I grew up on the eastern end of Long Island, but my mother and grandmother came from Brooklyn. As a kid, it was a big deal when my grandmother drove out to visit. Certainly it was great seeing her, but one thing made ever visit special: she always brought cakes from Ebinger's. I don't think I ever set foot in any of their stores, and if you weren't from the New York City area, you've never heard of them, but they were bakery perfection.
The chain was founded in 1898 by George and Catherine Ebinger and quickly thrived. What I remember most are three cakes that no one has ever duplicated:
- A yellow cake with a hard, dark chocolate icing, the two layers separated by a milk chocolate buttercream.
- A chocolate cake, much like a torte in a small loaf, with the hard, dark chocolate icing. It had a pattern of green lines running over the top, dividing it into squares. My brothers and I used to fight over who got the end pieces (with more of the delectable icing).
- The chocolate blackout cake.
The latter is what people remember today. It was a dark devil's food cake, with dark chocolate icing between layers and on the top. But icing was sprinkled with crumbs of the cake, turning the smoothness into a great texture. It was a chocolate addict's dream and called by many "the best cake on Earth."
I think the key to all the Ebingers cakes were their chocolate icing. It was relatively thin and made of dark chocolate, and were thin and hard, more like candy than cake. I've never found anything like it on any cake since. The Chocolate Blackout Cake's crumbs of cake only made it even better.
In 1972, Ebingers went bankrupt and the recipe for the cake was lost.* There have been attempts at recreating it, but I'm not sure anyone has gotten it right.**
I haven't tried them. I'm not sure if I want to, since I doubt they would measure up to my memories.
*Word has it that the heirs have it, but refuse to sell.
**The cake on the link looks very close, and only misses by having too much cake sprinkled on the frosting. The true Ebinger's Chocolate Blackout Cake had only a thin sprinkling that let the gloss of the icing come through. It's from a recipe at CooksCountry.com. The picture on the Cooks County website looks less like the real cake than this one.