Now before you go turn your nose up at this recipe, I really do want you to read this and understand why mayonnaise is used to make some of the finest chocolate cake you’ll ever experience — chocolate nirvana perhaps.
I was working in our Italian market, Marco Polo’s, last week, and a customer came in and asked if we still prepared Mama Josephine’s Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake. I heard one of the counter girls explain that we carried a chocolate cake, and I immediately looked up and said, “Yes, yes we do carry it. We don’t call it mayonnaise any longer because people are just afraid of that word and for some reason they think that’s the filling inside.”
Mayonnaise replaces the oil that’s typically used in chocolate cakes and makes the cake incredibly moist and decadent. The mayonnaise also keeps the sugar from taking over your taste buds.
I immediately stopped what I was doing this weekend and called my mother to ask her about her chocolate mayonnaise cake recipe. She told me her mother-in-law, my grandmother who I called Nana, was making chocolate cakes for the restaurant, and my father thought they were a little too dry.
My mother suggested using mayonnaise because she had seen the recipe in a cookbook and in an ad for Hellmann’s Mayonnaise in a magazine.
Mom also explained that butter, eggs and oil were rationed around World War II, and mayonnaise made a fantastic substitute in a chocolate cake. And she remembers her mother using zucchini in the cake when she was younger to make it more moist when oil was not available.
After some research on foodtimeline.org, I found that the earliest printed recipe for a mayonnaise cake, in 1927, included minced dates, nuts and cinnamon.
So is mayonnaise a secret ingredient for this moist chocolate cake? Not really, because it’s in the name, but it is a great addition.
My mother also used to put her Italian pastry cream between the layers, which we do now, but you could use a double chocolate fudge or cream cheese frosting if you like.
And so, it’s time to get back to the basics for the chef and start calling this cake by its original name, Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake. Now go bake the cake and enjoy. Mangia Bene!
Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mayonnaise
1 1/3 cups water
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour two 9-inch round cake pans; set aside.
In medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder; set aside. In large bowl, with electric mixer at high speed, beat eggs, sugar and vanilla for 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in mayonnaise at low speed until blended. Alternately beat in flour mixture with water, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Pour into prepared pans.
Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes on wire racks. Remove from pans and cool completely.
Frost, if desired, or sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Source: Courtesy of Hellman’s Mayonnaise
Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s runs his family’s 59-year-old restaurant with his brother. Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He is host to many famous chefs on his weekly radio show “Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen” on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM. He also sells dressings and sauces.