Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What is a true BROOKLYN BLACKOUT CAKE? And why is it from Brooklyn? Cleo Coyle tells you…

         Don't miss Cleo's fun, multimedia post

                "24 Hours with Clare Cosi"

                      To read it, click here. 

                         As for that cake...

The eyes eat first!

Feast your eyes on a very rare sight. Pictured above is a Brooklyn Blackout Cake that is actually from Brooklyn. Why is it rare? Because my husband and I found one of the only bakeries in Brooklyn that still bakes and sells this cake. 

Ladybird Bakery,
Park Slope, Brooklyn

The original Brooklyn Blackout Cake was invented and sold by a chain of Brooklyn bakeries called Ebinger's, a beloved institution that no longer exists. When Ebinger's did exist (between 1894 and 1972), generations of Brooklynites grew up on their specialties, including Crumb Buns, Lemon Cupcakes, and the Othello, but none of those treats became more famous than the Blackout Cake.

One of Ebinger's bakeries in Brooklyn. 
To see more Brooklyn memories, 
click here. (Photo courtesy of SCREA.)

Certainly, we all have foodie attachments, but Ebinger's went one step further. According to Dr. Annie Hauck-Lawson of Brooklyn College, who studied Brooklyn's eating patterns for her Ph.D. dissertation: "The borough is such an ethnic mix and Ebinger's was one commonality. Everybody could walk to an Ebinger's, and what could be wrong with fabulous cake?" (Source: Molly O'Neill's New York Cookbook.)

According to foodie historian Molly O'Neill, the median age of the "Ebinger's girls" was about 80, yet "they could slice and box a cake faster than a woman a quarter their age." (My own readers know *that* sounds familiar!)

Now a true Blackout Cake is not just any chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Again, according to Ms. O'Neill, it is...

"...three layers of devil's food cake sandwiching a dark chocolate pudding with chocolate frosting and sprinkled with chocolate cake crumbs."

Why is it called 

Ebinger's created this cake during World War II. Because of its dark chocolate, nearly black appearance, it was named after the blackout drills performed by the Civilian Defense Corps. 

Blackout drills are common in cities during wartime. In Brooklyn, where the navy yard regularly sent out battleships, the blackouts were necessary to prevent the ships from being silhouetted by the bright background of Brooklyn's lights.

Given the cake's historical attachment to strife, I thought it apropos to use it at the close of my Coffeehouse Mystery Murder by Mocha, when three generations of female characters undergo an intense period of worry. 

All three are waiting to hear news about loved ones. Depending on how things turn out, Greenwich Village coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi, her daughter, Joy, and the girl's grandmother will either eat the cake to celebrate--or to smother their sorrows. 

Which is it? 

No spoiler here...


To prepare my recipe post for this cake, I went on the hunt with the objective to taste an authentic Blackout Cake from a Brooklyn bakery, and I found a doozy...

This is a gourmet cake with four devil's food layers (Ebinger's had only three). Like Ebinger's, however, this version has the traditional chocolate fudge pudding in between the layers. The frosting is not pudding, however, but a decadent chocolate ganache

The bakery holds to tradition with the chocolate cake crumbs pressed along the sides of the cake, but not the top. Ladybird smooths the ganache flat for a good reason. This cake is often ordered as a birthday or anniversary cake, and the bakery keeps the top flat for scripting best wishes in icing.

Next week, I'll share the Blackout Cake recipe with you, along with my step-by-step photos. In the meantime, I hope you've enjoyed today's background on this legendary cake. In closing, I'm happy to share some of my "cake hunting" photos, as Marc and I ventured to Brooklyn to buy the cake that you see in today's photos...

   Notice the photo: When my Marc called to reserve this cake, the baker's assistant scribbled his name on the box...or thought he had. Instead of writing Marc, the assistant reserved the cake for MIKE. Talk about psychic?! If you've read Murder by Mocha, then you know why that mistake is actually amazingly accurate.
                            (I'm keeping the box!)

I'm also keeping the bag.
You can see why...!

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of

Yes, this is me - Cleo Coyle
Learn about my books here.

Friend me on Facebook here.
Follow me on Twitter here.

A Coffeehouse Mystery

A Barnes & Noble
"Must-Read" Mystery
of the month

produced by AudioGo
(BBC America)

"A satisfyingly 
rich mystery." ~ Kirkus

A Top-7 Hardcover Mystery
Bestseller, Nationwide
(Nielsen Bookscan)

Includes more than 20 
fun, delicious recipes...
To see many of them, click here!

As I mentioned above,
the Blackout Cake
plays an important role in my
Coffeehouse Mystery, 
Murder by Mocha,
now a bestseller in paperback.

The book's recipe section features many
recipes, including chocolate recipes!
To see some of them, click here.


  1. Sigh. Looks delicious but complicated. I could never get it to turn out that way. Do they ship? Just a wishful hope.

    1. I don't think they ship, but they are worth the trip!

      Thank you for joining in.

      ~ Cleo

  2. That cake looks AMAZING! To funny about the box (I would keep it too), it is fun when little random things like that happen in the universe!

    1. Always amazed and surprised by life, but I guess that keeps us hopping!

      Thanks for stopping by.

      ~ Cleo

  3. This cake looks amazing. So glad I discovered your site!

    1. Please come back. You never know what surprises are in store.

      ~ Cleo

  4. This looks so yummy! I would love to sport that T-shirt.

    1. Thank you for stopping by. Come again next week for part two.

      ~ Cleo

  5. LOL on the box!! As soon as I saw it my laser sharp spelling error eyes honed in on that ;-) I loved the walk through Brooklyn and the history behind the cake. I'm one of those weird birds that doesn't particularly care for chocolate thought everyone else at Chez Phillips loves it! I will be sharing this "tour and lesson" tonight over dinner...and I am sure that Chef Connor will be attempting his own Brooklyn Blackout next week!

    Thanks for sharing your world with us all.


    1. And we'll all expect a full report on Connor's triumph. Eat with joy.

      ~ Cleo

  6. Oh my! I have had a raging sweet tooth for a few days. One of these cakes could definitely take care of that. If only I could actually get one...sigh.

    1. The elusive blackout cake will make another appearance on this very sit next week. Be there or be square!

      ~ Cleo

  7. Since I only live a few stops away, can I come on your next bakery tour? I gotta have one of these blackout cakes, it looks fabulous! I really enjoyed the history behind the cake and the bakery, but now I am dying for a piece! BTW, I caught the name on the box right away and thought it was funny too! Your kitty obviously has good taste since she/he likes the bag so much. . . Lol!

    Thanks for the chance to win the shirt, I hope it is me!

    1. Oh, I'm sure you could show me a few bakeries, too! We're lucky we're in a genre that lets us indulge our sweet tooth as part of the job.

      ~ Cleo

  8. Mmmmm I have been craving chocolate cake and this one looks amazing! I can't wait to read this book. :-)

    1. Hope you love the cake, and the book. Be well, and thanks for coming by.

      ~ Cleo

  9. The cake looks and sounds DELICOUS. Chocolate cake is my favorite!!

    1. The Brooklyn Blackout Cake is the nuclear bomb of chocolate cakes. Eat with joy--and caution!

      ~ Cleo