I Love Chocolate

by Stephanie Zonis


Blackout Cake

At least 12 servings


This used to be a very popular dessert. Since I haven't seen a blackout cake in years, however, I am attempting to bring it back to the well-deserved fame it once enjoyed. If you don't know, a blackout cake is layers of dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate frosting. I remember getting them years ago from the supermarket, and the outside of the frosted cake was covered with more cake which had been crumbled into small pieces. This is a large, rich creation that should handily serve 12 people; it is quite dense and moist. It is three layers of cake, split to make six; five are stacked with frosting, and the sixth is crumbled for the outside. It looks like a party all by itself, and is down-home and fancy at the same time.

The cakes for this are easy, and can be made a day ahead if you wish, or farther ahead and frozen, but you must have 9-inch round layer pans that are two inches deep. (If the cake recipe looks familiar, that is because I borrowed it from November's Baked Alaska .) You'll need a candy thermometer for the frosting. This cake will keep in the fridge for a few days, if tightly wrapped, and it can be frozen very successfully (thaw, still in wrappings, in the refrigerator). Make sure you have large plates for serving, and you'll definitely want something to drink with this (milk or coffee are good choices).


Cake (ingredients listed are per layer):
1 cup buttermilk
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into thin pats
1-1/4 cup flour
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
1/3 cup Dutch process unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
Pinch salt
1 egg, graded "large", beaten to mix
1 tsp. vanilla

6 squares (6 ozs.) semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 squares (3 ozs.) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
14 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into chunks
5 eggs, graded "large"
1 cup plus 3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
Pinch salt
1/3 cup pulp-free orange juice, preferably fresh-squeezed
3 Tbsp. water


For Cake:
You will need three layers, or three times the recipe given. If your oven will not hold three 9-inch layer pans on one rack, you may want to bake two layers the night before. Adjust rack to center of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. To prepare layer pans, grease with solid vegetable shortening. Line bottoms with wax paper cut to fit, grease paper, and dust the entire inside lightly with flour, knocking out any excess. Set aside.

In small, heavy-bottomed, nonreactive pot, combine buttermilk and butter. Place over low heat, stirring often, until butter is melted. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.

Meanwhile, sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl. When buttermilk mixture is lukewarm, add to it the beaten egg and vanilla; with fork, beat to mix well. All at once, add liquid to sifted dry ingredients. with whisk, stir until dry ingredients are moistened, then beat briskly until well-mixed (a few small lumps are OK). Batter will be thin. Turn into prepared pan(s). Holding a pan in both hands, tilt slightly so that batter runs up sides of pan a bit. From a height of about 3" above a flat surface, drop filled pan three times (this helps to distribute air bubbles evenly).

Bake in preheated oven 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center emerges with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Do not overbake. Cool in pan 10-15 minutes. Gently loosen cake from edges of pan; invert onto cooling rack. Gently peel off wax paper; re-invert to cool right side up. Cool completely before using or storing airtight.

For Frosting:
In large, heatproof bowl, combine chopped chocolates and butter. Set over simmering water on low heat (water should not touch bottom of bowl). Stir frequently until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and hot water; set aside near stovetop.

In one quart heavy-bottomed, nonreactive saucepan, combine eggs, sugar, and salt. By hand, beat thoroughly to combine well. Add orange juice, then water, beating to mix after each addition. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture registers 170 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from heat.

Quickly strain about one-quarter of hot egg mixture into chocolate mixture and whisk well to combine. Gradually strain remaining hot egg mixture into chocolate mixture, whisking to mix after each addition. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula to ensure thorough blending. Cool slightly, then chill. Whisk occasionally until frosting begins to thicken, then scrape bowl sides and bottom with rubber spatula and whisk frequently until mixture is of spreading consistency. (Alternatively, place bowl of frosting in larger, shallower container half full of ice and cold water. Whisk frequently and scrape bottom and sides of bowl often. This method is much quicker, but the frosting must be watched more closely, as it can harden before you know it.) When ready, frosting will have thickened considerably, and it will form soft peaks (just like a meringue or whipped cream does) when the whisk is lifted from it.

Important Note:
While frosting chills, or beforehand, if you're using the quick-chilling method with ice and water, prepare the cake layers, as they should be ready for assembly when the frosting is. To do this, trim the tops of the layers if they are not flat (I have never had to trim these layers; for me, the tops are always flat. But you might have to.). Using a large, sharp, serrated knife, carefully halve each cake layer horizontally (this will give you six thin layers). Use one thin layer to make the crumbs for the outside of the frosted cake--I use a layer that was originally the top half of one of the three layers I baked. Because this cake is dense and moist, you want to pull this thin layer into very small pieces with your fingers or a fork, rather than crumble it (the end result will look better). Place these very small pieces into a bowl, and cover airtight. Cover the remaining five thin layers so they won't dry out, and have a serving plate ready; you'll need a plate with a flat portion in the center at least 9-1/2" in diameter.

When the frosting is ready, place a dab of it in the middle of the serving plate. Now, place what was originally the top half of one of the three layers you baked, cut side up, onto the serving plate, on top of the dab of frosting. Spread about 1/2 cup of the frosting onto the cut side of this layer, spreading it just to the edge. Place the bottom half of this same layer, cut side down, on top of the frosting, and spread the top with another 1/2 cup frosting. Repeat. At this point, you should have one thin layer of cake left; it will be the bottom half of one of the three layers you baked. Place this, cut side down, on top of the cake; press gently. Straighten sides if necessary. Frost sides and top with remaining frosting.

With your fingers, pick up some of the cake crumbs you made earlier. Flatten out your hand so that it's just slightly cupped, and pat crumbs onto the side of the cake. Some crumbs will fall onto the serving plate--that's OK, just pick them up and re-apply them. You want to put the crumbs on randomly, but be aware that the entire surface of the frosting will not be covered with crumbs. When you're finished applying crumbs to the sides of the cake, pat them onto the top. Now, chill the cake for about 30 minutes. If necessary, use your hands to re-shape the sides. Chill until cold before covering tightly; chill at least 2 hours before serving.

To serve, you'll need a large, sharp knife. Cut thin slices, as this is quite rich. Store in refrigerator, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 days, or freeze.


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Copyright © 1998 Francesca Chocolate Productions. All Rights Reserved.

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This page created December 1998