ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Our Found Recipes series is usually about no-fuss food and the stories behind them. Not today.
KATIE WORKMAN: Today, we're going to talk about Ebinger's Blackout Cake. This cake is an ode to chocolate: chocolate cake, chocolate filling, chocolate frosting...
SIEGEL: And this dessert, with those three separate elements: cake, filling, frosting, is...
WORKMAN: Oh, my God. It's a big, fat pain in the butt.
SIEGEL: That's Katie Workman, creator of the Mom 100 blog and cookbook. She says making Ebinger's Blackout Cake has left her with PTCS.
WORKMAN: Post-traumatic cake syndrome.
SIEGEL: But Workman says the cake is so rich and such a part of local lore for New Yorkers of a certain age that it's worth the trauma. First, the back story.
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SIEGEL: Ebinger's opened in 1898 and grew to 54 bakeries in Brooklyn. If you lived in the borough, you lived near an Ebinger's, and their Blackout Cake was a best seller.
WORKMAN: The following of this cake was rabid. Brooklynites were nuts about it.
SIEGEL: But in 1972, Ebinger's Bakery went bankrupt, which meant no more blackout cake. Well, then, 20 years later, a recipe surfaced in The New York Cookbook. And that's where Katie Workman's post-traumatic cake syndrome begins.
WORKMAN: 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 I get started. It's not a simple cake. It involves separating eggs. It involves whipping egg whites. It involves melting chocolate, creaming, folding. Then you get to the filling. You're essentially making a chocolate pudding in its own right - dissolving cornstarch in water, whisking, thickening, refrigeration. Then the frosting. More stovetop cooking, tablespoon of butter, whisk. Tablespoon of butter, whisk. Tablespoon of butter, whisk. Repeat 12 times.
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WORKMAN: You assemble the cake. Layer of cake, top with filling. Layer of cake, top with filling. Layer of cake, top with filling. Then you frost it. Now, the kicker. It must be consumed within 24 hours, so says the recipe. So I carefully bring it to my grandfather's apartment in Great Neck, Long Island, holding it on my lap, my dad's driving the car. We have dinner. I light the candles, present the cake, and 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. I have made this for you, Grandpa. So how do you like the cake?
Do you know what I like, he asked, holding his fork aloft - he always had something aloft. It was a fork or a finger, there was always something aloft. What, I said, wondering would he single out the flavor, the texture, the delicate layering of the different components? Lemon, he said. Really? You like lemon, old man? I'll give you a lemon.
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WORKMAN: So I'm thinking about this cake and this memory, which was over 20 years ago, I decided to go back and make the cake again, to see if it really was as big a pain as I remembered. And you know what? It was. It was just as big of a pain, kind of like having a second child. Doesn't hurt any less, but you know what you're getting yourself into.
SIEGEL: That's Katie Workman. She was talking about Ebinger's Blackout Cake. She says it is perfect to make for someone with a sadistic streak who really loves chocolate. You can find that recipe on the Found Recipe page at npr.org.