food & recipes

Dark Chocolate Layer Cake with Marshmallow Frosting

Dark Chocolate Layer Cake with Marshmallow Frosting I finally was able to spend a little time in the kitchen baking, which is one of my favorite things to do- especially during the holiday season! Today I wanted to share a special recipe with you that would be perfect for upcoming holiday parties or the winter months ahead. It’s one I haven’t made in a really long time (over a decade), but is a family favorite. If you’ve been reading for awhile now, you know that I lost my dad to cancer during my early twenties. When trying to decide what to bake yesterday, this particular cake popped into my head and I knew I had to make it… this cake was my dad’s favorite and it contains an odd ingredient: mayonnaise. Weird, right?! This was always my dad’s birthday cake request, because it’s one my grandmother always made for him during his childhood. When celebrating my dad’s birthday, I would always take the easy route and call a bakery to see if they could fulfill his odd cake request, but on his last birthday with us, I decided to make a chocolate mayonnaise layer cake from scratch using my grandma’s recipe. It turned out really lovely and he was thrilled, but I have to admit- when I stumbled across this recipe in one of our cookbooks in the Tuesday Made shop recently, I was intrigued to try it and see how it compares to my family recipe. I hate to say it, but this cake is even better than my grandmother’s! It’s rich, indulgent, easy-to-make, and the marshmallow frosting really kicks it up a notch (my family uses chocolate buttercream and that’s a LOT of chocolate on chocolate… almost too rich). Click through for the recipe or pin this one for later! I promise it won’t disappoint. 

Dark Chocolate Layer Cake with Marshmallow Frosting - roomfortuesday.com Ok- before you get weirded out about the mayonnaise… I know it sounds disgusting when you think about it alongside cake, but let me explain. You can’t taste it once the cake is baked. It actually enhances the chocolate flavor and makes for a really dense, moist cake. Many people substitute it for oil when baking cakes because it always yields a delicious outcome. It actually makes a lot of sense, given mayonnaise is super rich (and contains oil and eggs- two ingredients found in cake). Have you ever substituted it before?

Dark Chocolate Layer Cake with Marshmallow Frosting - roomfortuesday.com I’ve never made this particular cake for the holidays (only for my dad’s birthday), and after having a slice last night, it occurred to me- it really is the perfect dessert for the winter season and parties. Chocolate is always a crowd pleaser, a naked cake travels easily, and it’s the ideal combination of texture & flavor… dense, indulgent chocolate cake with a light & airy marshmallow frosting that feels appropriate for a snow day.

Dark Chocolate Layer Cake with Marshmallow Frosting - roomfortuesday.com This will probably be the recipe I make moving forward, unless I’m feeling ultra nostalgic for my grandma’s chocolate buttercream version. I altered the recipe from The Home Cook book by Alex Guarnaschelli. You can grab a copy from the Tuesday Made shop, if you’d like! It’s packed full of awesome recipe ideas- appetizers, main courses, desserts, comfort food, healthier recipes, you name it… it’s definitely a favorite of mine! In fact, my pavlova recipe I shared over the summer came from that same book!

Dark Chocolate Layer Cake with Marshmallow Frosting - roomfortuesday.com

Dark Chocolate Layer Cake with Marshmallow Frosting

Altered from The Home Cook by Alex Guarnaschelli
Course: Dessert
Keyword: cake, flourless chocolate cake, layer cake, mayonnaise cake, vanilla frosting
Servings: 10

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups mayonnaise (Hellmann's)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder + 1 additional tablespoon
  • 2 tsp instant coffee granules
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water

Frosting

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 T water
  • 1 T light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Topping

  • 4 oz semi sweet chocolate melted, hardened, and curled

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Thoroughly grease the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans with the butter.
  • Make the cake batter. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on high speed until light, fluffy, and lemon-colored... about 5 to 8 minutes.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, cocoa powder, coffee granules, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  • Remove the bowl from the mixer and whisk the mayonnaise mixture into the egg mixture until smooth. Stir in the flour until well combined.
  • Gently stir in 1 1/2 cups hot water. Mix until all of the ingredients are thorougly combined.
  • Bake the cake layers. Divide the batter into thirds, pouring into the prepared cake pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25-30 minutes. Allow the layers to cool completely before frosting.
  • Make the frosting. Make a stovetop water bath by filling a large skillet halfway with water and heating the water until it simmers. In a clean medium-size heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, 1 tablespoon of water, and the corn syrup.
  • Set the bowl in the water bath and wisk the mnimxture constantly (with the heat off) until it fluffs up and reaches a temperature of 140 degrees F. You can also use a mixer on low speed for this.
  • Remove the bowl from the water bath, stir in the vanilla extract, and whisk for another 1-2 minutes to cool it off a little.
  • Assemble and frost the cake! Top with chocolate curls or grated chocolate and enjoy.

