A friend was telling me about some disastrous recipe her daughter had sampled -- vegan brownies with a black-bean base, I believe. I told her about my own forays into the land of chocolate cake prepared with canned tomato soup. "Have you ever made a chocolate cake with mayonnaise?" she asked.
I hadn't. I was shocked to realize that I hadn't even thought of making one, though I'd heard of the concept. But now, of course, I'd have to give it a shot.
When I announced my intentions at home, my son was horrified. The name of the cake was, to put it mildly, off-putting to him. Even after I explained that the mayonnaise in question would simply replace the eggs and oil one would ordinarily find in a chocolate cake, he wasn't convinced.
"Could you just not call it that?" he asked. "There may be eggs and oil in the cakes you usually make, but you don't call them Egg And Oil Chocolate Cake."
I promised I'd try to think of a more appealing name. Then I pulled out my favorite chocolate cake recipe, and started thinking of what I could do with it.
I realized that the reason my chocolate cake is so good is that it has buttermilk, eggs, and oil. Mayonnaise would have to stand in for all of them, or I'd lose some of that lovely richness. I'd also have to cut down the salt a bit, since the mayo would more than cover that.
I played around in the kitchen a bit, and this is what I got -- the best cake I've ever made.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two round cake pans. Put your kettle on to boil.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the following dry ingredients:
2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a one-quart measuring cup (or another medium bowl), put:
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water
Mix gently -- you don't want this splashing -- but thoroughly, until the cocoa powder is completely incorporated and the mixture is a smooth paste.
In a large mixing bowl, put:
1 1/2 cups real mayonnaise
1 3/4 cups sugar
Cream these with an electric mixer or eggbeater for three minutes. Stir in cocoa mixture. Stir in:
2 teaspoons vanilla
Stir in flour mixture. Beat two to three minutes more.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans and bake for about half an hour (start checking after twenty-five minutes). Remove when a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.
Now, ordinarily I'd say to let these cool for ten or fifteen minutes in the pans on a rack, then turn them out onto the racks to cool completely. However, these cakes are so incredibly rich that they're rather fragile. If you have the time, let them cool completely in the pans. Otherwise, go ahead and turn them out onto the racks -- but use great care.
Ice with your favorite frosting. I use an old-fashioned butter and powdered sugar mixture, since I believe that a chocolate frosting on this particular cake might lead to annihilation by chocolate.
This cake is like no other. I keep trying to think of adjectives to describe the difference in texture. Velvety is the closest I can come. My son, when he could be persuaded to try it, described it well.
"It tastes like this cake is frosted all the way through," he said.