New York City, NY

Make The Black Dog's Vintage Blackout Cake

Lori Lamothe

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(Tasteofhome.com)

This rich, eggless cake is moist and sinfully chocolately. It's inexpensive, not to mention easy to make. While I love The Black Dog's honey-fudge flavored chocolate icing and crumbled topping, the cake is good with a simple dusting of powdered sugar too. My favorite combination is to pair a slice with a dollop of real whipped cream.

According to The Black Dog chefs, their version of the cake is "so rich you could just faint from overindulgence." I haven't been to the restaurant since the pandemic, but the online cafe menu still lists the swoon-worthy Blackout squares.

Though the line about Black Dog blackout cake may well be true, the name actually pays tribute to the frequent blackouts during World War II. In New York City starting in 1942, the Civilian Defense Corps would order residents to turn out their lights and cover their windows with black fabric during its blackout drills.

An invisible skyline

This was done to protect the Brooklyn Navy Yard and its 42,000 workers from enemy planes, as well as American ships heading out to sea. It must have been eerie to watch New York's vibrant skyline flicker then fade to nothing. Coney Island's festive lights would shut down and Times Square's theatres and billboards would go dark. Penn Station, the Ansonia Hotel and the old City Hall Subway even tarred over their skylights to prevent any stray light from jeopardizing the departing ships.

As a tribute to the Brooklyn shipyard, the neighboring Ebinger Baking Company began selling a "blackout cake" in the 1940s--though an earlier version of the cake dates back to 1906. Ebinger's chocolate layer cake, which resembled devil's food cake, was filled with chocolate pudding and adorned with chocolate cake crumbs.

The popular Brooklyn cake, known for its richness and short shelf life, caught on but the bakery wouldn't divulge its secret recipe. Within a few years, copycat recipes began popping up across the country. Though the shop closed its doors in 1972, budget-friendly retro desserts like the blackout cake seem to be making a comeback.

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(Kim Dramer/Untapped Cities)

Want to try making blackout cake yourself? See the recipe below. Because the frosting needs an hour in the refrigerator the Black Dog recommends making it ahead.

If you want regular whipped cream instead, the restaurant chefs recommend using a big balloon whisk and a stainless steel bowl placed in a second bowl filled with ice. A mixer will do the trick, they say, but bakers should be sure to stop when the heavy cream forms light, soft peaks. Whipping the cream too long will leave you with grainy whipped cream--or even butter.

Black Dog Blackout Cake

For the frosting

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

1. Sift together the sugar and cocoa powder and set aside.

2. In a saucepan over medium heat, mix the heavy cream with the honey, butter and vanilla. Add the sugar and cocoa and stir the mixture with a whisk for 8 to 10 minutes until completely smooth. Do not allow to boil.

3. Remove from heat. Cover and cool the frosting for an hour in the refrigerator. Before using, whip with a hand-held mixer at medium speech until light and fluffy.

For the cake

Ingredients

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

3 cups cake flour

3/4 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons white vinegar

2 cups cold water

Confectioner's sugar for dusting finished cake

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare two 9-inch round cake pans with butter, oil or parchment paper (note: I much prefer parchment paper on the bottom with oil on the sides and so do the Black Dog bakers).

2. Sift together dry ingredients and place in a large bowl. Mix all wet ingredients together and pour into the dry. Combine well with a mixer or whisk until the batter is smooth.

3. Pour into two prepared baking pans and bake approximately 20 minutes.

4. Cool completely on a rack. Trim the cakes to stand about 1 1/2 inches tall. Cut trimmed off tops into 1/2 to 1-inch cubes and set aside. To frost, place one layer on a plate and spread 1/3 of the frosting on it. Top with the second layer and spread remaining frosting. Distribute as evenly as possible. You now have a "bumpy" cake.

5. Add the chocolate cubes to the top of the cake. Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve.

Enjoy!

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Writer, assistant professor, former baker. I cover cold cases, history, recipes, and culture. If you have a story idea you'd like me to investigate, you can email me at lorilamothe29@gmail.com.

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