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This rich, moist, and delicious chocolate cake is also the most simple to make! Only seven ingredients with no eggs or butter required. The salted caramel poured over the top takes it over-the-top, and the taste is phenomenal. Definitely a keeper for a simple yet gorgeous dessert for any holiday!
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What is Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake?
Mayonnaise cake is a classic dessert that goes back to World War II.
Because eggs and oil were going to the military, rations of mayonnaise were used in baked goods in lieu of them. Though we know mayo to be a tangy sandwich spread or dip mixer, it is perfect for sweet baked desserts --especially this gorgeous chocolate bundt cake!
Why does mayonnaise work here? Because it's made with eggs and oil, and our grandmothers and great-grandmothers knew this and made a way. Dessert was gonna be made one way or another honey! And mayonnaise helped make it possible; in fact, mayonnaise cake is easy enough for even the newest baker to make an extremely moist and decadent dessert.
And no, it doesn't taste like 'mayonnaise', despite the name. The mayo does help with the flavor though: the vinegar adds a depth of flavor to the sweet cake, it brightens it up and makes the chocolate really shine.
Because the origins of this cake comes from a 'depression' style of baking, it only has a handful of ingredients. And if you're missing eggs and butter and can't run out to get more, this is literally the most perfect cake to make!
- All-Purpose Flour. It’s important to remember not to scoop the measuring cup directly into your flour container. It packs the flour down and measures too much of it. Spoon the flour into your dry measuring cup and level the excess off with a straight edge to get a correct measurement.
- Kosher Salt. Seriously, don't use table salt. Go get kosher salt and change yo' life.
- Cocoa Powder. Use a really good brand of unsweetened cocoa powder. For the difference between Dutch/Alkali-processed and natural cocoa powder and their use in baking, scroll down.
- Granulated Sugar.
- Vanilla Extract.
- Full-Fat Mayonnaise. This is the workhorse of the recipe, so you need a real full-fat mayonnaise. The 'boiled dressing/sandwich spread/salad dressing' stuff can not be used. The ingredients include mustard, garlic powder, corn starch, and other ingredients that wouldn't do well in our cake. I'm using Duke's Real Mayonnaise in this recipe, it's made with more egg yolks than other mayo and no added sugar so it's perfect for this recipe.
- Whole Milk. Milk gives the cake a tender crumb and adds more fat to the cake. But if you're out of milk, water works, too!
- Baking Soda/Baking Powder. You need either-or, and that depends on which type of cocoa powder you're using. More on that down below.
Next, you'll need to make a simple salted caramel. This is my favorite caramel recipe, it's so incredibly easy, only takes a few minutes to make and you don't need to worry about any crystallization or using a thermometer.
- Granulated Sugar. You'll stir this up until it melts.
- Unsalted Butter. Real butter, not the buttery spread stuff. And make sure it's unsalted so you control the amount of salt you want in your salted caramel.
- Heavy Cream. Stir this in after the butter has melted.
- Vanilla Extract.
- Kosher Salt.
Alkali/Dutch-processed Cocoa vs. Natural Cocoa
Dutch-process cocoa powder starts with cocoa beans that have been washed in an alkaline solution (potassium carbonate). This wash neutralizes their acidity. So, Dutch-process cocoa powder has a neutral pH. Because the pH neutral, it doesn't react with baking soda. So in this recipe, use baking powder if you're using a Dutch-processed or alkali-processed cocoa powder. This cocoa powder also has a more mellow flavor and makes your cake darker in color.
Natural cocoa powder is acidic and bitter, with a very strong chocolate flavor. If natural cocoa powder is used in this cake, baking soda is your guy because the two react with each other to allow your chocolate mayonnaise cake to rise. Most baking cocoas you find in the US grocery store that are labeled 'unsweetened cocoa powder' are natural cocoa unless labeled otherwise.
How to Make Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake
I absolutely love how easy and simple this cake is to put together, it's really so easy.
- Grease your pan. This recipe works beautifully in a 9x13 dish, but I couldn't resist putting it into my 6 cup heritage bundt pan. It makes such a beautiful presentation and it's absolutely perfect for the holidays!
Pro-Tip: After greasing your pan, flour it with sifted cocoa powder! This makes sure the flour doesn't leave white color on your chocolate cake and that your cake comes out perfectly with no hesitation.
