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Brooklyn’s Most Famous Chocolate Cake, Reborn with Semifreddo
Brooklyn Blackout Semifreddo Cake

The first time I tasted a Brooklyn Blackout doughnut from New York’s cult-status Doughnut Plant, I figured the name was a catchy throwback to the summer of 2003, when the city was plunged into a historically massive 30-hour-long electricity outage. Perhaps, I thought, the rich, dark doughnuts filled with chocolate custard were conceived in the heat of the historical moment, with ingredients that came out of the quickly thawing industrial-sized freezer.

How young and naive I was! It turns out, the Brooklyn Blackout cake has been around since World War II, when Brooklyn conducted regular blackout drills, asking its residents to cover their windows to minimize the light that could be seen from enemy aircraft. Ebinger’s, a beloved bakery with locations throughout the city at the time, coined the name, and sold the handmade chocolate pudding-filled cakes in signature pale green boxes.

In the 1970s, Ebinger’s declared bankruptcy and was forced to close their stores, to a great public outpouring of grief. In their wake, a new generation of bakeries—like Ovenly, Ladybird, and Caputo’s—have started to pay tribute to the original with their own versions of the legendary recipe, and flavor has been repurposed all over the borough for doughnuts, ice cream flavors, milkshakes, and more.

In the new Food52 Ice Cream & Friends, Brooklyn Blackout takes the form of a velvety, ganache-covered semifreddo cake. Custard is spread between thin, midnight-black layers of cake, and then the whole thing is bathed in glossy ganache and leftover cake crumbs. After being frozen, the custard takes on the texture of ice cream (minus the hassle of using an ice cream maker). The finished product can be stashed in the freezer for a few hours, until dinnertime, or for a few weeks, until you’re in the mood for a nostalgic treat.

Ingredients

  • Cake
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 8 eggs, at room temperature
  • ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (use black cocoa powder for an extra blacked-out cake)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Semifreddo
  • 7 ounces dark chocolate (70% cacao), chopped
  • 2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
  • Ganache
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate (70% cacao), broken into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup (optional)

Food52 Ice Cream & Friends brings together a collection of unusual ice cream recipes, classic toppings, and frozen desserts like this one, which doesn’t require any special equipment other than a freezer.

When a rich semifreddo custard (instead of pudding) is schmeared between layers of sponge cake, you get a remix of the classic Brooklyn Blackout cake. Straight from the freezer, the stripes of filling take on an ice cream-like texture which becomes even fudgier after the cake thaws a tad.

  1. To make the cake, heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a baking sheet, line it with parchment, butter the parchment, and sprinkle with sugar. Melt the butter with the milk in the microwave, about 45 seconds. Beat the sugar and eggs on medium-high speed until the mixture is pale yellow, tripled in volume, and thick, about 8 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly add the milk and butter.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt, then fold it into the egg mixture; there should be no lumps. Fold in the vanilla.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared baking sheet and spread it evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool for a couple of minutes, then run a knife around the edges to loosen it. Invert the pan onto a wire rack, remove the parchment, and let cool completely.
  4. To make the semifreddo, in a metal or glass bowl set over a pot of slowly simmering water, melt the chocolate and espresso powder, then remove from the heat. Keep the pot simmering—you’ll need it again!
  5. In a metal or glass bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Place the bowl over the simmering water and whisk until it thickens and the sugar dissolves. Off the water, continue whisking until the mixture doubles in volume and the whisk leaves a ribbon when lifted from the bowl. Whisk in the melted chocolate and let cool for about 10 minutes.
  6. Whisk together the heavy cream and cream cheese until whipped. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture in 2 additions, just until incorporated.
  7. Line a 10-inch (25cm) loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving extra plastic hanging over the long sides of the pan.
  8. Cut the cake into 3 pieces that will fit into the loaf pan (you will use the extra cake for the crumb topping). Place the first piece of cake into the pan. Top with half of the semifreddo, followed by the second piece of cake, the remaining semifreddo, and finally, the third piece of cake. Fold the hanging plastic over the top, and freeze overnight or for up to a week. Wrap the remaining cake in plastic wrap; you will need it for serving.
  9. On the day you want to serve the cake, make the ganache: Heat the heavy cream in a pot over medium heat until scalding. Add the chocolate and corn syrup. Remove from the heat, let the mixture sit for approximately 5 minutes, and then stir until smooth. Let cool to room temperature.
  10. Crumble the remaining cake with your hands or a food processor.
  11. Use the plastic overhang to transfer the cake to a serving plate. Remove the plastic from the cake.
  12. Spread a thin layer of ganache on the sides of the cake, press the cake crumbs on the sides, spread another thin layer of ganache on top, and freeze until firm, 2 to 4 hours (or up to 2 weeks, well wrapped). Let sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving.

Anna Hezel

Anna Hezel is the senior editor of TASTE.

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