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Mayo vs. salad dressing: the cake controversy rages

Thursday, July 05, 2001

By Arlene Burnett, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Which do you prefer, mayonnaise or salad dressing -- in your chocolate cake? More than 40 readers responded to a request from Patricia B. Clark of Aspinwall for a chocolate cake made with mayonnaise. While most of the recipes called for Hellmann's mayonnaise, some called for Kraft Miracle Whip Salad Dressing -- and those readers were adamant about using Miracle Whip.

Larry Hall of the North Side writes: "Stop the presses! Before Patricia B. Clark even begins her quest for the mayo chocolate cake, let it be known that it is called the Miracle Whip Cake -- and it makes a great difference. A few years ago I thought I would help my parents relive a happy moment and re-create the Miracle Whip Cake. I headed home with the prized mayo cake, and Dad -- who really has no taste buds -- said, 'Yuck, it tastes like mayonnaise.'


"Mom told me that you MUST use Miracle Whip -- it has very little taste, but gives the cake its moistness. Mom always spread the cooled cake with homemade whipped cream topped with bananas."

Joan Sally of Shaler agrees: "Do not substitute mayonnaise. I tried Hellmann's mayonnaise -- it doesn't work."

All the recipes using Miracle Whip were similar -- the only differences were in the ingredient amounts and they varied only slightly. In the mayonnaise cake, however, there were several different versions. One version used cake flour, another used all-purpose flour and a third version used a packaged cake mix. We tried one of each. We'll let you decide which you prefer.

It comes down to this: whether you choose the cake made with salad dressing or one of the cakes made with mayonnaise, you'll be pleased with the results. All of these cakes turned out super moist with a rich chocolate flavor.

Here's the recipe using Kraft Miracle Whip Salad Dressing sent in by Charlene Loch of Avalon: "The recipe I have was my mother's and uses Miracle Whip. My mother said it originated during World War II when eggs were scarce."

Miracle Whip Cake

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup warm water
1 cup Miracle Whip

Sift first five ingredients into a large bowl.

Add vanilla to warm water, set aside. Add salad dressing to dry ingredients and add vanilla mixture. Beat with electric mixer or by hand until mixed. Pour into greased 8-inch round or square pan; bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees or until it tests done.

Dorothy Hagan of Mt. Lebanon says, "I'm so glad someone remembers the Mayonnaise Cake. I've been making it for 45 years."

Mayonnaise Cake

3 cups unsifted flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups Hellmann's mayonnaise
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Grease two 9-inch round cake pans; line bottoms with wax paper.

Sift together in a large bowl the dry ingredients. Stir in mayonnaise. Gradually stir in water and vanilla until smooth and blended. Pour into prepared pans.

Bake at 350 degrees, about 30 minutes or until cake springs when touched. Cool. Remove from pans.

"Mayonnaise Cake is one of my husband's favorite cakes and he hates mayonnaise!" writes Margaret Isherwood of Turtle Creek. Here's her recipe using cake flour.

Mayonnaise Cake

3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix all ingredients until blended.

Pour batter into a 9-by-13-inch pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

Phyllis Gregor of Penn Hills calls her cake Secret Chocolate Sensation. Phyllis says, "This is an old recipe. Is there still a cake mix out there with pudding in the mix?" We couldn't find one, so we reduced the mayonnaise to 1/2 cup as the recipe suggests.

Secret Chocolate Sensation

1 package chocolate cake mix, with pudding (any chocolate flavored cake may be used)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup water
3 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Grease and flour two 9-inch round pans.

In large bowl with mixer at low speed, blend all ingredients 30 seconds. Beat at medium speed 2 minutes or 300 strokes by hand. Pour into prepared pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove; cool on wire racks.

Note: If you're using cake mix without pudding, reduce mayonnaise 1/2 cup.

Any frosting will work with these cakes. Here are a few suggestions from our readers.

Dona Todarello of Monroeville sent in this recipe for a fluffy, rich frosting.

Creamy Cocoa Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dash of salt
5 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
2 tablespoons milk

Combine cream cheese, vanilla and salt, mixing until well blended. Add combined sugar and cocoa alternately with milk, beating until light and fluffy.

Note: Using an electric mixer works best.

Here's a recipe from Jennie Rocco of Braddock Hills.

Devil's Food Fudge Frosting

3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
3 tablespoons water or cold coffee

Combine all ingredients and beat until smooth and creamy.

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com. Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number on all correspondence.

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