Brooklyn Boro

Ask a historian: What happened to the famous Ebinger’s bakeries?

November 26, 2019 John B. Manbeck
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Herb from Baltimore asks: “Years ago I lived in Brooklyn and I remember Ebinger’s bakeries and their delicious cakes. What ever happen to them?”

Ebinger’s, a chain of 58 retail stores founded in 1898 on Flatbush Avenue by George and Catherine Ebinger who came from Germany, vanished from Brooklyn like all good things in life, Herb.

Bankrupted in 1972, they left memories on our taste buds — especially of their favorite, the Chocolate Blackout Cake. Elliot Willensky, former Brooklyn Borough Historian, evaluated that pastry in his book, “When Brooklyn Was the World.” He had this to say: “Mmmmmmm.”

While the blackout cake, named for the blackout days of World War II, became the winning favorite, other popular items were lemon chiffon pie, pineapple cheesecake, Boston cream pie, a butter cream cake with three pistachio nuts on top, cocoanut custard pie, a chocolate hard icing cake, chocolate covered “eggs” as well as cupcakes and bread, store sliced on demand. And they were packaged in a distinctive cross-hatched box tied with a slender white string.

The chain had stores throughout the borough: at Nostrand and Flatbush junction, on Church Avenue, on 86th Street, at Kings Highway, Coney Island Avenue and other busy sections. One of their bakeries and thrift shop stood at 2290 Bedford Avenue. In their last year in operation the bakery sold $12,750,000 of baked goods.

Population shift became the reason for Ebinger’s extinction. Many of the customers had moved to Long Island from Brooklyn and Queens. To offset this problem, Ebinger’s built a new plant in Melville but it had a cost overrun in 1971, leading to its bankruptcy.

Arthur Ebinger, president, noted that quality was the key word of the bakery. The chocolate and cheese, made in Watertown, used in their cakes was exclusively made for the company, according a 1961 New York Times article.

Supposedly, the recipes have been locked in a safe — although several copycats have attempted to revive the name and the products. William Entenmann, who opened his bakery also in 1898, is now owned by Bimbo Bakeries. Steve’s sells an ice cream flavor named Brooklyn Blackout Cake.

The famous Ebinger’s Blackout Cake has never been successfully duplicated. Basically, it is a chocolate layer cake filled with chocolate pudding, topped with chocolate fudge icing and chocolate cake crumbs.

An approximation of the recipe appears in “The New York Cookbook: From Pelham Bay to Park Avenue, Firehouses to Four-Star Restaurants,” by Molly O’Neill.

Ask a Historian is written by John B. Manbeck, the former Brooklyn Borough Historian. To find answers to your questions about our fair borough and its history, fill out the form below. 

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  1. JimPolichak

    Ebinger’s went out of business because they were too successful. They expanded into supermarkets which wanted more cakes but were too slow to pay for them. Ebinger’s took out too many loans to keep operating, The banks foreclosed on them.
    My mother’s sister’s husband was a cousin of the Ebinger’s family. Great cakes at every family party!