Monday, April 11

WWII Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

My daughter Alexis always wants a homemade chocolate cake for her birthday.  In the last couple years, she has bugged me to try a recipe she got from the mother of a past boyfriend.  Alexis lived in Kansas for a couple years with a young man she met in college. He was working at a dig site at the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Chillicothe, Ohio, where Alexis was working as an intern in her job field.
The relationship with that young archeologist didn't work out but she did walk away with a great recipe from his mom for this Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake. 

The Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake became really popular during War World II when some food staples such as eggs and butter were in shortage and housewives had to make do with what they had on hand.  

This is a rich, slightly dense but wonderfully moist chocolaty chocolate cake.  The chocolate lovers in your family will rave about this cake and ask for it again and again!

My daughter Alexis at college, moving into her  dorm

Mayonnaise Cake History
Some food historians say Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake is either a WWII or a Depression-era dessert "invented" by the Hellmann's Company to promote their Mayonnaise.  According to food historian Jean Anderson, mayonnaise provided an economic substitution for butter and milk. Other cakes with thickened dairy products as an ingredient like sour cream, sour milk, and buttermilk were also popular at the time. 

"Since 1937, Hellmann's Mayonnaise has been a main ingredient in a popular cake recipe invented by the wife of a company salesman called, simply, "Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake."
---The American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century, Jean Anderson [Clarkson Potter: New York] 1997 (p. 300)

Was Mayonnaise Cake really invented during the Great Depression or World War II? Well maybe yes, maybe no. There are earlier recipes using mayonnaise as an ingredient but most were more of a spice cake and not well known.  While Hellmann's might not have invented the mayo cake, just this delicious chocolate version, the company at the least deserves recognition for making it popular.

The American Century Cookbook has a copy of an original 1937 mayo cake recipe on p. 444 (Spice Nut Cake using mayo)

"Mayonnaise Cake.
1 cup of seeded dates, cut up. 1 cup of walnuts broken up coarsely. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of soda over dates and walnuts and add 1 cup of boiling water to this mixture. Let is stand until cool and then add 1 cup of sugar and 2 cups of flour, 3 heaping teaspoons of ground chocolate, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg and a little salt. Whip 1 egg in 1/2 cup of vegetable oil and add this. Bake in layers or a square sheet."

Mix together dry ingredients

Hints and Tips:

  • I added a couple more tablespoons of cocoa powder for a richer chocolate flavor.
  • Instant coffee mixed with hot water turns out just as good as brewed, maybe better since I make the instant stronger for this cake.
  • Miracle Whip is not mayonnaise; it is a sandwich spread not made with natural ingredients and definitely not made with eggs. (yuck!) Use only real mayonnaise for this recipe. 
  • I add semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional) to the batter after pouring into the baking pan.  The added chocolate puts this already chocolaty chocolate cake over the top!

Pour batter into baking dish.  Add chocolate chips if desired

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa powder (I added more)
1 cup Hellmann's mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip) 
1 cup cold coffee (brewed or made with instant)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mini or regular semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional) 

Done baking! 

Mix together dry ingredients. 
Mix in mayo, coffee, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed of a mixer for 2 minutes or until smooth.  
Pour batter evenly into greased and lightly floured bundt pan, 2 round cake pans or a 9 x 13 baking pan.  
Here is where you can add a handful ( about 1 cup) of semi-sweet chocolate chips to the batter.  Just drop them in and let them sink into the batter before baking. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes for a bundt pan, 30 to 35 minutes for round pans and 35 to 40 minutes for a sheet cake or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
Do Not Over Bake.

Chocolate Mayo Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting  on a vintage cake stand

Let cool in pan for 10 minutes.  Loosen cake from side of the pan, remove cake and place on plate or platter to be frosted.  A sheet cake can remain in the pan to cool.
Let cool completely before frosting. 

Inside look at the moist and delicious cake, this one with chocolate frosting

Frosting and Garnish
  • If in a hurry I use pre-made milk chocolate icing, then sprinkle chocolate chips on top.
  • To make a "formal looking" dessert, I'll add homemade fruit pie filling (cherry, strawberry or raspberry) drizzled over the top right before serving.
  • My daughter loves homemade peanut butter icing and it goes great with this cake, (and of course, chocolate chips sprinkled on top!) 
  • For an easy option, you can just dust this cake with confectionery sugar and serve with fresh fruit like raspberries or strawberries or ice cream.


Chocolate Mayo Cake with Chocolate Frosting and drizzled with Homemade Cherry Pie Filling

OK,  now I can tell you I'm not really a big fan of chocolate.  I just don't have those craving for chocolate I hear so many people talking about.  My family members, on the other hand, will hide and horde chocolate!  Need chocolate, just look in any night stand or hidey-hole around my house (and cars too) But I have to say, even though I'm not a chocoholic, this cake I do eat.  I can't say that about many chocolate dishes, so that in and of itself speaks volumes about this recipe, in my opinion. 

Hope you love it, 

Other Posts:

Grandma Elder's Carrot Cake

Old Fashioned Savory Meat Pie

Grand Champion Pumpkin Cake


Anonymous said...

Coffee in a chocolate cake, I never thought of that. Bet it's good. Bookmarking this recipe! Thanks for sharing. Love your blog. Jasmine Elkins

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Thanks Jasmine and yes, this cake is wonderful!

flowfitness817 said...

Hi!! Great blog article. I made the Tasty Ultimate Chocolate cake recipe the first week May 2018 and cringed when I read the ingredients which included mayo and Guinness Stout. I ignored my gut and decided to try the recipe EXACTLY as isvandvit was OH MY GOODNESS WOW WOW😍 This lead me tonresearch the history of mayo in cake recipes and here I am at your amazing blog. I will ABSOLUTELY try this old recipe as well. THANK you for sharing πŸ’œπŸ™πŸΎπŸ’œ