Tag Archives: southern cake

Southern Dark Chocolate and Mayo Cake

Yes, I’ve been gone a while.  I can blame it on all manner of events and situations.  I was in the Holy Land…okay, so that accounts for two weeks.  I help my 95-year old father.  THAT is a constant but one that I typically enjoy.  I have tons of yard work.  I truly do and love getting dirt under my fingernails but the fact of the matter is I got tired.  And discouraged.  And my creativity ran dry, Dry, DRY!  However, with summer being firmly ensconced in South Florida, my mind tends to run to hot weather food…and dishes I relished as a child and as a young adult.  Recalling meals I discovered in my early days or travels has me hovering over the butcher block, knife in hand or in front of the oven pulling out a cake pan to test for doneness.  That brings me to this cake.  During my college days in Georgia, I was exposed to all manner of dishes; from brains to cheese grits to chocolate mayonnaise cake.  Made popular in the early 20th century, mayonnaise was the perfect substitute for pricy eggs and milk.  While the Hellman’s company didn’t invent the chocolate mayo cake they most certainly made it popular.  Here in the South, a loved mayonnaise is Duke’s and that’s what I use here.  Keep in mind, you are not including the moisture of butter and milk so, regardless of the brand of mayo you use, do not make the mistake of using non-fat or reduced fat.  You will find this cake to be incredibly moist and tender. It is the stuff of dreams.  Also, if you’re not a fan of dark chocolate, regular unsweetened cocoa may be used in both the cake and the icing and you’ll still have a magnificent work made by your own two, capable hands.  No one will ever mistake this cake for a boxed cake or, even worse, a grocery store cake.  And since mayonnaise is essentially eggs and  vegetable oil there is no tell-tale taste…nothing more than a drop dead, gorgeous, mouth-watering chocolate cake!

Southern Dark Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • shortening to grease pans
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder, Hershey’s makes one and it can be found in the baking section of your grocery store
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup mayonnaise, not fat-free or reduced-fat
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup cold, strong brewed coffee
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Dark Chocolate Frosting
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.  Grease, line bottoms with parchment paper and grease the parchment paper three 8-inch cake pans.  Set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat at high-speed the eggs and brown sugar for 3-4 minutes.  The mixture will become light in color and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the mayonnaise until just blended.
  5. Add the coffee to the cup of water.
  6. Alternately mix in the flour mixture with coffee-water, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl in between each addition and do not over beat.
  7. Divide equally between the three prepared pans.  I measure about 15 ounces per pan.
  8. Bake for 20-23 minutes, checking at the 20 minute mark for doneness or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.
  9. On wire racks, cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pans, peel off parchment paper and place on racks to completely.
  10. Spread Dark Chocolate Frosting or frosting of choice on cake when completely cool.


Dark Chocolate Frosting

  • Servings: 3 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 2/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder, SIFTED.  If the cocoa powder is not sifted you will have lumps that are impossible to get out.
  • 7 tablespoons boiling water, plus more is needed
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar, SIFTED, plus more is needed
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. In a large mixing bowl add cocoa powder and boiling water.  With a wooden spoon, stir by hand until the cocoa and water is smooth and completely combined.
  2. Using an electric beater on low-speed add the softened butter and mix until completely combined
  3. Add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and beat on low until most of the sugar has been incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue beating on medium until the frosting is smooth.  The longer the frosting is beaten the lighter in color and the more fluffy it becomes.  If it too stiff add hot water one teaspoon at a time.  If the frosting is too loose add more SIFTED confectioner’s sugar one tablespoon at a time.




