A rich cake with a richer history

  • Tue Nov 8th, 2011 3:51pm
  • Life

By Judyrae Kruse Herald Columnist

After giving a lot of thought for some time now about what I would or should or could say about, on behalf of each and every one of us who has always and will always believe in and stand for everything this most indomitable, incredible, inimitable country of ours — the land of the free and home of the brave — the one and only United States of America.

So then, come Friday, on our annual Veterans Day, we have a chance to observe this one day every year that’s specifically set aside to remember and honor all of our war veterans, our heroes, those who served each and every one of us privileged to be Americans so magnificently with honor and distinction so long ago, from our Revolutionary War, the Civil War (Feds and Confeds alike) to those wars we wage at this time.

Less long ago, at least to some of us, we have a story that comes complete with a recipe:

“Mention Ebinger’s to most Brooklynites over the age of 40, and you’ll see a sparkle of nostalgia in their eyes. Bring up chocolate blackout cake and you might actually see a tear or two.

“When the Brooklyn-based chain of bakeries closed its doors, the borough went into mourning. On that fateful day, Aug. 27, 1972, the New York Times ran a story titled ‘Tears Replace the Coffee Cakes.’ ‘’

So says the cookbook about that neatsy introduction, as discovered in “America’s Best Lost Recipes.”

The book goes on to tell us that, of all the lost Ebinger recipes, not a one has had more interest in the years and years since the bakery first sold its first introduction to chocolate blackout cake.

An early beginning of what now have become takeoffs on “death by chocolate” cakes, it’s decadent, with the layers of chocolate cake, and a yummy chocolate pudding that both fills and frosts the creation. (Hearsay, the Forum hasn’t as yet had a chance to make it, and certainly never had a chance to try it there and then.)

What makes this particular version different, though, from the “death-by’s” is where it came by its name. Which would be, according to the cookbook, “from the blackout drills performed by the Civilian Defense Corps during World War II. When the Navy sent its ships to sea from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the streets of the borough were ‘blacked out,’ to avoid silhouetetting the battleships against the cityscapes of Brooklyn and Manhattan.”

Because the cake was, from its ingredients, so dark it was nearly black, plus the crumbled finishing cake crumbs, it was apparently reminiscent of a city’s skyline. The Ebinger recipe was never published, leading both Brooklyn grandmothers and who knows how many cookbook authors to rely on taste memories to come close to a duplication of the original version.

Lucky thing “America’s Best Lost Recipes” has come out with its version:

World War II blackout cake


1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups half-and-half

1 cup milk

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon each baking soda and salt

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa

1 cup brewed cofeee

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup light brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the pudding, whisk the granulated sugar, cornstarch, salt, half-and-half and milk in a large saucepan.

Set the pan over medium heat; add the chocolate and whisk constantly until the chocolate melts and the mixture begins to bubble, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and transfer the pudding to a large bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours or up to 1 day.

For the cake, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat; stir in the cocoa powder and cook until fragrant, about 1 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 pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool the cakes in pans 15 minutes, the invert onto a wire rack to cool completely, at least 1 hour.

To assemble the cake cut each cake in half horizontally. Crumble 1 cake layer onto a serving platter or cardboard round. Spread 1 cup of the pudding mixture over the cake layer and top with another layer. Repeat with 1 cup pudding and the last cake layer. Spread remaining pudding over the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle the reserved crumbs evenly over the top and sides of the cake, pressing lightly to adhere the crumbs. Serve. Or, refrigerate up to 2 days.

Makes one 8-inch cake.

The next Forum will appear in Friday’s comics pages.