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I Will Let You Eat Cake 

I am going to ignore the fresh slice of insanity that greets us every dawn and switch to a slice of hedonism for a moment. I was at a potluck the other night and brought a chocolate cake I had made. It got a good reception and friends asked for the recipe. As you wish.

I got the recipe back in the 1980s when I worked as a prep cook at the Five Spice Café in Burlington VT. It was a place of excellent pan-Asian food and rich desserts. This was called Blackout Cake. It’s not too sweet, but deeply chocolatey.

The base cake is what is called “Wacky Cake,” a cocoa based cake made with no eggs or milk. Here’s the recipe for two 9” diameter layers.


    3 cups flour

    6 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder

    1 teaspoon salt

    1 1/4 cup sugar

    2 teaspoons baking soda

    4 teaspoons vanilla

    2 teaspoons white vinegar

    ¾ cup vegetable oil

    2 cups cold water


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the dry ingredients in a bowl. Make 3 small holes in the mixture. Pour the vanilla in one hole, the vinegar in another and vegetable oil in another. Pour water over the top and mix. Pour into two lightly greased 9 inch cake pans. (Or 2 8”x8” square pans) Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean. Note: set this toothpick aside – you will need it later.

You will need filling, frosting, and some booze.

At Five Spice the filling was all-fruit raspberry jam. The other night I was low on raspberry and substituted fig preserves. It worked fine. Any sweet jam will do. Maybe apricot next time?

The frosting was just 2/3 semi-sweet chocolate and 1/3 butter, melted and mixed together in a double boiler. (In my case a stainless bowl in a pot of water.) Mix about half of the chocolate in with the butter and melt it. Then take off the heat, let it cool a few minutes, and mix in the rest of the chocolate. This cools it down more and seems to improve the texture.

The booze is flexible. I have used rum in a pinch, but an orange flavored liqueur is best. At the Spice we used Triple-Sec. More recently I used Grand Marnier. Ton choix, mon ami.

So, take your bottom layer, grab a long, sharp knife, and slice off the rounded top of the layer. This gives you a flat surface for the filling and a container of dark chocolate cake slivers for snacking.

Open your bottle of whatever, let’s say Grand Marnier, put your thumb over the top, and spritz a generous dose of boozy moisture into the cake.

Spread the top of the cake with a good eighth inch or more of jam.

Put the second layer on top of the first.

Find your carefully retained toothpick and go at the top of the cake like a meth-addled woodpecker.

Booze time again. Thumb-spritz Grand Marnier all over the top.

Spread your molten buttery chocolate frosting over the entire cake. Place in the refrigerator to chill and solidify.

Pour yourself a couple of fingers of Grand Marnier, because you deserve it.

What you end up with is an extremely dark, not too sweet cake base that reeks of posh liquor. The sweetness comes from the jam interior and the somewhat brittle coating of chocolate. Take a bite, wake up with your heels in the air. Blackout cake; what we need in dark times.

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