Chocolate Blackout Cake

Chocolate Blackout Cake

This is a truly American classic. It got its name 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 silhouetting the battleships against the cityscapes of Brooklyn and Manhattan. The cake was so named because of its darkly chocolate-practically black-appearance.

The cake itself is moist, fudgy, dark chocolate layers sandwiched and frosted with a rich, creamy chocolate pudding. The batter is made entirely in a saucepan on the stovetop, minimizing the cleaning afterwards.

This recipe is from the trustworthy magazine “Cook’s Illustrated”, to be exact – from “The Best of Cook’s Illustrated” which gives certain assurance.

Makes one 9-inch round cake, about 12 servings

For the cake:

  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for the pans
  • 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 cup brewed coffee (I used espresso)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the pudding:

  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 6 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup cornstarch, sifted
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Make the cake:

Center an oven rack and heat the oven to 325 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 30-35 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.

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. It took me about 20-22 minutes to get the right consistency of the pudding comparing to 2-4 minutes suggested time. So, consider the time as a guidance and follow your own judgment. 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.

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.

Chocolate Blackout Cake Slice

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31 Responses to “Chocolate Blackout Cake”

  1. looks great! reminds me of Devil’s food cake.

  2. Thank you, Basma. Well, you are right, there is obviously some similarity. They are both American inventions; it should explain it, I think.

  3. I had the exact same issue with the pudding, but I put it in the fridge all runny hoping it would turn into pudding on it’s own. (It didn’t!)

    Surprised that such a mistake got past the CI people.

  4. ShallowGal, unfortunately, you can’t rely on the refrigerator here :(
    I’m not very much surprised; it happens often :(

  5. The issue with the cooking time for the pudding is strange. I saw them make it on TV and Bridget said 2-4 minutes.

  6. I went to 5 different grocery stores, and couldn’t find dutch process cocoa. I ended up using dark chocolate cocoa and instead of 1 cup of espresso, I used 3/4 cup espresso and 1/4 cup hershey syrup. The cake was excellent. I made it for a friends birthday, and it was the hit of the party! I didn’t pay any attention to the timing when making the pudding. I just stirred until it was shiny and thick, as the recipe states, and it came out great.

  7. @Roxy, most cocoa is Dutch Processed. Hershey’s regular cocoa is.

  8. The pudding came together just like the fresh berry pie glaze I make (I think it’s the corn starch… one second it’s liquid and the next it’s thick, almost instantly). It took about 10 minutes.

    The cake was SUPER moist, and I actually had trouble making the crumbs it was so sticky!

    The cake wasn’t nearly as sweet as I expected it to be, which made it even more delicious. I’m not sure why, but the colour in your photographs looks MUCH darker than the way mine turned out. Great recipe over all!

  9. BC Girl, thank you for your feedback! I’m glad you liked the cake!

  10. I used this recipe about a month ago to impress my boyfriend. It worked; if he wasn’t thinking of proposing before he sure is now. Thanks for sharing all your talent and recipes; you’re a goddess!

  11. Hi, I tried your chocolate cake recipe yesterday but somehow couldn’t get the same result as you, my cake really wasn’t looking that good (atleast it tasted good). What kind of chocolate do you use? Maybe it’s coming from the flour I used, I have a gluten intolerance so I used chickpea flour instead of regular wheat flour.

  12. Lurlene, gluten free flour can certainly affect the result. Unsweetened chocolate I used here was the most common Bakers, nothing special.

  13. Made for sister’s birthday. The cake cracked and fell apart a little when transferring from pan to saran wrap, but it was absolutely delicious!!

  14. LoverofCake, I’m glad you liked it. Happy Birthday to your sister!

  15. This looks absolutely great! Can’t wait to try it and taste it! :)

  16. Would cream cheese help if add it to the pudding mixture?

  17. Fran, there is no need to add cream cheese. It will thicken on its own after sufficient cooking time.

  18. what is half-n-half?

  19. Sneha, it’s 14 % cream. You can combine equal parts of whipping cream and milk instead.

  20. I’m in the process of making this cake and the pudding thickened quickly once the mixture heated up, so I wouldn’t consider the recipe as written a mistake. Not sure why people are having such varying thickening times, though.

  21. Вера, здравствуйте. Простите, я не поняла, что такое “2 cups half-and-half”. Перевела рецепт с помощью интернет переводчика, и этот момент мне не понятен. У вас восхитительные рецепты и фотографии.

  22. Оксана, спасибо. Half-n-half – это 14% жирности сливки (пониженной жирности). Их можно легко получить смешав половину 35% сливок для взбивания и половину цельного молока.

  23. How much ml water do you mean in 3/4 Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder :D??

  24. Antonymous, water??
    1 measuring cup = 240 ml, so 3/4 of a cup = 180 ml (in volume). You can use 1/4-cup measuring cup and fill it three times with cocoa.

  25. made this yesterday..followed the recipe to the”T” and it came out great! Just have patience with the posing and all will end well! Thank you for this recipe…its wonderful

  26. Chef C, I’m so glad you liked it! Thank you for your feedback!

  27. this recipe is amazing!!
    didnt have unsweetened chocolate for the pudding so used bittersweet instead and cut down the sugar to 3/4 cup! so yummy!!

  28. Clutching harmony on December 22nd, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    How do you make espresso?

  29. Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe! I made it last weekend for my birthday and it was DIVINE! Being severly lactose intollerant, I had to modify it but it still came out virtually identical. I used 100% unsalted vegetable margarine in place of the butter and made my own buttermilk by adding white vinegar to lactose free 1.5% milk for the cake. With the pudding, I used 2 cups of lactose free milk (1.5% again) and 1 cup lactose free cream. The pudding still turned out to be the most amazing, rich chocogasm! I found it took about 10mins in total to get to decadently rich and thick stage. Everybody loved it and I already have requests to make it for other family members’ birthdays! It’s also great in that you can (heck, should) make it a couple of days in advance so you aren’t madly baking at the last minute. It wasn’t easy leaving the pudding in the fridge that long though! Lol.

  30. Blackout – for the TRUE chocolate lovers. Dieters avert your eyes. :)

  31. I made this today for my mothers birthday – I had to cook the pudding for quite a bit longer .. I put it in the fridge when glossy and thick , but even when it was cold I felt it was still not thick enough so I added another tablespoon of cornflour and reheated it all again and it thickened up nicely. So – if anyone is wondering you can reheat the pudding and cook it some more even after it’s cooled and it’s fine.
    The cake was delicious- lots of compliments. I think I would reduce the sugar a tad next time though. Great cake – thanks :)

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