Wait, We Should Put *What* in Our Chocolate Cake?

The surprise ingredient makes complete sense.

Photo by Posie Harwood Brien

This article is a part of Mayo Week—seven days celebrating all things mayonnaise—presented in partnership by our friends at Primal Kitchen.

Confession: This cake involved some subterfuge. After baking it and enjoying a slice, I knew I'd hit upon an exceptionally good recipe. I've always struggled with chocolate cakes, finding the batter too liquidy and the resulting cakes far too moist to frost easily. Classic chocolate cake recipes never taste truly rich enough for me. This recipe from the back of the cocoa box was my top contender until now.

So I had to share the cake, of course. But here's the issue: This cake is made with an entire! cup! of! mayonnaise! I sensed that bit of information would put people off the cake before giving it a chance. Instead, I served it up without a word about the mayonnaise. Everyone loved it, swooning over the texture and the flavor. Once the last crumbs were eaten, and only smears of frosting remained, I confessed.

Photo by Posie Harwood

Although it sounds bizarre, and your friends will pull a face, mayonnaise makes complete sense in a cake. It's made of eggs and oil, both of which are normal cake ingredients. The recipe is an old-fashioned one that comes from the Hellman's mayonnaise archives. Mayonnaise replaces the oil that's traditionally used in chocolate layer cakes.

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Top Comment:
“Pair it with a Vanilla Swiss Buttercream, then make a good chocolate ganache to pour over the top, and drip down the sides for the very best Black & White you'll ever eat.”
— rob

You can't taste any mayo-ness at all; it merely serves to give the cake a wonderfully velvety texture and perfectly moist crumb. To get the best chocolate flavor, use a really good quality cocoa powder. You'll see that the recipe calls for espresso powder: This is entirely optional. It's fine if you leave it out, but a pinch of espresso powder really helps to enhance the flavor of chocolate in baking. It won't add any coffee flavor in this small quantity.

Photo by Posie Harwood

In these photos, I used a basic caramel sauce to fill my cake and a simple chocolate buttercream to frost the outside. You could do the same, or you could fill and frost it all with chocolate buttercream. You could also go in lots of other directions using the cake recipe as a base: Peanut butter frosting would be fantastic. Seven-minute frosting would be a great option, particularly if you want something less rich. You could use vanilla buttercream, dulce de leche frosting, or even serve the cake plain with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Any flavor that pairs with chocolate will work here, so go wild. It is cake after all, and when it comes to cake, one should not hold back.

More from Food52

Do you think you'll put mayo in your next chocolate cake? Tell us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Helen S. Fletcher
    Helen S. Fletcher
  • cynthia k dobens
    cynthia k dobens
  • abuttonbox
  • Barbara coloroso
    Barbara coloroso
  • gigi sharp
    gigi sharp
I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.


Helen S. November 5, 2023
When you realize that mayonnaise is basically emulsified oil, it makes perfect sense. This is also one of the oldest recipes around and still good today.
cynthia K. November 5, 2023
My sister has been famous for making this most requested cake as long as I can remember. I know there has been some eyebrows raised when she revealed her “secret “ ingredient, but you can’t argue against perfection. She tops hers with peanut butter icing.
abuttonbox November 5, 2023
Hellman's had the recipe on their label in the 70s... probably even earlier too. Thanks for reminding us of how wonderful it is!
Barbara C. August 28, 2023
Just shared the recipe with my grown kids. I remember when I was a child, my mom making her “mayonnaise chocolate cake”. The men and women at the VFW events raved about it. (Dad served in Africa during WW11). My kids responded to my text with memories of their Grandma Maggie’s mayonnaise chocolate cake at family gatherings. Thanks for a wonderful walk down memory lane.
gigi S. August 3, 2023
What kind of mayonnaise did you use?
MotherHood August 3, 2023
So I have a different recipe that calls for Mayo in cake … be careful what brand you use as some have garlic powder in them!
Rebekah H. August 3, 2023
This is the very first thing I remember baking on my own when I was in high school. I can’t quite remember if I had a page from a magazine or just the back of the cocoa powder box. It’s what sparked my love of baking and now finally at the age of 45 I own and operate a bakery 😁
Wanda April 27, 2019
Hi, your recipe is a little different than mine. My Mom made this all the time. I have her recipe from back in the 50’s. It was always served with cooked icing. Nice to see it coming back in the limelight.
Jonica D. March 23, 2018
It is an old recipe. The frosting is like pudding. Absolutely wonderful! I made this over 50 years ago when we were first married and Mayo was such an
Expensive ingredient.
Jan J. March 20, 2018
This is nothing new. My grandmother used to put mayonnaise in cakes....95 years ago.
S.Neubeck March 10, 2018
I often kick anything chocolate up by adding chopped chilis.
MarZig March 9, 2018
Yes. I forgot about this trick! Cal the wait to try your recipe!
simran February 12, 2018
Nicely explained the ingredient of this cake, this cake looks delicious and the decoration is just amazing. I would like to try this cake at home as all the steps is briefly explained.
Agnes August 21, 2017
I have been using MAYONNAISE in my cakes for many, many years 30 years or more (recipe from the Hellman’s jar) any cake you use it with comes out delicious. In place of water, use any flavored juice etc.
Peg C. August 20, 2017
Totally agree, and not to forget, a mayonnaisey chocolate cake is one of Ruth Reichl's stand-boys as well! AskPeg
Ann-Marie D. July 29, 2017
Where are the weights for this recipe?! Can we all demand this of all #Food52 recipes? Not sure why it's so difficult? Lead the way please #Food52!
Shirl G. July 13, 2017
I love choc-mayo cake and this looks like another good one to try. It would really be nice is #f52 started giving the weights of ingredients (in addition to volume measurements) in baking recipes, preferably in grams. I find it so much easier to use my scale than stuffing things in measuring cups. Anyone else agree?
Posie (. July 13, 2017
Definitely noted! And agree :) I've started adding weights to my recipes moving forward. Hope that's helpful!
Shirl G. July 13, 2017
Thank you so much. I'm much more likely to try a new recipe with weights, where I don't have to translate from volume.
Michelle W. July 8, 2017
Why is it sagging?
judy March 25, 2017
So many versions of mayonnaise out there these days. Do I need to make sure that I use full fat, egg mayo?
Stacey March 25, 2017
I always have a jar of full fat mayo on hand for recipes. I'll make up the difference elsewhere. :)
Linda J. March 21, 2017
Thank you! You made my day!
Stacey March 21, 2017
You're very welcome! :)