Attempting Bon Appetit’s Blackout Cake

A couple months ago, I got hooked on the Bon Appetit channel over on YouTube. It all started with the It’s Alive series and quickly moved into their general videos. I generally enjoy cooking, and while many of the recipes are a bit out of my league, there have been several that seemed do-able for a cheap cook like myself.

Having a fondness for baking, those videos in particular are intriguing for me. Though, I have to say, I’m garbage at making cake, in general. Pies, cookies, cheesecakes (which are pies, if you listen to Alton Brown, and I do), and most candies are something I can make just fine. But cake? That I’m sort of terrible at.

So, what’s one to do when they’re not very good at baking cakes? Try and make an incredibly elaborate, in-depth, multi-stage cake with 3 different “from scratch” elements that you need to put all together at the end, of course! Why would you do anything different?

With all this in mind, I still decided that I wanted to make Rick’s Blackout Cake. Because, honestly, I think a really good, rich chocolate cake is probably my favorite dessert.

If you want the written version of the recipe, you can find it here.

Also, no, I didn’t take photos of the process of making it. 1) because I had my hands full much of the time, as both the pudding and the frosting are done on the stovetop and require precise timing, lest you burn the chocolate (which is an ever-present concern with chocolate, as those who have worked with it know. It burns ridiculously easily). 2) I didn’t really want my phone to get covered on schmutz in the kitchen. 3) I didn’t really want to take photos of the state of my kitchen (sure, it’s clean, but any photo would show off any crumbs or whatnot hanging around, and my kitchen is tiny).

I will say that this cake’s preparation is fairly straightforward. The cake, itself, is rather simple. It’s mostly a “dump and stir” style cake, with the one slight difference being adding in hot water to let the cocoa bloom near the end of the assembly. Then, it’s into the pans and into the oven. The one change I made to the recipe was that I added a bag of milk chocolate chips to the batter. I was primarily using Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa, and I wanted the chips in there to 1) lighten the overall “chocolatey-ness” of the cake some and 2) add some texture (more on adding more of that later). As the cake needs to remain cooled, the chips would resolidify in the cake and add a little crunch. I also upped the salt a little bit, since I like my desserts just a touch salty.

As for the pudding in-between the layers, that remained pretty much unchanged, though I tossed in some vanilla at the very end, as well as once more upping a bit of the salt content.

The frosting is where the biggest changes occurred. Mine simply never set up as Rick’s does in the video. Several hours later, it was still a very loose consistency. It was thick, sure, but closer to something like a loose custard. It never would’ve stood up on its own and would have simply run down the cake if I’d tried to apply it as-is.

So, instead of throw the batch out, I was like, “This would make a great base for a mousse. Plus, I’ve got dark and darker for the cake and pudding, making a light chocolate mouse for the frosting might not be a bad idea.” So, that’s what I did, because thankfully I still had some heavy cream left over. I whipped that up (along with some gelatin to stabilize it all) and folded in most of the original chocolate frosting mixture.

I let that set up in the fridge for an hour and a half or so as the cake also cooled in the fridge (having been assembled with the pudding to that point). Application of the frosting came after. I did the cake crumbs along the side as in the video, but my other change was to add mini-chocolate chips on the very top of the cake. This is the extra texture I had talked about earlier. Originally, I’d meant to put some of the chips between each layer… but that just didn’t happen because I simply forgot. Whoops! So, they only ended up on top of the cake.

Look, I can’t decorate cakes. That’s not what I was put on this Earth to do. So, you can skip the “it looks terrible” comments. I already know. Thanks for playing. 😛 😉

Then, everything went into the fridge overnight.

One overnight later, and this is what we have to show for ourselves. You can see the 3 layers of cake with the 2 layers of chocolate pudding in-between and then the frosting around the edges and top.

I personally have a rule with my baked goods: don’t try them until the next day. Honestly, I don’t know what, exactly, it is, but whenever I have one of my cookies or pies or whatever, they’re not very good the day of. Well, not to say they’re “not good” but they’re “not very flavorful.” I tried some of the cake yesterday (grabbing some crumbs before they went on the sides of the cake), and some of the pudding (gotta clean the spatula somehow), as well as the frosting (don’t worry, the spatula got a proper wash before being used again here), and it was all… … alright-ish? I guess?

However, this morning, it’s much, much, much better. The flavors have both enhanced as well as mellowed out. For example, the pudding yesterday I felt was very bitter (it was dark chocolate, after all). I was actually a bit worried about it. The cake, on the other hand, was a bit bland. And, honestly, the frosting just tasted… odd.

Yet, today, I think it all works very well. The cake has become more flavorful. The pudding has mellowed out. The frosting has become creamier. I feel it all just works a lot better as a finished piece.

And so, there you have it. A ton of words on Rick’s Blackout Cake.

Will I make it again? Probably, but as Rick says in the video and I can certainly agree, it’s not a quick build. It will take you a day to do. So, be prepared for that.

Thanks, and we’ll see you next post.

Oh, and special shout-out to Suzy, Carolyn, and Andi for letting me borrow their cake carrier.

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