Dessert Island

Chocolate mayonnaise cake.

There wasn’t much great about the Great Depression, except for some of the creative desserts that came from it. This Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake is one of them and a beloved Southern staple.

Mayonnaise replaces egg and oil in the recipe because mayonnaise is mainly made from those two ingredients. Depression-era bakers substituted cheaper shelf-stable mayonnaise for these ingredients in their chocolate cake recipes. The recipes have stood the test of time because they produce a wonderful cake crumb that’s both moist and fluffy.

The addition of espresso powder intensifies the chocolate flavor without adding a coffee flavor. This is definitely one of those times where I say, “Don’t knock it, till you try it.”

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour

1½ cups extra-fine sugar

9 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 tablespoon baking soda

1½ cups whole milk (coffee or water can be substituted)

1½ cups mayonnaise

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)

Whipped chocolate icing:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

13 cup cocoa powder, sifted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

5 cups powdered sugar

4-7 tablespoons evaporated milk (allows cake to sit out at room temperature)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, cocoa powder and baking soda together. Add milk, mayonnaise and vanilla. Mix until well combined.

Pour batter into prepared baking pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Remove cake from oven and let cool.

To prepare the icing, use a stand or hand mixer to beat butter, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt together until smooth. Add powdered sugar in two additions, beating until smooth each time, scraping sides as necessary.

Slowly beat in evaporated milk a tablespoon or two at a time, until frosting reaches a desired consistency. Icing should be light, fluffy and easy to spread.

Frost cooled cake and serve. 

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