Sunday, March 20, 2011

Brooklyn Blackout Cupcakes

In Brooklyn, the Blackout Cake is legendary. It doesn’t look like anything special—three layers of devil’s food cake sandwiching a dark chocolate pudding with chocolate frosting, all sprinkled with devil’s food cake crumbs—but old-time Brooklynites quiver at the 

mere mention of the cake, or the sight of its famous pale green box with brown crosshatching. The original cake was made by Ebinger’s Bakery, which opened its doors on Flatbush Avenue in 1898 and eventually became a string of over 50 branches. But 

financial instability ultimately caused the bakery to go bankrupt, and in 1972 Ebinger’s and their famous Blackout Cake went the way of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Ebbets Field. Since then, others have tried to market their own versions of the cake, but none of 

these seems to have recaptured the magic of the original Blackout Cake for die-hard Ebingerists. The best that they can do it is tap into their taste memories and try to replicate the original commercial recipe at home. Even if it’s not a perfect match, how bad can it be? 

It’s all chocolate, isn’t it? Anyhow, below is my version, turned into cupcakes. Note that you will probably have some pudding left over, but it’s delicious on its own as a dessert or snack.

Brooklyn Blackout Cupcakes

Makes 22 cupcakes

Chocolate Pudding Filling:
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup (4.6 oz/132 g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup (240 ml) water
2/3 cup (160 ml) heavy cream
3 ounces (85 g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Blackout Cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups (6.4 oz/181 g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (2.9 oz/85 g) non-alkalized cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (14 oz/400 g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz/113 g) unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (240 ml) hot brewed coffee

Fudgy Chocolate Frosting:
4 1/2 ounces (127 g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped (I use Scharffen Berger)
4 1/2 ounces (127 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks/12 oz/340 g) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups (12.16 oz/345 g) confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Make the Chocolate Pudding Filling:
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt at medium speed until pale, about 1 minute.
2. In a medium, heavy saucepan, combine the water and cream, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk about 1/2 of the hot cream mixture into the yolk mixture.  Whisk this mixture into the remaining cream mixture in the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue to boil, whisking, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the chocolate until it is completely melted. Pass the filling through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract. Cover the surface of the pudding with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until chilled.

Make the Chocolate Blackout Cupcakes:
3. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the granulated sugar and, using the paddle attachment, mix at low speed until blended.
5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla extract. While mixing the dry ingredients at low speed, add the egg mixture in a steady steam. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then beat at medium speed for 1 minute, until well blended. Add the hot coffee at low speed, mixing just until blended. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and stir the batter from the bottom of the bowl a few times to thoroughly blend the batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared cups, dividing it evenly. Bake the cupcakes for 30 to 35 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes on a wire rack.

Make the Fudgy Chocolate Frosting:
6. Put both chocolates in a medium stainless steel bowl and place the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water. Heat, stirring frequently, until the chocolate is completely melted. Remove the bowl from over the pot and set the chocolate aside to cool until tepid.
7. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and beat at high speed for 2 minutes, until light and creamy. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the cooled chocolate at low speed, mixing until blended and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Increase the speed to high and beat for 1 minute, until slightly aerated. Use the frosting immediately, or cover well and keep at room temperature for up to 3 hours before using.

Assemble the cupcakes:
8. Set aside two of the cupcakes to make crumbs out of. Using a paring knife, cut a cone-shaped piece from the center of each remaining cupcake and remove it. Cut off the bottom of the cone and set aside with the reserved two cupcakes. Keep the circle-shaped top of the cupcake. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a medium plain tip (such as Ateco #4) with the chilled pudding. Pipe some pudding into the center of each cupcake, and then replace its top.
9. Process the two reserved cupcakes and bottom part of the cake cones in a food processor to form crumbs.
10. Spread the top of each cupcake with a generous amount of the frosting (you can pipe it on if you prefer). Sprinkle the frosting on each cupcake with a generous amount of the crumbs. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. These cupcakes are best served the day they are made.