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

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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.

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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.

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.

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117109a3 6818 4ca7 9f1d 2864fdc9e92b  mayo cake

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

1e4d7b52 fd4f 4798 ae19 d0f715768358  ry 400 Posie Harwood
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Makes one 9" double layer cake
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (optional, for enhanced chocolate flavor)
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/3 cups water
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Do you think you'll put mayo in your next chocolate cake? Tell us in the comments!