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Southerners Know This is The Secret Ingredient for Amazing Chocolate Cake

Photo: Alison Miksch; Prop styling: Mary Clayton Carl; Food styling: Mary-Claire Britton

Hint: It comes in a jar.

Whether you’re a fan of Duke’s, Blue Plate, or Hellman’s, there’s no question that mayonnaise is an essential pantry staple in the South. It’s a key ingredient in tomato sandwiches, casseroles, pimiento cheese, and chocolate cake. (Yes, you read that correctly, Yankees—we put mayonnaise in cake.)

If you’ve never had Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake, chances are, you wouldn’t even know that mayonnaise is the secret ingredient. But you will notice how incredibly moist, tender, and rich the cake is. This cake is prized for its texture, and that’s where the mayonnaise comes in.

If the idea of mayonnaise in cake grosses you out, think about what mayonnaise is: eggs, oil, and a little vinegar for acidity. Oil makes the cake extra moist without being greasy and the vinegar enhances the chocolate flavor. Basically, you’re getting three ingredients in one handy jar. Original recipes date back to the Depression era, when ingredients like eggs and oil were hard to come by. This is a dessert that was originally born from resourcefulness, but it’s so good that we still make it today.

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Our recipe, which makes a three layer cake, calls for one cup of mayonnaise (our test kitchen prefers Duke’s), plus a generous amount of hot strong coffee, which pairs beautifully with the cocoa powder in the cake layers. Our test kitchen recommends hydrating the cocoa powder in the coffee to intensify the chocolate flavor.

The cake is so delicious that it really can stand on its own, but we can’t resist topping it with our creamy Chocolate Buttercream frosting. If you want to keep things simple, dust it with powdered sugar or top each serving with a dollop of whipped cream. However you serve it, it’s guaranteed to please.

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