Chocolate Blackout Cake

My husband still talks about this cake. I made it years ago for a friend's surprise birthday party before my husband and I were dating. He was at the party and remembers me, and remembers the cake. I remember the cake. 

Ever since that time, through our dating and several years of marriage, my husband has periodically mentioned this cake: 

"Remember that really rich chocolate cake you made for Becky's birthday party before we were dating? Do you still have the recipe for that?" 

or, "You know that cake, the one with the crumbs on the outside? It was really good." 

or, "You can make me that chocolate pudding crumb cake any time."

It's sad with how many hints he's dropped that I'm only just now making the poor man his cake again. I decided to make it a surprise Valentine's Day treat, and worked on it in stages after work while he was at an evening class. I had a great partner in crime:

She a great cooking buddy. Give her a whisk and silicone hot pad and she's in chewing heaven. Throw in some Disney tunes and a crazy mama dancing around to "Hakuna Matata" like a weirdo and she's giggling and laughing like she's watching the coolest thing she's ever seen. I don't know how I ever cooked without such an adoring audience.

The surprise cake (which turned out to be not such a surprise since I hadn't factored in the intense chocolate smell from baking) was just as good as my husband and I remembered. It's a rich chocolate pudding in layer after layer of chocolate cake. The cake is the easiest from-scratch cake I've made. It's not fussy, doesn't require melted chocolate or special flours and still ends up perfectly fluffy and flat. The unusual crumb coating on the outside makes it impressive looking but also hides a multitude of frosting errors if you are prone to making them like I am. If you have a chocolate lover in your life (especially if it is you)  you should definitely add this cake to your recipe collection.

Chocolate Blackout Cake

HeatOvenTo350 Published 02/18/2013
Chocolate Blackout Cake


For the Pudding:
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the Cake:
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-processed)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. For the pudding: Whisk the granulated sugar, cornstarch, salt, half-and-half and milk in a large saucepan. Set the pan over medium heat. Add the chocolate and whisk constantly until the chocolate melts and the mixture begins to bubble. (It will go from grainy looking to smooth and chocolaty.) Stir in the vanilla and transfer the pudding to a large bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours or up to a day.
  2. For the cake: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 2 8-inch cake pans. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the cocoa powder and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Off the heat, whisk in the water, buttermilk, and sugars until dissolved. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla, then slowly whisk in the flour mixture.
  4. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool layers in pans 15 minutes, then invert onto wire rack. Cool to room temperature, at least 1 hour.
  5. To assemble the cake: Cut each cake in half horizontally. Crumble one cake layer into medium crumbs and set aside. Place one cake layer on serving platter or cardboard round. Spread 1 cup pudding over cake layer and top with another layer. Repeat with 1 cup pudding and last cake layer. Spread remaining pudding evenly over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle cake crumbs evenly over top and sides of cake, pressing lightly to adhere crumbs. Serve. (Cake can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)
Yield: 10 servings
Prep Time: 30 min
Cook time: 45 min plus 4+ hours cooling time
Recipe Source: adapted slightly from America's Best Lost Recipes

35 Click For Comments:

Holy moly, that is one perfectly decadent looking cake!! I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to forget it either!

Your little girl is the cutest, and those big blue eyes are stunning :)

Ok, first off, Amelia just keeps getting cuter! Those little chubby cheeks and gorgeous blue eyes...so adorable. If I had an audience like that I think I'd be in the kitchen even more ;)

Second, this cake sounds AMAZING. I love pudding layers instead of frosting. And the cake itself looks incredibly moist. I'm pinning this for Nate's next bday cake, although his birthday is months away. I know he would adore this!

Oh, thanks, Tracey. I think she's pretty cute but I'm a little biased. :)

Aww, thanks, Amy! Yes, the cake is really moist, and it stays that way for days. If Nate likes chocolate, he would love this cake. Let me know if you make it and how it turns out for you!

Oh man. That looks SO good. I am a sucker for a good chocolate cake! Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment! ~Nicole

wow...that looks incredibly sinful!!! LOVE baby Ameilia! Cute, cute, cute!

Oh. My.

I need this in my life. Yesterday.

This looks fabulous and your sweet baby is to-die for!!!

She is just adorable and this cake looks amazing. I pinned it and cannot wait to make it. YUMMMMM

WHOA. That cake looks SO good - and your baby is SO cute! Thanks for sharing. Pinned this and can't wait to try it!

okay, she is adorable!

as is this cake! saw a similar recipe in Food & Wine recently that I ripped out to make soon!

Oh boy - this looks amazing and your little one is a cutie!
There was a bakery in Brooklyn where we lived that carried blackout cake and we'd get one of their towering slices whenever we could. I finally made one a couple years back...we loved it but it was more work than the average cake so I've only made it once but I need to do it again. I particularly love the pudding filling and think that's what makes it really special. The recipe I used also had a fudgy ganache frosting on the outside.

How does this compare to the Costco 5-7 layer cake?? Thanks!

It has been a while since I had that cake but I think this one is a little more chocolaty, less sweet, and just as moist if not moister.

This cake looks incredible! I also saw a recipe in Food and Wine recently and ripped it out. I think this one looks better!

Omg looks delish! Will have to make it for hubbys birthday this weekend =)

??? anyone know wot half-and-half is??

Hi Wendy - it's a dairy product with more fat than whole milk and less than cream. If you are having trouble finding it at the store, you can substitute a mixture of half cream, half 1% milk.

Haven't started yet, but any high altitude suggestions?

what if I were to substitute the all purpose flour with Bleached/Cake flour would it still be the same measurments? I am not sure how to convert this ..

Yes, I think the measurements would be the same.

I'm not entirely sure. Maybe you didn't cook it long enough on the stovetop? You have to cook it until it boils and it should thicken slightly from the cornstarch. Putting it overnight in the fridge should help, too.

omg i SOO want to make this but i can't find half and half in any of the stores where i live. could i use a substitute for half and half (3/4 cup milk and 2 1/2 tbl sp butter mixed well) ?

Yes, you could use that for a substitute. You could also just use whole milk if you had that, though it wouldn't be quite as rich, or you could try a 50:50 mixture of milk and cream. Enjoy!

I made this cake for my son's birthday and everyone loved it. I have to admit I used my Mom's recipe for chocolate salad dressing cake. The frosting has just the right amount of chocolate and sweetness. Along with crumbling the one layer I added slivered almonds poked into the crumb topping. It tasted as great as it looked...I was told this was my best cake ever. Next time I make it I'm using your cake recipe...thanks!!

That's wonderful! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for letting me know how it worked for you.

making this cake now, cant wait to try it!

It is a dairy product that is half light cream and half milk. The fat content is between 10.5 and 12%.

What if we dont have half-and-half what to use as a substitute

See my answer to Sarah Shams in earlier comments, or look under Cream, half and half on this ingredient substitution list: http://www.joyofbaking.com/IngredientSubstitution.html#ixzz1VhPxq7Gi

The pudding was the star for me. IT was absolutely perfect. My cakes came out flat but my kids still enjoyed it. Thank you for the recipe.

Can v make it without eggs..? N wt else to put instead of eggs?

I don't know a good substitute for eggs in this recipe. I'm sorry.

I just came across your blog, and I wanted to say that it's lovely! Your photos are fab!

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