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

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.

Photo by Posie Harwood

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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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.

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

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Wanda
  • Jonica Dow
    Jonica Dow
  • Jan Johnston-Tyler
    Jan Johnston-Tyler
  • S.Neubeck
  • MarZig
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.


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! :)
Linda J. March 21, 2017
Stacey. Any way to coax the recipe for your grandmother's Pop-Up rolls out of you?
Stacey March 21, 2017
My pleasure! And I realize that I inadvertently listed AP flour, when I actually use Self-Rising for this recipe to make it easier. Sorry about that - you'd want to modify it for all-purpose.

2 cups Self-Rising Flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
1 Cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400. Combine all ingredients and bake in greased muffin pan for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Lk G. April 14, 2017
Stacey, how many rolls would this make? Thank you.
Stacey April 14, 2017
This makes one dozen Pop-Up Rolls.
Helen S. July 8, 2017
If you don't have self rising flour you can easily make it by combining for EACH CUP of all purpose flour, add 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. This yields 1 cup self rising flour
Stacey March 21, 2017
Mayonnaise is such a great secret to great baking. My family loves my late grandmother's "Pop-Up Rolls" that I've made for years. Simply AP flour, little bit of sugar, mayonnaise, and buttermilk. They melt in your mouth!
S.Neubeck March 19, 2017
In the formula you call for water.I would use oatmeal stout instead.And is there a way for baking formulae to use S.I. units ?The reason being the difference between dry and liquid measurements.
auntiemaryann March 18, 2017
My mom's copy of Mayonnaise Cake was cut out of Parade magazine. (no eggs) Now you have to try Wacky Cake. :)
Marti March 18, 2017
I made the cake yesterday and it came out lovely and moist. I baked it in a bundt pan for about 45 minutes and pulled it out just as the cake started pulling away from the edges, as the original recipe directed. My question is about sifting the AP flour. I sifted the dry ingredients prior to mixing and am wondering if I may have inadvertently gone a little light on the flour content. With homemade cakes (not box mixes) do most bakers sift the flour first, or just measure it out and add it directly to the cake?
Pema S. March 19, 2017
I don't sift' very rarely. I do for Angel food cakes, or maybe folded cakes.
cake L. March 22, 2017

The best way to measure flour is to weigh it. That way your baked goods will always come out the same. In fact, in bakeries all dry ingredients are weighed. Also different flours have different weights, i.e. cake is different that All Purpose. Hope this was helpful.
Pema S. March 18, 2017
I'very always used mayo in boxed cakes and now that I make from scratch I still do.
Carol A. March 17, 2017
Mayonnaise? This has been used in chocolate cakes for decades. Espresso powder to heighten the taste of chocolate? Ditto. Vinegar to help with the leavening? Ditto, again. Its a great recipe but don't pass it off as new and different.
Posie (. March 17, 2017
Yep, as I mentioned, totally an old-fashioned recipe! But, was my first time trying it.
petalpusher March 18, 2017
Thank you Posie, for the trip down Mayonnaise Memory Lane. I used to make vichyssoise that mayo melded everything in it and every drop was lapped up. The recipe was on the back of a H-----m---s jar. Look for a mayo that's not made with genetically modified oil. Oh sure, I could make my own, but then it would not be convenient.