During the Great Depression and right through World War II, good home bakers had to work around shortages of eggs, sugar and dairy products.  Community cookbooks from those years have recipes called “Boiled Cake” and “Water Pie”.  The people making Hellman’s mayonnaise saw a silver lining, and a marketing opportunity —they created a chocolate cake recipe that used mayonnaise in place of some of those scarce ingredients.  That cake is enjoying “a moment” —-it’s one of the most chocolate of chocolate cakes imaginable.  Recipe below uses 3- 8” cake pans, but 2- 9” pans work too.  Use your favorite frosting—or the recipe below.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 1 ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup good mayonnaise (not “light” or olive oil-based, or ‘salad dressing’)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup VERY strong, brewed coffee (espresso works fine)
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Beat eggs and brown sugar for 4-5 minutes. Add mayonnaise and mix to blend.   Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder and salt.  Add coffee to water.  Alternately add flour mix and coffee/water to egg mixture, mixing well after each addition—begin and end with flour mix. 

Butter cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper circles.  Divide batter into pans.  Bake in pre-heated 350’ oven for 20-25 minutes—toothpick comes out clean when they’re done.  Cool completely on racks before icing. 


  • 1 cup softened butter (not melted)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • ¼ cup (+ or -) heavy cream

Beat butter and vanilla until smooth.  Whisk sugar and cocoa together.  Add sugar mixture to butter alternately with cream—beating after each addition—then beat a few minutes more until frosting is light and spreadable.

The Kitchen Hive

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