Dark Chocolate Layer Cake with Marshmallow Frosting - roomfortuesday.com The original recipe calls for two layers, but I enjoy a three layer cake, so I use smaller round 8″ cake pans to create that additional layer. I hate to admit that my design brain likes odd numbers for aesthetic purposes. Haha!

Dark Chocolate Layer Cake with Marshmallow Frosting - roomfortuesday.com If you’ve never made chocolate curls before, it’s super easy. Melt some chocolate, use a spatula to spread it out over a dish, pop it in the fridge to set, then use a cheese knife or something similar to scrape the surface and make curls. Easy and they look impressive!

Dark Chocolate Layer Cake with Marshmallow Frosting - roomfortuesday.com Aside from the amazing flavor & texture, what I love most about this cake is that it reminds me of my dad. I wish he were here to share a slice with me this holiday season, but it’s a sweet memory I’ll cherish each time I make this cake. Who knows- maybe I’ll start my own chocolate mayonnaise cake tradition. I know, I know… it sounds weird, but I promise it’s delicious. You’ll have to let me know if you try it!

Dark Chocolate Layer Cake with Marshmallow Frosting - roomfortuesday.com I’d love to hear your favorite unique (or weird) family recipes… the good and the bad! Green jello is one I’m still traumatized by- it also comes from my grandma’s recipe collection. I hope everyone is having a good week so far!

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  • Reply
    Peggi
    December 15, 2021 at 4:42 am

    Good morning! That’s a scrumptious bunch of chocolatey layers you’ve got there! It should provide quite a few breakfasts.🤣 I have definitely made chocolate mayonnaise cake before! Probably not since I was a kid; I bet I’ll find the recipe in my old Betty Crocker book if I look. The mixing directions for this one are interesting; I might have to compare it to mine out of curiosity. I also made a chocolate cake this week, but I experimented with mashed potatoes to replace the eggs and make it vegan. My frosting was like yours too! But I used aquafaba and added vegan butter to make it a SMBC. I never thought to stop at the marshmallow phase to use as frosting! Except that my kitchen was about 100 times messier than yours, we were baking twins! As for family recipes, my favorites are my Nana’s molasses cookies and Cranberry Nut bread (which is really just from the back of the Ocean Spray cranberry bag!). Thankfully, jello molds were not a household staple. Ha. Last night I attended a middle school band concert (my bestie’s son is in 6th grade?!😭), so my holiday festivities have begun! We’ve got a winter weather advisory for today; maybe we’ll get some snow. It was a crazy 53 degrees the other day?! Cheers to a possibly blustery Wednesday!❄️💜

    • Reply
      Sarah
      December 15, 2021 at 9:22 am

      Good morning, Peggi! I love that you know me so well… Emmett and I most definitely had a slice of cake with our coffee this morning. I guess I’m going to take my morning grapefruit to the office for lunch today since it was replaced with cake. Lol! I’m thrilled you’ve heard of and have made a mayonnaise cake before. I was sure everyone would think I was crazy for adding that ingredient! I’m super intrigued by your vegan cake! Did it turn out delicious? It sounds really good. Don’t worry- my kitchen was probably equally as messy, I just didn’t photograph the mess in the back. Haha! I love that we were baking twins yesterday. My grandma also used to make molasses cookies and I love those! I tried your cranberry nut bread last year and it was SO super delicious. Ooof… jello molds. I can’t do those after having to eat those for every holiday as a kid. How fun that you attended the band concert last night. You’re the best auntie for supporting your bestie’s son! So sweet, and festive fun! We woke up this morning to a foot of surprise snow. It was raining when we went to bed, so it was fun to see a winter wonderland this morning. Crossing my fingers you get some snow! Cheers to a definitely blustery Wednesday. xo

