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Simple Chocolate Cake

from Cook’s Illustrated (March/April 2009, pg. 25)

Updated with pictures.


This is a surprising little cake.  And the surprise is mainly because of one ingredient - mayonnaise.  NOT “salad dressing,” mind you.  No.  The real stuff.  Mayonnaise.  It was a method used in war-times when butter and eggs were scarce; the mayonnaise served as a substitute for those ingredients.  This is not a fancy dancy, decorate up with fondant and buttercream icing kind of cake. But it is definitely simple enough for a week-night dessert.


1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup (2 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa powder (or “Special Dark”)
2 ounces dark, bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (chopped fine)
1 cup hot coffee (or equivalent mixture of hot water and espresso powder)
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

You will also need:

8 inch square cake pan
Non-stick cooking spray
1 large mixing bowl
1 small-medium mixing bowl
Confectioners’ (powdered) sugar for garnish



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and prepare cake pan by spraying with non-stick cooking spray.

In large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  In smaller bowl, combine cocoa powder and chopped chocolate; pour hot coffee over cocoa/chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth.  Let this mixture cool for several minutes then whisk in mayonnaise, egg and vanilla.  Pour mayonnaise/chocolate mixture into flour mixture and stir until combined.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth it all around.  Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out with few crumbs attached after being inserted into the center of the cake.  Note:  the cake will have a nice rounded domed middle and cracks on the top.  This is normal.

Allow cake to cool in pan on wire rack for 1-2 hours.  Turn cake out  onto serving platter and dust with confectioners’ sugar to serve.

Simple chocolate cake made with mayonaise



Minny’s Chocolate Pie

Adapted from August issue of Food and Wine (as credited by several blogs)

Minny's Chocolate Pie

You know… from the movie “The Help.”  Yeah.  THAT chocolate pie.  But without Minny’s special ingredient. :)

This pie is so easy.  And you won’t believe how delicious it is. 


Single pie crust
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
Whipped cream for serving


You will also need:

9” pie plate (I used the shallow glass kind, not a deep dish)
Parchment paper (or foil)
Pie weights or dried beans



Preheat oven to 350°F. 

Place pie crust in pie plate and crimp edges decoratively as desired.  Prick bottom of crust several times with a fork, line with parchment paper (or foil) and fill with pie weights or dried beans.  Par-bake the crust for 15 minutes or until set.  Remove from the oven and carefully lift out the parchment paper with weights and set aside.  Return to the oven and continue to bake for 5 minutes longer, just until the crust is dry but not browned.  Remove from the oven, but leave the oven on at 350°F.

While the crust is baking those last 5 minutes, in a bowl, whisk sugar and cocoa powder together.  Add the melted butter, eggs, evaporated milk, vanilla and salt and whisk until smooth.

Pour the filling into the pie shell.  Bake 40-45 minutes, until the filling is set around the edges but jiggles just a little in the center.  If you feel the crust is getting too brown in the process of baking, you may cover it with strips of foil or pie guards about half way through. 

Cool completely on a wire rack before serving.  Serve with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.

It can be made ahead of time, cooled completely, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated over night.

Double Pie Crust

If you need a single pie crust, just cut the recipe in half or, you know,  just make two pies.  Two is always better than one.



2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold shortening (Butter Flavor Crisco)
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup cold Vodka (optional)*
up to 1/4 cup ice cold water*

*or up to 1/2 cup ice cold water if Vodka is not being used


You will also need:

Food processor (optional)
Large, wide bowl
Kneading and rolling surface (counter top will do…. just needs to be clean)
Rolling Pin



Measure out shortening, cut butter into small pieces and measure Vodka and water.  Place shortening and Vodka in the freezer and cut up butter and water in the refrigerator.

If using a food processor:  Process flour, sugar and salt for several seconds until thoroughly combined.  Add chilled shortening and process using several 1 second pulses until it resembles coarse meal.  Add half of the chilled butter pieces and process for several 1 second pulses. Add the rest of the chilled butter and process for only a few 1 second pulses.  You should end up with some slightly smaller and some slightly larger pieces of butter. 

Empty contents into large bowl and proceed with steps below.>>>>

Without a food processor:  In a large bowl, add flour, sugar and salt; mix thoroughly with a whisk until sugar and salt are evenly distributed throughout the flour.  Add the shortening and with your fingers break the pieces apart and work into the flour until the combination resembles coarse meal.  Next add the cold butter pieces just a few at a time and work in a similar fashion until the pieces of butter are small gravel to pea size.

>>>>Add cold Vodka or 1/4 cup of cold water and work in with a bowl scraper.  Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup of cold water until the dough begins to come together and sticks together when pressed against the side of the bowl. 

Pour contents out onto a floured work surface. Knead by simply folding the dough on top of itself a couple of times until it really comes together.  Form into a ball and cut in half.  Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour before rolling out to place in pie plate.