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.
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?
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.
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
- 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
- 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
- 4 oz semi sweet chocolate melted, hardened, and curled
- 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.
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!
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!
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!
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!