You put your mayonnaise in my chocolate...
I recently completed a "Pro I" course at a local culinary school. The experience was a good one, but I have to say I was disappointed that it wasn't more challenging and a bit shocked that a few people in my class had never even boiled water. I don't know about you, but to me, any course called "Cooking: Professional I" implies that you may want to know what a spatula looks like before enrolling. My dreams of a strict, French chef hovering over me and yelling that my julienne were not fine enough were quickly shattered. Although I learned a few new things, it wasn't the experience I had been hoping for. I did , however, learn one secret that I wouldn't have expected and it's been very valuable to me ever since.
One day when we were all working on various poultry dishes, our teacher (who is a pastry chef by trade) started making us a chocolate cake for dessert. As I went to work on cutting up my chicken, I watched as she put all of the dry ingredients (cocoa, flour, salt, baking powder) in one bowl, and then reached for a giant vat of mayonnaise. She must be making some sort of sandwich spread for the chicken, I thought. But then I watched in horror as she took an entire cup of the white stuff and mixed it into the cake ingredients! I don't even think I was aware that I burst out with "WHAT ARE YOU DOING???!!!" My teacher turned to me and said dryly, "Anne, what wet ingredients are in a cake batter?" So I stuttered, "Um....oil and eggs." She went onto say "Anne, what is mayonnaise made out of?" So I whispered, "Er.....oil and eggs." Still, I was skeptical. I mean, I like my mayo (especially if it's Kewpie brand) but this was a bit much.
After we all ingested enough poultry (chicken, duck, cornish hens, turkey, pheasant) to last us a lifetime, she presented the beautifully frosted chocolate cake. I sniffed, poked, prodded and finally took a bite. It was rich, beautifully moist and ever so chocolately with the softest crumb. Who'da thunk it? All this time I'd been going out of my way to Whole Foods to pick up chickens-got-daily-spa-treatments-organic eggs thinking it'd make a better cake, and my teacher whips out a can of.......Best Foods. You thought I was gonna say Whoop Ass, didn't ya? She may as well have, because her mayo cake certainly kicked mine.
Since then, I've seen several cake recipes that include mayonnaise. It turns out that the idea is not so new and your grandmother probably knew this trick. I'm not saying that mayo should replace some good eggs and oil in all cakes, but if you're looking to make a simple but ultra moist chocolate cake, it works very well.
I recently made one for a friend's baby shower, and it was a huge hit- of course no one knew there was a cup of mayonnaise in it either.