For Brooklyn, Ebinger’s Blackout Cake was a decades-long institution. Ebinger’s Bakery opened in 1898, quickly flourishing with dozens of locations throughout the borough. There was a time when, if you lived in Brooklyn, you lived near an Ebinger’s — and you knew its famous blackout cake. The signature chocolate dessert had a rabid following among Brooklynites, until the bakery went bankrupt in 1972.
For Katie Workman, though, the cake is something else entirely: “Oh my God, it’s a big, fat pain in the butt.” Workman, the creator of The Mom 100 cookbook and blog, says that making the cake is so difficult, she still suffers what she calls PTCS: “post-traumatic cake syndrome.”
Workman’s travail began with the best of intentions, when she saw a recipe for the coveted chocolate cake in Molly O’Neill’s New York Cookbook. “I thought: I have to make this for my grandfather’s birthday. He was in his 80s, he had grown up in Brooklyn and I knew that he would remember this cake.
So, Workman got started on the three components of the dessert: the cake, the filling and the frosting. Each component had a separate recipe requiring multiple steps, over two dozen ingredients and lots of spoons, spatulas, bowls and pans. What’s more, the cake must be consumed within 24 hours, lending an air of urgency to her drive to bring it to her grandfather.
But it would all be worth it for her grandfather’s reaction — or so she thought. She explains how she felt at the time: “I’m so excited, I’m explaining this is the Ebinger’s Blackout Cake of his youth. This is the cake, this is the recipe!”
As she waited for him to respond, she wondered what he would call his favorite part of the cake: “Would he single out the flavor, the texture, the delicate layering of the different components?”
After all her effort, what did he pick? ” ‘Lemon,’ he said.”
She couldn’t believe it. “Really? You like lemon, old man? I’ll give you a lemon!”
Years after she made the chocolate cake for her lemon-loving grandfather, Workman made it again to see if it was as arduous as she remembered. It was. She says it’s like having a second child: “It doesn’t hurt any less, but you know what you’re getting yourself into.”
In spite of it all, though, she says it’s well worth it. Ebinger’s Blackout Cake is so rich, and such a rich part of local lore for New Yorkers of a certain age, that it’s perfect for anyone with a taste for chocolate — and just a little bit of a sadistic streak.