Easy Chocolate “Wartime” Cake

4 Mar

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Raise your hand if you don’t like mayo?! There’s always someone who has a weird, jiggly story to kill the mayo buzz. When you think about it though, mayo is just egg yolk, oil and vinegar. No bigs.

Over the years, I have learned to get along with mayo (especially when you add garlic and call it aioli). If you are still not ready to commit to slathering your sandwich with mayo, maybe a taste of this awesome chocolate cake will get you past your fear…

Mayonnaise is the secret weapon in this cake. It replaces the butter and all but one egg.

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This recipe hails from Cooks Illustrated’s The Science of Good Cooking cookbook. It is a “wartime” cake because ingredients like butter and fresh eggs were scarce during World War II, so cooks came up with cakes that worked without them–often using mayonnaise.

Ready for some science?! Mayonnaise contains lecithin, an emulsifier that helps keep the oil in the mayonnaise suspended in micro-droplets. These small droplets aid the oil’s ability to coat the flour’s protein particles, leading to a supremely tender cake. The test kitchen even tried replacing the mayonnaise with butter and an egg, and oil and an egg, but those cakes were less moist and the crumb less velvety than the mayo cake. The final recipe calls for an extra egg paired with the mayonnaise to give the cake an even richer flavor and springier texture. Now thats my kind of science.

Just a little more tasty science: To deepen the chocolate flavor of the cake, the recipe calls for “blooming” the cocoa powder and a touch of chocolate in hot coffee. Cocoa powder contains solid particles of fat and protein with tiny flavor molecules (!) trapped inside. Dissolving the cocoa in hot water causes these flavor molecules, which would otherwise remain imprisoned, to burst forth, amplifying overall flavor. The roasted notes of the coffee reinforce the nutty, roasted notes in the chocolate.

Are you on board yet?

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If you get bogged down with the science, just remember that this is an “Easy Chocolate Cake.” It’s one of those dump-and-stir cakes: mix the dry, mix the wet, dump and stir.

Whether it’s the mayo, the coffee, the cocoa or the science, this is the darn best chocolate cake I have had in a long time, if ever. There’s a magical top layer that forms after baking that I just wanted to cut off and call my own.

If you have any birthdays, occasions, celebrations or cravings, this is the cake you should make. And by gosh, get over your fear of mayo!

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Dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar, dollop it with whipped cream, or drizzle it with yogurt (Greek vanilla works nicely!). My new favorite crunch-tastic topping? Rainbow sprinkles!

Easy Chocolate Cake

from The Science of Good Cooking cookbook

Serves 8

1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour

1 cup (7 ounces) sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

1 cup brewed coffee, hot

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1 large egg, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

confectioners’ sugar or whipped cream or yogurt (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 350. Grease 8-inch square baking pan, line with parchment paper, grease parchment, and flour pan.

2. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl. In separate bowl, combine cocoa and chocolate. Pour hot coffee over cocoa mixture and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Gently whisk mixture until smooth, let cool slightly, then whisk in mayonnaise, egg, and vanilla. Stir mayonnaise mixture into flour mixture until combined.

3. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top with rubber spatula. Bake cake until toothpick inserted in center comes out with few crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes.

4. Let cake cool in pan on wire rack, 1 to 2 hours. Cut into squares or rectangles and serve either straight from the pan or out of a serving plate. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, dollop with whipped cream or yogurt, or enjoy as is.

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