Chef Fran Costigan

Brooklyn Blackout Cake for National Chocolate Cake Day

Black Out Cake Whole LR

For National Chocolate Cake Day, my first thought was to post the recipe for the cake that started it all for me, the Chocolate Cake to Live For, but the one I really wanted to share is the cake of my childhood, the Ebingers Bakery Brooklyn Blackout Cake. No matter where I have traveled to do a dessert demonstration, I always find a Brooklyn expat, and their love for this cake is as deep as mine. I saw a lovely woman in Atlanta get teary when I made and she tasted the Blackout. Believe me, I could do no less than a perfect rendition of the iconic cake. It tastes of childhood to me, and I’ve even had some New York chefs ask after a taste –”what, you aren’t vegan anymore?”

My family moved from Brooklyn to Long Island when I was five years old, but I have vivid memories of my father regularly travelling back to Brooklyn to buy the famous Ebinger’s Bakery Blackout Cake we all missed eating. I still miss it today. It is etched into my memory as the most perfect chocolate cake in the entire world. And I am hardly alone in my adoration of this iconic cake, which is named after the World War II blackouts. The all-chocolate Blackout Cake was composed of three fudgy layers, each slathered with a rich and creamy chocolate pudding, frosted with the same pudding, then showered with chocolate cake crumbs made from a fourth layer. As wonderful as it sounds, it tasted even better. When I set about creating a vegan version, I knew it had to be a perfect rendition for the New Yorkers— especially Brooklynites—who grew up eating this beloved cake. I am proud to say I’ve served this cake to friends who were Ebinger fans and Brooklyn natives, and they all swear it is as good as the original.

This showstopper of a cake is easy  (and fun) to assemble, requiring only that creamy chocolate pudding be spread between the layers and on the sides and top. There’s no need to be fussy about smoothing the pudding, since it’s the thick covering of crumbs that creates the final “WOW!” The cake layers can be made ahead and frozen, and the pudding can be made a day ahead and refrigerated in a covered container.

Kate Lewis’s photo of the cake is gorgeous as we have come to expect from Kate. In fact though, my Blackout Cakes, are homier with thicker layers of fatter crumbs covering the cake. You will have extra Chocolate Pudding to nibble. That’s the way it should be. Make this cake!!


Brooklyn Blackout Cake

Black Out Cake Slice LR

Note: I think this cake tastes best with natural cocoa powder. If you cannot find natural cocoa powder where you live, you may use Dutch-process cocoa powder, just substitute 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon baking soda for the 2 teaspoons baking soda.

Makes One (9-Inch) Three-Layer Cake, 12 To 14 Servings


  • Double recipes Almost-Instant Chocolate Pudding (the doubled recipe follows), cooled
  • 2 cups / 414 grams organic granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups / 198 grams organic whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 cups  / 193 grams organic all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup/ 50 grams  natural cocoa powder (non-alkalized; see note about using Dutch- process cocoa powder)
  • 2 teaspoons / 10 grams  baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon / 5 grams fine sea salt
2 cups water /480 ml at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup / 160 ml  mild tasting extra-virgin olive oil or organic neutral vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons / 45 ml pure maple syrup, Grade B or dark amber
  • 2 tablespoons / 30 ml apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon / 15ml  pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon / 5 ml chocolate extract (optional)


  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350° Oil the sides and bottoms of two 9 x 3-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment circles. Do not oil the paper.
  2. Place a wire mesh strainer over a large bowl. Add the sugar, whole wheat pastry flour, all-purpose flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt to the strainer and stir with a wire whisk to sift the ingredients into the bowl. (If any small bits remain in the strainer, add them to the mixture in the bowl.) Whisk to aerate the mixture.
  3. Whisk the water, oil, maple syrup, vinegar, vanilla, and chocolate extract (if using) in a separate medium bowl until completely combined. Immediately pour into the dry mixture and whisk until the batter is smooth.
  4. Divide the batter between the 2 pans. Rotate the pans to level the batter and tap them lightly on the counter to eliminate air bubbles.
  5. Bake on the middle rack for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the tops of the cakes are set, the sides have started to pull away from the pan, and a wooden toothpick or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs.
  6. Set the cakes on wire racks. After 5 minutes, run a thin knife around the sides of each cake to release the sides of the cake from the pan. Invert each cake onto a rack. Remove the pans and carefully peel off the parchment paper. It is fine to cool the cakes bottom side up.
  7. When the cakes are completely cool, slide a 9-inch cardboard cake circle under each one. Wrap the layers with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour, or until cold.

