCALED @ 1000g EACH
- 400 grams pastry flour - King Arthur (3 cups)
- 120 grams Dutch-process cocoa powder - Valrhona (1 cup + 3 Tablespoons)
- 2 teaspoons baking soda (12g)
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee - Medaglia D'Oro (3g)
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt (3g)
- 200 grams eggs (4 large)
- 20 grams egg yolk (1 large)
- 500 grams granulated sugar (2½ cups)
- 340 grams mayonaise - Hellman's (1½ cups (8 grams)
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (
- 420 grams water, room temperature (1¾ cups)
- 2000 grams = Total 70 oz (4# 6 oz)
- 600 grams OLD-FASHIONED CHOCOLATE PUDDING:
- - One recipe scaled into 6 - 100g (3½ oz) portions / 3 portions for each cake.
- BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE GLAZE:
- - One recipe: use what you need for these cakes and save the remainder for another use.
- FOR DEVIL'S FOOD SHEET CAKES: Prep two half sheet pans - Line with Silpat mats and spray with Pam (with flour) or Baker's Joy. Note: I like to use Silpat mats because they lie very flat, unlike parchment paper, which tends to wrinkle when sprayed with non-stick spray. If you do use parchment paper, spray just before filling the pans, not ahead of time.
- PRE-HEAT OVEN TO 325° F (165° C).
- SIFT flour, cocoa, baking soda, instant coffee, and salt. Whisk to blend.
- TO MIX THE CAKE: BEAT eggs and egg yolk on medium speed in Kitchen Aid (or other stand mixer), using the whisk, until combined. Gradually drizzle in the sugar with mixer running; turn speed to high and continue to whip until thick and pale in color, about 10 minutes. TURN speed to low and add mayonnaise, a spoonful at a time, with mixer running. Add vanilla. ADD ⅓ of the flour and pulse in gently on lowest speed. ADD ½ of the water and mix in. REPEAT with another ⅓ of the flour and remainder of the water. FINISH by adding the remaining ⅓ of the flour and mix just until all the flour is incorporated. STOP the mixer and scrape down sides and bottom of bowl and mix in. The batter will be very thin. SCALE two portions of batter at 1000g (2# 3 oz) each. SPREAD 1000g batter evenly in each pan, using an offset spatula.
- BAKE @ 325° F (165° C) 25 - 27 minutes, until a wooden skewer tests clean, and the cake is just starting to pull away from the sides of the pans. LET COOL in the pans. FREEZE cakes in the pans overnight (or at least several hours).
- CUT the frozen cake into 6" (15 cm) rounds, 4 per half sheet pan (8 total). Use a cake board or 6" cake pan (or the removable bottom of a 6" cake pan) as a template for cutting the rounds. STACK the rounds (in two stacks of 4) as you cut them, layering with parchment paper.
- TO MAKE THE CHOCOLATE CAKE CRUMBS: CUT all the cake scraps in cubes, spread on half sheet pans, and dry in a low oven 175° F (79° C) for 1 hour. Let cool. Process in food processor to fine crumbs.
- TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: PREP two 6" x 3" (15 cm x 7.5 cm) cake pans (I like the ones with removable bottoms) or springform pans. For cake pans without removable bottoms, line the pans with large pieces of plastic wrap so that it will be easy to lift out the finished cakes. This is not necessary for cake pans with removable bottoms or for springform pans. Place 6" (15 cm) cake boards in the bottom of the pans. Line the cake pans with a 3" (7.5 cm) wide strip of acetate cake band about 22" (56 cm) long.
- STACK the layers of cake and filling in this order (for both pans): 1) Cake layer 2) Pipe a "dam" of Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze, 68° - 70° F (20° - 21° C), in a circle on top of the cake, around the outside edge of the cake, using a ½" large plain pastry tip (Ateco #7). An 18" (45 cm) disposable plastic pastry bag is good for this. 3) Spread 100g (3½ oz) of Chocolate Pudding in the center of the Chocolate Frosting "dam". REPEAT these layers two more times, then place the fourth cake layer on top and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Freeze the cakes in the pans, preferably overnight.
- FINISH CAKES THE NEXT DAY: Remove cakes from the pans and remove the acetate bands. Leave the cake board intact.On a cake stand, ice the cakes with a smooth layer of room temperature 72 - 74° F (22 - 23° C) Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze. Holding a cake in one hand over a large bowl, use the other hand to pat cake crumbs all over the cake, covering completely. If the frosting becomes too firm for the crumbs to stick, briefly torch a small area at a time, using a propane torch to soften the frosting. Pipe 8 rosettes of the glaze on top of each cake, spaced around the outside edge of the cake.
- PLACE finished cakes on platters or cake stands and allow to come to room temperature. Cut in 8 wedges to serve.