13 October, 2010

Posted By Popular Demand: Cake

It is my sister's birthday next week, so while she was visiting this weekend, in between the reveling and the beer-making, and the beer-drinking and the concert-going, I made her a cake.

A few of her favorite foods in life are mayonnaise, chocolate and apparently Bordeaux chocolates from See's Candies..that last one I actually didn't know about when I chose which cake to make her, but this cake sort of managed to hit all those sweet spots.

I remembered that I had read about a World War II era cake that used mayo instead of eggs and shortening because as two of you may recall, and a few more of you may have read.. there was rationing during the war...back when people actually had to sacrifice some of their personal luxury for the benefit of a greater good...but I digress.

Wikipedia tells us "Tires were the first item to be rationed in January 1942 after supplies of natural rubber were interrupted. Soon afterward, passenger automobiles, typewriters, sugar, gasoline, bicycles, footwear, fuel oil, coffee, stoves, meat, lard, shortening and oils, cheese, butter, margarine, processed foods (canned, bottled, and frozen), dried fruits, canned milk, firewood and coal, jams, jellies, and fruit butter were rationed by November 1943."

And since necessity breeds ingenuity, the bakers, really, the women of that generation, found new ways to make their cakes..voila... the delicate deliciousness of this cake was born.

This recipe comes from America's Best Lost Recipes: 121 Heirloom Recipes Too Good to Forget in which I have found several great recipes, for obscure and once well-loved foods like Runsas, which are also called Bierock which my family loved.

World War II Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake (all italics are my own notes)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup water

(I doubled the amount of butter, brown sugar and milk, and used 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar to make my frosting, because we always like more frosting. I think if I had used the entire amount of powdered sugar it would have been too stiff.)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup confectioner's sugar

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-inch square baking pan. (Because you make this in a 9x9 pan you can actually use your counter top (toaster) oven to make this cake, thus avoiding heating up the entire kitchen!)

Whisk the flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl.

Stir the mayonnaise, granulated sugar, and vanilla together in a large bowl until smooth. Add the water and stir until combined. Whisk in the flour mixture until incorporated.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan (you can actually let kids lick the spatula here without worry since the eggs in the mayonnaise have already been cooked! A great cake to make with little kids!) and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool completely in the pan, at least 45 minutes. (Many people leave this cake in the pan and frost it there. I flipped mine upside-down onto a serving platter before frosting it so it would look more birthday-ish and less Grandma VanZanten Poor-Man's Cake-ish..but let me tell you Grandma VanZanten's cake was AWESOME!)

For the frosting, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the brown sugar and bring to a boil. Boil until the mixture begins to thicken, about 2 minutes, then, off the heat, carefully stir in the milk.

Return to a boil, then remove from the heat to cool until just warm, about 30 minutes.

Stir in the confectioner's sugar and spread the icing evenly over the cake. The cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days. (if it lasts that long!)

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