Don’t hold the mayo

chocolate mayonnaise cake

Every Valentine’s Day needs chocolate, and when I posted the photo of this dessert on my Food Writer Debbie Moose Facebook page, requests came in for the recipe.

It’s so simple, and has an interesting history. Chocolate cake using mayonnaise instead of butter and milk became popular as a cost saver during the Depression, and it was also popular during the rationing period of World War II. It makes a devil’s food-like cake that is so simple, kids can make it. In fact, I demonstrated this recipe for a group of teachers at a teachers’ seminar focusing on WWII.

The only caveat is don’t overbake it to prevent dryness. I added a drizzle of melted bittersweet chocolate to make it even more of a Valentine’s Day treat.

This recipe makes enough to fill a 9- by 13-inch baking dish, but I used an oversized muffin pan to make six individual cakes.  I cooked the remaining batter in a smaller baking dish, dusted the resulting large cake with powdered sugar and gave it to my neighbor, who has two kids and is expecting a third – just to spread the Valentine’s Day love (and get the calories out of my kitchen).

I adapted this from a recipe in “The American Century Cookbook” by Jean Anderson.

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

2 cups flour

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used a super-dark cocoa)

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

3 eggs

1 2/3 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup mayonnaise

1 1/3 cups cold coffee or water (coffee adds more flavor)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9- by 13-inch baking dish or equivalent muffin tins, etc., with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a portable electric mixer) combine the eggs, sugar and vanilla. Beat on high speed 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the mayonnaise just until blended. With the mixer on low speed, stir in the flour mixture in 4 additions alternately with the coffee or water, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Pour into prepared pans and bake 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the pan (the muffins will take less time). Bake just until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean; do not overbake. Cool for 15 minutes or so, then remove from the pans and cool completely before frosting, drizzling with melted chocolate or dusting with powdered sugar.

Do you heart local food?

Valentine’s Day is on a Sunday (this Sunday, just in case you haven’t made arrangements for that special food blogger in your life). If you want to leave your evening free for other activities, and do something different, consider the “I Love U Lunch.” Slow Food Triangle, The Abundance Foundation and the economic advocacy group Loom are bringing together a list of local food producers including Celebrity Dairy, Scratch Baking, Carolina Brewery and the General Store Cafe in Pittsboro, N.C. The lunch, which will be held from 1 p.m. to -4 p.m. in the historic Chatham Mills in Pittsboro, N.C., will raise awareness of renovations at the mill and benefit the food co-op there, Chatham Marketplace. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door (children under 12 are $8), and can be purchased here.

You can warm up for Valentine’s Day and feel good about it on Wednesday, Feb. 10.  Fleming’s Steakhouse at
Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh, N.C. holds  “Wine Wednesday” each month to benefit a different charity. This month’s charity is the Lucy Daniels Center, a nonprofit which provides mental health services for children. From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., five different wines will be available by the glass at the bar at $10 per glass. All of that money goes to the charity.   There’ll also be complementary appetizers.

And while we’re all in a loving mood, don’t forget that it’s CSA sign-up time – show the love to your favorite farmer. Find a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)  in your part of North Carolina in this list at the Growing Small Farms section of the Chatham County Center of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service. Thanks to Debbie Roos of the extension service for compiling this excellent resource.