Assemble The Cake

  1. Use a long serrated knife to slice each cake layer in half horizontally to form four layers. Crumble one of the layers into a food processor. Pulse the processor a few times to make medium-size crumbs, but stop before they get too fine. Pour the crumbs into a bowl.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place one of the remaining three layers, still on the cake circle, on the baking sheet. Spread with a scant cup of the pudding. Place a second cake layer on the pudding, board side up. Remove the board and spread the layer with another scant cup of pudding. Slip the board under the last layer and invert it onto the cake. Spread with another scant cup of the pudding. Refrigerate the cake and remaining pudding for 20 minutes. (It is easier to finish a cold cake.)
  3. Cover the sides of the cake with the remaining pudding. Sprinkle the top and sides of the cake liberally with the cake crumbs, completely covering the pudding. Pat the crumbs lightly to make sure they adhere. Use all the crumbs, even the ones that fall onto the paper.


It’s best to serve this cake within 24 hours, but it will hold up for a day in the refrigerator. It is not necessary to wrap the cake.


Almost-Instant Chocolate Pudding

Note: The cornstarch is crucial to get the right texture for this pudding. Using another starch thickener, such as my usual first choice arrowroot, would result in pudding with a stringy, unpleasant texture.

Makes 2 1/4 cups


  • 1 cup /222grams  organic granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup /56 grams organic cornstarch (do not use arrowroot, see Note)
  • 1/4 cup / 50 grams  Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 3/4 cups / 900ml vanilla soymilk, vanilla almond milk, or vanilla coconut milk beverage
  • 3 ounces / 46 grams  dark chocolate (59 to 62%), chopped into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon/ 5ml  pure vanilla extract


  1. Sift the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt through a wire mesh strainer into a medium saucepan. Slowly stir in the milk. Keep stirring until no trace of any of the dry ingredients is visible. The idea is to make sure the cornstarch is completely dissolved before you turn on the heat.
  2. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture begins to thicken and is close to a boil. This can take as long as 12 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed to get a full boil, but don’t let it be so high that the bottom scorches. As soon as the pudding starts to boil, it will thicken to pudding consistency. Immediately lower the
    heat and boil gently for another minute, stirring frequently with a silicone spatula.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Gently stir in the chocolate with the silicone spatula until the chocolate is melted and incorporated.
    Stir in the vanilla.
  4. Spoon the pudding into a bowl. It will be set and ready to use in about 30 minutes at room temperature, but it can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours. If you refrigerate it, cover the surface with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap adheres to the pudding to prevent a skin from forming.


From Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, © 2013 by Fran Costigan, Running Press. Photo credit: Kate Lewis


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Raw Chocolate Fudge and Mandarin Orange Tart for National Pie Day

Chocolate Tart 1

Photo by Hannah Kaminksy© 2015

This is my personal opinion of course, but the majority, if not all of the raw chocolate tart fillings I’ve sampled seemed more like date paste-flavored cocoa rather than the rich, silken chocolate fudge I craved. I tested many fillings until I was satisfied. This chocolate fudge filling is different. Luxuriously smooth and definitely chocolate, I’m betting that whether or not you are a raw enthusiast, the recipe will find its way into your file of favorite chocolate recipes.  It is versatile too. Make small parfaits, layering the Raw Chocolate Fudge with fruit and /or nuts. Spread a layer of the filling on the baked Almond Cookie Crust too for a change of pace, and replace the raw cocoa with Dutch-process. The recipe will no longer be raw, but it will be very good.


Note: As is the case with all dried fruits, the relative dryness is variable so the amount of liquid needed to hydrate the fruit and the quantity of purée is not absolute.

The crust will soften at room temperature, so keep this filled tart, minus the fruit in the freezer until ready to serve. Add the fruit just before cutting. Cut cold.


Raw Chocolate Fudge and Mandarin Orange Tart

Makes one (9 to 9 1/2-inch / 23 to 24-cm) tart



  • 5 1/4 ounces /149 grams pitted Medjool dates (about 9 large)
  • 1/2 cup / 120 ml boiling water, or more if the dates are very dry
  • 3 ounces / 85 grams cocoa butter, chopped into small pieces (substitute coconut oil)
  • 2 teaspoons / 10 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon / 60 grams raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons / 90 ml pure maple syrup, Grade B
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons / 105 grams cashew butter, jarred or homemade
  • 2 tablespoons / 30 ml agave syrup, or use an additional 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons / 10 ml alcohol-free vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon / 3.75 ml tamari or nama shoyu (unpasteurized soy sauce)
  • 1 Raw Nut Crust (recipe follows), prepared in a removable-bottom tart pan and frozen
  • 6 to 7 mandarin oranges, for garnish
  • 1/8 teaspoon lemon salt or any flaked finishing salt, for garnish