  • Reply
    Colleen
    December 15, 2021 at 7:00 am

    Ooh la la Sarah you had me at dark chocolate 😋 as it’s my favorite 😍 I’m a chocolate on chocolate on chocolate kind of girl but this recipe looks amazing! Ive never added mayonnaise to a cake but I’m intrigued. I definitely see how it would add to it’s moistness and as long as you don’t taste it I would love to try it.
    I bet you were in your element yesterday whipping up this amazing delight, not to mention the nostalgia of beautiful memories of your Dad ❤️ I love how recipes bring back such wonderful memories of days gone by and remind us of fun celebrations with our loved ones. My Moms favorite dessert she used to make consistently was a custard pie with a fruit topping. I took over this tradition and made it every time she visited, especially at Christmas time 💗
    My husband and I recently watched this series on Netflix called “School of Chocolate” it was a fantastic show but I was craving chocolate cake for a solid week and I had to purchase my favorite Bacio cake from the local bakery 😉 Ah it was so good 🥰
    I’ll have to give your recipe a try, though I’m not much of a baker, maybe I’ll recruit my daughter Sarah to bake this one 😂 She also loves to bake and I have an incredible sweet tooth so it’s a beautiful thing 😜 Thanks for the delicious inspiration, now I’m craving chocolate cake again oh dear ☺️ Have a super sweet day!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      December 15, 2021 at 9:17 am

      This cake is my favorite- the sponge part of the cake is the best… super rich dark chocolate and really dense. You could easily whip up your favorite frosting recipe to pair with it! You’ll have to try (or have Sarah try) the mayonnaise trick and let me know what you think. It’s fun how food can bring back memories of people or a place in time. It’s so special! Your mom’s custard pie sounds divine! So sweet that you’re carrying on that family tradition now. I love that! Emmett and I just finished School of Chocolate! I really enjoyed it, and it also made me have chocolate cravings. Haha! Sorry to add to the chocolate urge with the cake recipe. I hope you have an amazing day! We got a surprise snowstorm last night, so I’m off to shovel at our office. Have an amazing day, friend! xo

  • Reply
    Danna F
    December 15, 2021 at 8:40 am

    I just want to give you a big hug. Hearing about your dad and his love for this cake made me tear up. I am so very sorry for your loss. I bet he loved every bite of yours. You are quite the baker amongst many other wonderful qualities.
    All you had to say was Chocolate! The presentation alone has me drooling. Yum! I have never heard of mayonnaise….very interesting! Makes sense though because it is made mostly with oil and eggs. My grandmother and aunts used applesauce or yogurt for added moisture or sweetness in their desserts. Makes me want to call my aunt (who is 84) and bakes a lot and ask her about it.
    Food and music make for wonderful memories of loved ones and times as a child. My grandmother made lots of desserts but my favorite was divinity. My husband’s grandmother made divinity every year and it was the best! We would all bring our tin boxes to fill them up to take home. Miss them both and their divinity.
    So the one that I still can’t believe is a dessert that my grandmother loved (I think she was the only one) was Mince Meat Pie! A traditional one that a lot of the family liked but I still pass on is Fruit Cake. Nope, don’t care for.
    Hope your Wednesday is great! I am looking forward to meeting friends for lunch.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      December 15, 2021 at 9:13 am

      Aww, big hugs Danna! You are so sweet, thank you. You’re going to make me tear up. I’m lucky to have wonderful memories with my dad. The sponge part of the cake is so delicious- you could easily swap the frosting for your favorite! My grandma also introduced me to substituting apple sauce or yogurt, which I’ve had great luck with. I’m willing to bet your aunt has heard of the chocolate mayonnaise cake. I haven’t had divinity in years, but my grandmother also made it and I have fond memories associated with it. Do you have your husband’s grandmother’s recipe? You should give it a try! I have to launch at the mince meat pie. Emmett likes it, but I can’t do it… I’m also not a fan of fruit cake. Have so much fun having lunch with friends today! That sounds like so much fun :) I’m off to work! xo

  • Reply
    Jody
    December 15, 2021 at 8:41 am

    I’m also intentional about making foods that my parents loved or I enjoyed as a child. It helps me grieve and brings my parents into my children’s lives, as they passed away before my kids could know them. This looks like a wonderful tweak to your dad’s favorite cake. I’m sorry for your loss and hope baking the cake brings you joy.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      December 15, 2021 at 9:05 am

      It’s such a happy memory- I love how food can take us back to a place in time or remind us of loved ones. I also think it’s special that you’re able to make those same beloved recipes for your children! Family traditions are my favorite. Thanks for your kind words, Jody! I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season :)

  • Reply
    Cheryl
    December 15, 2021 at 9:56 am

    Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.

