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If you dig simple, moist chocolate cakes with only a handful of ingredients and an unadulterated, deeply chocolate-y flavor, have I got a treat for you. My recipe for chocolate snacking cake not only checks all the above-mentioned boxes, but it also comes with a secret ingredient: mayonnaise. But before you freak out, let me explain. 

First, and most importantly, the cake does not taste like mayo; in fact, it has no flavor when baked into a chocolate cake. Mayo, which is primarily made up of oil and egg yolks, takes the place of the butter or oil that you would normally add to your cake batter, and it produces a cake with a lovely soft crumb that stays moist for several days.

Related Reading: You’ll Want to Cozy Up with This Teatime Raspberry Cake All Winter

Including mayonnaise as a cake ingredient is actually a vintage move: this practice likely started during the Great Depression, when butter and eggs were too expensive for most folks. My grandmother had a chocolate mayo cake recipe that she discovered via a Hellman’s Mayonnaise recipe booklet, and though I never knew her cake contained this controversial ingredient, I do remember how sweet, soft, and moist her cake was.

Jessie Sheehan

My recipe here is perhaps one of my favorites to date, as it combines my love of simple, snacking cakes with the most festive of flavor combos I know: chocolate and peppermint. For the holidays, this cake is a perfect vessel that’s primed to be generously swirled with pink peppermint American buttercream and sprinkled with crushed candy canes.

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Here’s to hoping you give this one a whirl this holiday season (and continue to do so all winter long), and if you feel the need to keep the cake’s—shall we say unusual—ingredient a secret when serving it to your mayo-adverse loved-ones, that can simply be a secret between you and me. 

Chocolate Mayonnaise Snacking Cake with Peppermint Buttercream Recipe

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of snacking cakes, and this chocolate mayonnaise version, generously frosted with pink peppermint buttercream, might be my all-time favorite. It’ll be ready within an hour, and you’ll want to crown the finished product with pink frosting. Crushed candy canes give the cake a little sparkle—perfect for the holidays. 

Chocolate Mayonnaise Snacking Cake with Peppermint Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • A scant 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise, full-fat, preferably Hellman’s
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large yolk
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted if lumpy
  • 1/3 to 2/3 cup of heavy cream, room temperature
  • 3/4 tsp pure-vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp peppermint extract, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • A few drops of red food coloring
  • Crushed candy canes for decorating
  1. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8x8x2-inch pan with cooking spray or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda, and salt.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder, espresso powder and boiling water and whisk until smooth.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the mayonnaise and two sugars until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the egg and the yolk, whisking after each. Add the vanilla and whisk again until just combined.
  5. Add the dry ingredients in three additions, whisking after each and alternating with the chocolate mixture.
  6. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan at the halfway mark. The cake is ready when a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out with a moist crumb or two.
  7. Let cool to room temperature before frosting.
  8. To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low to medium-low until smooth, about 2 minutes. Begin slowly adding the sugar, about a cup at a time, alternating with the heavy cream, and keeping the mixer at the same low-ish speed.
  9. Continue slowly mixing in this fashion (adding sugar and cream, scraping with a spatula periodically, and taking time to let the mixer run between additions), until most of the sugar and cream has been incorporated. Add the extracts, vinegar and salt and mix again.
  10. Add the remaining sugar and cream and continue mixing on medium-low (at the highest) for at least 5 to 10 minutes, if not longer, adding the food coloring halfway through the mixing time. The frosting will be quite light, creamy, and fluffy when it is done.
  11. Generously frost the cake, either right in the pan, or remove it before doing so. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes before serving.

Related Reading: More Unexpectedly Delicious Ways to Use Mayo

Header image by Jessie Sheehan.

Jessie Sheehan is a cookbook author, food writer, recipe developer, and baker. She is the author of "The Vintage Baker" (one of the Washington Post’s best cookbooks of 2018 and beloved by Oprah and Nigella) and the co-author of "Icebox Cakes" (both published by Chronicle Books). She has developed recipes for many cookbooks, besides her own, and has contributed recipes, written and/or created video content for Better Homes & Garden, Rachael Ray Everyday, the Washington Post, Fine Cooking, Yankee Magazine (October 2020) Epicurious, Food52, The Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family Show, The Feed Feed, The Kitchn, TASTE, Chowhound, Yummly, Spruce Eats and Little Sous, among others. Jessie blogs at and can be found on Instagram at @jessiesheehanbakes.
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