  1. Rinse the dates and soak them in the hot water for 20 minutes. (The dates can soak overnight in the refrigerator if this is more convenient.) When the dates are very soft, mash them with a fork to a paste. Remove any skins that slip off easily.
  2. While the dates soak, melt the cocoa butter: Put the cocoa butter into a small heatproof bowl. Fill a small skillet with enough very hot water so that it will reach about one third of the way up the side of the bowl. Carefully place the bowl into the skillet and stir the cocoa butter until it is melted. Be careful not to splash even a single drop of water into the melting cocoa. If using coconut oil, use the same method. Keep the cocoa butter warm.
  3. Purée the dates, any remaining soaking liquid, and the lemon juice in a food processor until smooth. Measure out 6 tablespoons of date paste and refrigerate any extra for another use. Return the 6 tablespoons of paste to the processor.
  4. Add the melted cocoa butter, cacao powder, maple syrup, cashew butter, agave syrup, vanilla, and tamari. Process for 2 to 3 minutes, until the filling is absolutely smooth, stopping the machine a few times to clean the sides.
  5. Spread the filling in the tart crust and smooth the top. Refrigerate the tart for about 2 hours until the filling is firm.


Finish The Tart

Remove the tart from the refrigerator. Peel the mandarins, removing all the white pith. Separate the oranges into their natural sections. Arrange the slices over the filling in concentric circles, so that most of the filling is covered but some of the chocolate peeks through. Sprinkle with the lemon salt or other finishing salt if you wish.



Slice the tart cold for the neatest slices. Serve at room temperature.



The tart can be refrigerated without the orange segments for up to three days or loosely wrapped overnight with the fruit.

Freeze the tart without the oranges, tightly wrapped, for up to one month. Defrost unwrapped in the refrigerator. Add the oranges before serving.


Chocolate Tart 3

Raw Nut Crust 

I never expected a raw nut crust to become one of my favorite crusts, but the ease of making this one and its lovely flavor converted me. This flourless crust is not baked. It is simply formed and pressed into a removable bottom tart pan. Instead of baking, you freeze the crust until it is firm. For a truly raw option, use alcohol-free vanilla extract.

Note: It is essential to use a tart pan with a removable bottom. A pan with a nonstick finish does not need to be oiled.

Makes one (9 to 9 1/2-inch / 23 to 24-cm) crust or six (4 1/2-inch / 11-cm) tarts



  • 5 ounces / 142 grams walnuts (or use another nut)
  • 3 ounces / 85 grams raw unpeeled whole almonds
  • 1/4 cup / 60 ml agave syrup or pure maple syrup, Grade B or dark amber
  • 1 tablespoon / 15 ml coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoon / 5 ml pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt



  1. Place a 9 to 9 1/2 -inch / 23 to 24-cm tart pan with a removable-bottom on a parchment-lined sheet pan. The parchment will catch any dough that may spill over when you press the crust. It is much easier to move a removable-bottom pan when it is on a sheet pan.
  2. Chop the walnuts and almonds coarsely in a food processor by pulsing the processor on and off a few times, then process to a fine meal. Do not process longer or the nuts will get oily.
  3. Add the maple syrup, oil, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt and process just long enough for the ingredients to become moistened. Press a small amount in your fingers; it should stick together. If not, process again very briefly.
  4. Spoon the dough into the tart pan. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the crust and use a flat-bottomed glass or cup to press the dough into an even layer on the bottom and up the sides of the pan, making the bottom a little thicker than the sides. Use about 4 1/2 tablespoons / 70 ml of crumb for each 4 1/2 -inch / 11-cm tart pan. Freeze the crust before filling.


Recipes from Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, © 2013 by Fran Costigan.

Photos by Hannah Kaminsky

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The Vegetarian Flavor Bible Giveaway and a Guest Post from Karen Page

TVFB_FINALCOVER_300dpi_500In The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, Karen Page, a two-time James Beard Award-winning author unlocks flavor combinations for hundreds of ingredients, while examining health considerations. This book is truly an essential guide to culinary creativity. Emphasizing plant-based whole foods, the book provides and A to Z listing of ingredients from acai to zucchini blossoms, cross-referenced with herbs, spices and other seasonings that work to best enhance their flavor. The result is thousands of perfect pairings. I really appreciated the first chapter, devoted to the history of vegetarianism and many of the key players and events that have led us to today, when eating less meat or even no meat is considered mainstream. Karen has shared her personal journey, along with her husband Andrew to a largely plant-based diet. (Andrew is responsible for the book’s beautiful photographs.) How Karen, Andrew and I had not met until their book event at the 92nd Street Y with Candle 79’s Joy Pierson is a mystery to us. But, we did meet and soon after, we enjoyed a long teatime conversation together. I was already a fan of her other books, notably, Becoming a Chef and The Flavor Bible, but this vegetarian themed book has me over the moon. Thank you Karen (and Andrew)!