Red Velvet Cake Whoopie Pies

Our dear, dear friend, Cindy, has a big birthday this Tuesday.  She and her Dad are down from Worcester, pronounced “Wuh-stah”.  Her brother, Jimmy Kal,  and his fire-cracker wife, Sally, invited us over to watch the Superbowl with them today.  I wanted to take a little pre-birthday surprise, my way of making one of those BIG birthdays more tolerable.  I love Red Velvet cake and thought how can I make this more portable?  Whoopie pies are the answer!  Moon Pies have marshmallow in the center…I don’t do marshmallow.  I do Whoopie pies.  I started the cake part yesterday as some cakes are actually better the next day, Red Velvet being one of them.  I took inventory of my ingredients, pulled out three or four cookbooks to compare recipes and notes I had written in the margins, and sort of got lost in my thoughts.  When Jimmy took me to Boston to meet his family and friends, Cindy stood out.  Always laughing and smiling, absolutely radiating with that peaches and cream skin, I knew that girl was true.  And she was.  As there are always people who enjoy getting to know others, people who truly bring newcomers into the circle and feel sincere affection, there are also those a little more provincial who can’t wait to pounce on the first misstep, the first faux pas, that first humiliating embarrassment.  Not my Cindy.  She always had my back.  We joked and laughed, she included me in the insider stories that only one with history would understand and appreciate.  So giving!  When James needed a high chair, she lent us a vintage McDonald’s high chair with all the characters romping on the food tray along with dancing hamburgers and french fries.  She was saving it for her grandchildren who were yet to be conceived.  Brought it over, set it up and watched my boy make a great, big, baby mess.  My boy, James, loves his Thea Cindy.  She has ALWAYS given him time and never brushed him off.  When James first started on Facebook he came to me and said, and I’m quoting, “Don’t even ask.  You will never be a friend of mine on Facebook.  Never.  So don’t even ask.”  Me, “but Thea Cindy is.”  James, “SO?”.  For the 25 years I have known and loved her she has done nothing but give of herself.  Cindy’s the one who always remembers birthdays, Name Days, the day your mother or father died, your anniversary, everything.  A truly special person.  So, I can’t give her a moon but I can give her a red velvet Whoopie Pie.  S’ agapo, meli mou.  Kai Xronia Polla.

This is a super cake recipe.  It’s been tweaked a bit,  the original recipe is from David Guas’ “Dam Good Sweet”.  Great cookbook, by the way.  It’s an easy cake, better the next day, and is long on looks. The only cake that might be more Southern is a Hummingbird cake.  We’ll talk about that some other time.  Most recipes call for one to two tablespoons of cocoa… I’ve always added a half cup.  Jes’ like David Guas, so I must be doing something right.  That much cocoa makes a rich, dense, chocolatey cake.  The icing can be used as the filling for the Whoopies or the icing for the cakes.  I use a whole, scraped vanilla bean for the filling but have also used pure vanilla extract.  Both are excellent.  Oh, man.  I almost forgot.  For those using a vanilla bean, don’t throw it out after it’s been scraped.  That stuff is precious.  So stick the cut bean, bury it, in a bowl or jar of sugar.  Make sure it’s covered well.  That makes vanilla sugar, great for baking or to flavor tea or coffee.  And for those of you who like vodka, and I know there aren’t many, drop the whole bean in a bottle of vodka and let that steep a while.  Vanilla flavored vodka.  As Martha would say, “it’s a good thing.”


Red Velvet Whoopie Pies with Cream Cheese Pecan Filling

  • Servings: 7
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 2 sticks butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (1-pound) box light brown sugar or 2 1/4 cups
  • 3 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup buttermilk
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  2. Spray non-stick spray on muffin top pans or if making cake, grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.
  3. In a large, easy pouring bowl, mix flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, cream butter with brown sugar until combined.  Add food coloring and vanilla.  Increase mixer speed to medium-high and mix until fluffy and light, about two minutes.
  5. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add eggs one at a time, mixing well between each egg.
  6. Scrape down sides of bowl whenever needed.
  7. Reduce speed to low and add one-third of flour mixture and one half of buttermilk.
  8. Mix well, repeat, finishing with the last third of flour mixture.
  9. If making Whoopie pies, spread no more than 1/4 cup onto each muffin top tin and smooth each addition.  The batter will expand in the oven. For cupcakes fill 2/3 of cups and for a cake, divide batter between two 9-inch cake pans.
  10. Bake Whoopies 9-10 minutes and check for doneness.  Trust your nose.  If they smell done sooner, test them.  These cakes burn quickly.  Cupcakes are baked 12-15 minutes and layer cakes are baked 35-40 minutes.
  11. Cool all on a wire rack for 15 minutes,  invert onto cooling rack and continue to cool for one hour.
  12. Wrap each cake in plastic wrap for a few hours.  Just do it.  They come out better, I don’t know why.  They just do.

Cream Cheese Pecan Filling or Icing


  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 2 8-ounce blocks cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecan pieces


  1. In a medium bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese together until just combined.
  2. Add vanilla and beat on medium-high until light and fluffy.
  3. With mixer turned off, add 1/4  of confectioners’ sugar and slowly incorporate.  If you do this too quickly, you and your kitchen will be wearing the sugar.  Continue adding and combining until smooth and fluffy.
  4. Add chopped pecan pieces and, BY HAND, mix well.
  5. Spread cream cheese mixture completely over baked side of Whoopie then press baked side of another Whoopie firmly onto filling.
  6. Maintain in an airtight container until serving.