Let’s clear the air about the mayonnaise upfront, shall we?
You’ll notice in the review of the ingredients (below) that eggs and oil/butter are missing. That’s because the mayo is doing their share of the work. The end product is a moist delicious cake that is almost as quick as a box cake.
In fact, you could use this cake as the base for my whiskey cake, if you wanted. Just take out the peppermint and sub the whiskey.
The Backstory on the Mayo
The raging suburban myth is that mayo as a baking ingredient was often used in the kitchens of poor Southern towns during the 1930s and ’40s, first during the Depression and later during the Second World War. As I shared on my Facebook page when I made the cake earlier this month, I’ve been a little suspicious of that story as butter and eggs were probably more available in rural areas than, say, flour and sugar.
Rationing certainly did happen in rural and urban areas during WWII, so there may be some grain of truth to the story regarding the cake’s popularity during the era. I recently found old rationing books from my mother’s family in a box of things and will share them with y’all soon. But because my grandparents raised their own food, my mom says that they never felt much of a pinch from rationing.
Thanks, however, to some research that I did in the wake of the Facebook chat–and according to this post on Chowhound, I’ve heard that, in her book The Cake Bible, Rose Levy Berenbaum reports that the recipe was developed by the wife of a Hellman’s executive in the ’30s to boost sales. I haven’t verified that yet, but it figures, right?
Here’s Why I Think “Mayonnaise Cakes” Became Popular: They’re Good
Whatever the origins, this type of cake has the advantage of being incredibly moist. And that’s why my mom made it in her own kitchen. Plus, if you use store bought mayo, you can have your youngster in the kitchen without worrying about him “sampling” the batter and eating raw egg. Not sure how much of a driver in the cake’s rise to popularity, but it is helpful at the holidays.
Flash forward from last century to just a couple of weeks back. That’s when I decided to make this recipe for my friend Pam’s Holiday Sip and Shoppe. (Remember Pam’s tamale story?) She makes and sells jewelry and holiday cards and was hosting an open house.
Because Pam has been such a source of support for me this year–she’s the kinda gal that will rush to you when your mom is in ICU and fighting for her life (trust me on this)–I wanted to pitch in and help with the event.
Into Mom’s recipe stack I went.
And this is what I came up with:
I switched this particular cake recipe up a bit and went with peppermint instead of the 1 tsp. of vanilla as called for. It came out pretty nice, I think. You can switch back to the vanilla, if it suits you. That’s how I made my son’s 4th birthday cake, doubling the recipe to make a gigantic cake that we decorated in honor of WALL-E. (You’ll note that this was before we gave up food dyes.)
You’re perhaps wondering about the frosting that I used for Pam’s open house. It was chocolate-infused peppermint. Delicious.
And I’ll share the recipe here with you this afternoon. Trust me, it’s well worth the wait. Alternatively, this recipe for chocolate icing on the Williams-Sonoma website. It’s not quite the same, but it’s pretty darn good.
Chocolate Peppermint Mayo Cake
Yields one two-layer cake.
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
4 Tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup cold water
1 tsp. organic peppermint extract
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans and set aside.
In a large bowl, bring together dry ingredients. Using a slotted spoon, blend them well and then sift them on to a sheet of wax paper. Add to mixing bowl. To the mixture, add water, mayo and peppermint. Blend well. Pour into pans. Cook for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.