Does substituting eggs and oil with mayonnaise work for baking a decadent chocolate cake?

Does substituting eggs and oil with mayonnaise work for baking a decadent chocolate cake?

The verdict is out. It is not worth the hype! So here’s a recipe to make it alright

We baked chocolate cake with mayonnaise, and… Image Credit: Shutterstock

Before you scrunch your nose and ask yourself, ‘Why would you ever add mayonnaise to cake?’, here’s a little known fact – the use of mayonnaise in baking was born out of scarcity of fresh eggs in the West during the Great Depression, which took place from August 1929 to March 1933.

Mayonnaise was a substitute for butter, eggs and milk, which were rationed at the time. In fact, as per, food historians say chocolate mayonnaise cake is a Depression-era dessert "invented" by Best Foods/Hellmann's to promote their mayonnaise. However, other historical evidence suggests mayonnaise cakes evolved from chocolate-infused spice cakes, popular in the early 20th century. Eventually, people went back to butter, milk and eggs, as shortages ended.

The use of mayonnaise in baking was born out of scarcity of fresh eggs Image Credit: Shutterstock

Recently mayonnaise cakes witnessed a resurgence. Necessity is the mother of invention – people were working from home and they needed to make do with what was in the pantry, so mayonnaise it was!

We decided to catch up on the trend and understood why one should never mess with some things in life!

The baking test

While baking the cake, it seemed like any other process. Adding ingredients, sifting through flour, cracking eggs – it was all doable. Until we placed in the oven. It baked for a good 20 minutes and came out looking better than expected. However, it did not rise like a regular cake usually would. That was the first flag.

The slice test

Surprisingly, this went quite well, too. When using mayonnaise in cake, each slice can be taken out with a clean cut – a task any baker could easily get wrong. We were left with an edgy, clean and sharp cut, with no hint of chocolate left on the knife. Oh nice, we thought…

The consistency test

When it finally came to check the consistency of the cake, the firmness and density of each slice – born out of an ingredient used in salads or as an accompaniment to your fries – seemed soft and spongy in one look.

A blend of eggs and oil Image Credit: Shutterstock

The taste test

Then the final and probably the truest test – tasting it. It was awful, especially in texture. We chewed, and chewed, and chewed, until we realised that it wouldn’t end until we swallowed it whole, or looked for a tissue paper to discard it. A friend even asked, in all seriousness, ”Is the secret ingredient glue?”

The verdict

Adding of mayonnaise to cake may seem like the easier thing to do, but in reality – you would be doing yourself and others a favour and not adding it in as a key ingredient.

However, why would you add it to your cake in the first place?

Adding eggs and oil directly to your batter boosts the moisture level of your cake Image Credit: Shutterstock

Well for starters, mayonnaise is just a blend of eggs and oil, which are two of the most essential ingredients used in baking. Adding these ingredients directly to your batter boosts the moisture level of your cake transforming it into a more luscious, moist and tender creation. So, perhaps that’s the logic. But, all we can say is - don’t do it. For the love of all things chocolate, don’t!

Therefore, we recommend that you go ahead and do justice to the cake by baking a regular cake using butter, milk and eggs. We adapted legendary food writer and American cook Julia Child’s Reine de Saba recipe, swapping almond flour with all-purpose flour and the butter with oil, in case you are lactose intolerant.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Serves: 10


  1. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 2 cups sugar
  3. ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  4. 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  5. 2 tsp baking powder
  6. 1 tsp espresso powder
  7. 1 cup buttermilk
  8. ½ cup vegetable oil
  9. 2 large eggs, room temperature
  10. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  11. 1 cup boiling water
  12. 1 tsp salt

For icing:

  1. 1 cup softened butter
  2. ½ cup cocoa powder sifted
  3. 5 cups powdered sugar
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  5. 1 tbsp espresso powder
  6. 3-4 tablespoons milk


  1. Preheat your oven to 350C. Grease your baking trays with butter and then line with butter paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine sifted flour, powdered sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder.
  3. Next, add in all the wet ingredients – milk, vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla extract. Using a hand blender, mix well until you get a smooth batter, free of lumps.
  4. Once done, add boiling water and mix until well combined.
  5. Pour the batter into your baking pans and bake for 35 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
  6. Once done, remove it from the oven and top it with chocolate icing, once cool.
  7. For the icing, whip butter and cocoa together until smooth in a large bowl. Add vanilla extract and powdered sugar.
  8. Next, slowly stream in milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Scrape the sides and whip again until you get a light, fluffy and smooth icing. Do this for a minute or two.
  9. Top the chilled cake with icing, serve and enjoy!

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