2. In a large mixing bowl whisk together all your dry ingredients. Make sure you sift the flour and cocoa in a sifter or through a mesh sieve so there are no lumps in the cake.
Baking Substitutes: Use about double the amount of baking powder as baking soda if swapping it in a recipe. So 2 teaspoons baking soda equals about 4 teaspoons of baking powder. If you're using alkali-processed cocoa here, 4 teaspoons of baking powder is what you'll use.
3. Add in the milk, a hearty cup of mayonnaise, and vanilla and stir it all together. It'll be a thick batter, but only mix until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
4. Spoon it into your prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) for 35-40 minutes. I like my cake a little fudgy so 35 minutes works for me.
5. Let the cake cool for at least 30 minutes before flipping it out onto a cake stand or large plate.
Next, make the caramel sauce.
All you need to do is melt the sugar down over medium, stirring constantly, until it melts completely. Then add butter and wait til the caramel is a beautiful amber brown. It sputters but don't panic, that's natural! Turn off heat.
Stir in your heavy cream until everything is homogenous, then stir in vanilla and salt. Let it cool a little until it's cool enough to handle.
This caramel holds great in the fridge for a month and great on ice cream, brownies, and, of course, this chocolate mayonnaise cake!
Can You Freeze Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake?
Make sure that the naked chocolate mayo cake has fully cooled then wrap it tightly in a couple of layers of plastic wrap and then a layer of foil. Keep in your freezer for up to 3 months.
To thaw your chocolate mayonnaise cake unwrap it and put it on a wire rack at room temperature. It should thaw out in 2-3 hours.
Find Duke’s Real Mayonnaise at https://www.dukesmayo.com/
- Large Mixing Bowl
- Heritage Bundt Pan
- Edible Gold Leaf (as seen in photos for decorating)
Love Holiday Baking? Check these out:
- Crisp, Snappy Gingersnap Cookies
- Soft and Easy Cut Out Christmas Cookies and Royal Icing
- The Best Cinnamon Rolls
- Gingerbread Whoopie Pies
- Chocolate 'Snow Topped' Crinkle Cookies
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Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake
- 2 cups (240 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (201 g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (50 g) cocoa powder*
- 2 tsp baking soda OR 4 tsp baking powder (see note)
- 1 cup (237 mL) whole milk
- 1 hearty cup (230 g) Duke's Real Mayonnaise
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup (201 g) granulated sugar
- 6 tbsp (86 g) unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 cup (240 mL) heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp kosher salt
Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease your pan with baking spray or shortening, then dust with about 1 tbsp of sifted cocoa powder until the inside is completely covered. Tap out excess cocoa.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together sifted all-purpose flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt until well combined.
- Add in whole milk, Duke's Real Mayonnaise, and vanilla extract, stirring with a baking spatula until the dry ingredients are just moistened and there's no more dry flour and cocoa.
- Spoon the thick batter into your prepared baking pan, drop the pan from about 3 inches off the workspace 3-6 times to tap out any bubbles in the batter, and settle the batter into all crevices in your pan.
- Bake the chocolate mayonnaise cake in your preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. 35 for a bit of a fudgy, almost brownie-like cake, 40 for a more set cake.
- Let the cake cool for 35 minutes before flipping out of the pan onto a cake stand.
- In a medium saucepan, stir your granulated sugar consistently over medium heat. It will clump up before it starts to melt, just keep stirring until the sugar melts.
- Once the sugar melts, stir in the butter. It will bubble and make noise, that's normal don't panic. Melt all the butter and let the caramel turn a lovely amber brown.
- Take the caramel off the heat and add in heavy cream, stirring until it's completely incorporated. It will bubble just like the butter, too.
- Stir in vanilla extract and salt, add in as much salt as you like (it's okay to taste it once it cools down slightly). Pour the caramel into a heat-safe container with a lid.
- Pour about half of the caramel over the chocolate cake and serve while warm or once completely cooled. If not serving to a crowd to eat the same day, pour the caramel onto individual slices of cake. The cake can stay out, covered, on the countertop for 3 days. The caramel can stay in the fridge for up to 1 month.
This recipe fits a 6-cup bundt pan.
Cocoa Powder-Baking Soda Note
If you're using alkali-processed cocoa here, 4 teaspoons of baking powder are what you'll use as your leavener.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 238Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 30mgSodium: 801mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 5g
All nutrition facts are estimations. Please see a physician for any health-related inquiries.
Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.