    Not sure where Grandma got the recipe but Mom had written it on the cookie section divider in her Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. Growing up we could never understand why everyone’s chocolate chip cookies didn’t have oatmeal in them!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      December 15, 2021 at 10:12 am

      Yum!! I love a good oatmeal cookie, and I love your story! Thanks for sharing Cheryl :) Happy Holidays!

  • Reply
    Cassandra
    December 16, 2021 at 7:38 am

    Looks so YUMMY!! I was looking around for a chocolate cake, and who doesn’t love marshmallow?! I’d love to make it, but I’m allergic to corn syrup, is there a different substitute I can use for it? Thank you so much!! Have a lovely day!!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      December 17, 2021 at 12:35 pm

      Thanks, Cassandra! I would try using agave or honey in place of the corn syrup :) Let me know how it turns out! xo

  • Reply
    Anne H
    December 17, 2021 at 3:18 pm

    Oh, my goodness, this cake looks incredible, Sarah! Will definitely have to try this although I admit, I’m one of those who think a dessert can never be “too rich” so if you ever want to share your family recipe, as well….😂 So happy you have such wonderful and special memories or your Dad. I, too, feel much more connected to loved ones that have passed, by baking—my g’ma’s Ginger Snap cookies that use (gasp) Crisco shortening and pretty much anything my Mom baked. Thank you for sharing, as always!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      December 19, 2021 at 11:58 am

      Thank you, Anne! I’ll have to dig out the chocolate buttercream recipe :) I love making family recipes that remind me of loved ones and have happy memories associated with them. It’s special during the holiday season, too! You better believe I keep a can of Crisco in my pantry. Haha! Lots of those aforementioned family recipes call for Crisco. Your g-ma’s ginger snaps sound amazing!! I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend. Is CO supposed to get snow this coming weekend? My fingers are crossed for you! We were finally able to sneak in a ski day this weekend. xo

      • Reply
        Anne H
        December 21, 2021 at 11:04 pm

        NO snow in the forecast sadly. In fact, it’s been 50’s-60’s here and we’re definitely hurting. We actually just returned from a quick trip to Sedona (why I’m responding so late) and guess where we stayed? 😉

        We’re soooo looking forward to Christmas in SLC-your forecast looks great and a white Christmas almost seems guaranteed. Glad to hear you got some skiing in, too!

        • Reply
          Sarah
          December 23, 2021 at 8:48 am

          It warmed up here today and we’re having a rainy day, but I’m hoping the projected snow makes its way to us tonight! Fingers crossed for the both of us since you’ll also be in SLC :) Who knows… maybe I’ll bump into you! Have the happiest holiday with your family, Anne! xox

  • Reply
    Gabriela Hernandez
    December 18, 2021 at 4:52 pm

    Hi, is the sugar supposed to melt, or does it stay grainy? Thank you

    • Reply
      Sarah
      December 19, 2021 at 11:53 am

      Hi Gabriela! Yes- the sugar should melt and integrate… no gritty or grainy texture. Using a candy thermometer helps!

  • Reply
    Jamie
    December 21, 2021 at 9:36 am

    Oh, yes, my family has a chocolate cake recipe that uses mayonnaise too! It’s delicious. I will try your recipe soon, since chocolate cake is my son’s favorite. Baking really is tied to so many family memories for me also. I’m so sorry for your loss. The sweet memories help keep our loved ones close, even after so many years.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      December 21, 2021 at 11:46 am

      I love hearing that, Jamie! Chocolate cake is always my favorite cake :) it’s fun to hear you also have a family recipe that incorporates mayonnaise. Let me know if you give the recipe a try. Happy holidays!! xox

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