KarenPageAuthorShotFlowers300dpiWT800When I first started letting people know that I had adopted a plant-strong diet, I remember being asked, “But how on earth could you live without bacon – or chocolate?” – which were two of the five foods I’d mentioned in my book CULINARY ARTISTRY that my eight-year-old self swore I could live on for the rest of my life.  (The others, btw, were bananas, peanut butter, and Rice Krispies.)


VBT_Photos_chocumami_lagustasI’ve since found satisfying substitutes for bacon (including smoked paprika and smoked tofu, plus the amazingly crispy tempeh bacon I tasted at Real Food Daily in Los Angeles), but I was never in any real danger of having to give up chocolate.  I’m not a big fan of milk chocolate to begin with – plus with Fran writing amazing books like Vegan Chocolate, there are thankfully more vegan chocolate recipes around than I’ll ever have the time to take on firsthand.  And with talented chocolatiers like Lagusta Yearwood offering mail order, there’s also no reason not to enjoy a bit of vegan chocolate when you don’t feel like cooking yourself.


Andrew and I love playing around with chocolate in the kitchen.  In the old days, we used to grate Valrohna chocolate into heavy cream to make hot chocolate.  (Woof!)  Today, we grate organic 70% dark chocolate into almond milk, and heat it until warm (and not longer, lest it all evaporate!).  When we want to add a twist to it, we’ll scan the list of flavor pairings for chocolate in THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE, and see what gets us excited.  Sometimes it’s just a shake of cinnamon; other times, it’s a squeeze of orange juice – depending on whether we want that tertiary flavor to take the hot chocolate in a lighter and tart (orange) or sweet and earthy (cinnamon) direction.


Whenever you’re seeking pre–screened inspiration on the fly, all you have to do is look up whatever ingredient you’re working with, and scan the book’s list for bold and BOLD CAP ingredients that pair well with it until you choose the one that most appeals to you.  You can keep cross-referencing up a storm, because as long as any ingredient you add to the original two is compatible with every other ingredient, you’re on your way to experiencing exciting new flavor synergies.


VBT_Photos_chocumami_petitsfoursFor example, under CHOCOLATE in THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE, you’ll find lots of flavor pairings to get your palate revved up, e.g., BANANASCARAMELcherriesCINNAMONcoconutCOFFEEdried fruit, gingermalt, maple syrupMINTmochaNUTSraisins, raspberries, rumSUGAR, and VANILLA, just to mention a few of the more popular ones.


From there, you’ll find ideas for flavor affinities, which are groups of three or more ingredients that all play well together – for example:

chocolate + almonds + maple syrup
chocolate + banana + Brazil nut + smoke
chocolate + banana + caramel + pecans + vanilla
chocolate + caramel + coffee + cream + malt + peanut
chocolate + cherries + dates + nuts
chocolate + coconut + ginger
chocolate + coffee + orange
chocolate + dried plums + hazelnuts
chocolate + peanut + pretzel + stout
chocolate + pecans + vanilla
chocolate + pistachios + walnuts

VBT_Photos_chocumami_candle79dessertOnce you know what flavor affinities you’d like to work with, you can get ideas for how leading restaurants have combined those ingredients into a dish. For example, at Candle Café West in New York City, the flavor affinities “chocolate + banana + caramel + pecans + vanilla” became the dessert of “Mexican Chocolate, Brownie with Caramelized Bananas, French Vanilla Ice Cream, Candied Pecans and Chocolate Ancho Sauce” pictured here.


A few other examples:

chocolate + caramel + coffee + cream + malt + peanut
Chocolate Layer Cake: Coffee Bean Cream, Chocolate Ganache, Lucky Hand Black Lager Caramel, Peanut Brittle, Malt Chip Ice Cream
–Millennium (San Francisco)


chocolate + banana + Brazil nut + smoke
Banana Chocolate Tart with Mesquite Flour Crust and Brazil Nut
–True Food Kitchen (Santa Monica)


chocolate + peanut + pretzel + stout
Chocolate Uber Chunk Pretzel–Peanut Crust, Malt Custard, Stout Ice Cream
— Vedge (Philadelphia)


Have fun letting THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE inspire your next creation in the kitchen!


I have a copy of The Vegetarian Flavor Bible for one one lucky winner. Follow the instructions below to enter. U.S. residents only, please. Contest ends at midnight on January 15, 2015. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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