Mayonnaise Chocolate Cake – a 1940s Recipe

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a small 4-½ x 6 inch leather bound book engraved “Cooking Recipes”, purchased at an antique mall in Sugar Creek, Ohio.  The pages are edged in gold and there are 10 index tabs for food categories.  

The real gold in this book, though, is the collection of handwritten recipes.  There aren’t a lot of recipes – just 25, 22 of which are desserts.  The book itself could have been from the 1930s, but I believe the recipes are from the 1945-1950 era.  This is based on a lot of recipes calling for shortening, for using the word “oleo” rather than margarine in most recipes and the attention given to oven temperatures.  I believe it’s post-World War II because of all of the sugar-laden desserts.

The handwriting is clear and ingredients are listed correctly, although most of the recipes give no idea of how the item is to be prepared, what kind of pan to use or how long to bake.  That’s why I’ve decided to make each of the recipes, using the products specified, and adding my own instructions.  I like to think that the woman from the 1940s kitchen (who would have been about my mother’s age) would enjoy having someone fuss around with these recipes again and turn out some delicious food for the family.

This is a good, family-style cake – soft and moist, but not too rich.  Normally, I use a reduced-fat, olive oil based mayonnaise but since the mayonnaise is replacing eggs and shortening in this recipe, I went with the full-fat version (Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise).


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup regular mayonnaise (not low fat)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F for a glass pan, 350 degrees F for a metal pan
Grease and flour a 9 inch baking pan

In the large bowl of a mixer, beat together the sugar, water and mayonnaise.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and cocoa.

Add the dry ingredients to the mayonnaise mixture and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Pour into prepared pan …

…and bake in preheated oven for approximately 40 minutes or until cake tests done when a tester is inserted in the center of the cake.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Keep cake in pan and when cool, frost with:


  • 2 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3-4 Tblsp. cream (or evaporated milk)

Place 1 cup of powdered sugar, cocoa, salt, butter and vanilla in mixer bowl.  Beat for one minute.  Gradually add remaining cup of powdered sugar alternately with cream until of desired consistency.

Frost top of cake.

Makes 9 servings

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Lillian Applegate Westfelt was a mother of 4, grandmother of 6, and great-grandmother of 3. She was an 86-year-old widow living in a nice little bungalow with her oldest daughter and a beagle-dachsund named Addie. She passed away in November, 2018.

18 thoughts on “Mayonnaise Chocolate Cake – a 1940s Recipe”

  1. I have been making this cake for years, and it still remains one of my favorites. Your fresh peach pie recipe is on the agenda for this week! Thanks for sharing, Lillian.

  2. I love every one of the recipes you post from this book. I find myself wondering all the time where you get all the energy you have. It’s about twice what I have, I think. =)

  3. Hi Lillian,
    Love all the details you shared with us for this post. That cookbook is lovely, especially with so many dessert recipes. I dislike cooking, but I love baking. I must try this wholesome cake recipe, as it sounds delightful.

  4. I remember making the chocolate mayonnaise cake, think my recipe was in an old church recipe book from the 50’s or 60’s. As I remember this cake was quite good and moist.

  5. I cannot immagine someone not wanting to keep a relative’s handwriten cook book. But we do find them out there for sale. I just found at a thrift store a 1939 first edition of The New Yankee Cook Book. Very good condition for a $1. There is some interesting recipes in that classic Cook book.

    1. I can’t imagine not keeping a family member’s handwritten cookbook either, but maybe the person cleaning out the house at the time just wasn’t interested. You’re so lucky to find that 1939 New Yankee Cook Book and for only $1. Lillian

  6. When I read the title, I thought auuuwww mayonnaise? But this cake looks so delicious and so moist. I would like to try it.

    Hugs from Holland ~

  7. Lillian, I just discovered your website today. I was remembering my Dad who passed recently, and my Uncle who just came out of a serious surgery and they’re long lasting love of their Mother’s “Mayonnaise Chocolate Cake”. Even into their 70’s they would talk of it. I decided I wanted to find a recipe for it and give it a try. The very first site I happened upon, was yours and this very old recipe for the very cake I was looking for. :-} You are truly an inspiration and as one of your fans mentioned, I wish I had half your energy as well. I am so excited to start going thru the recipes here and trying different things. Thank You so much for sharing them and most especially for a recipe for a cake my Dad and Uncle so fondly remembered from the 30’s & 40’s.

    1. How nice of you to let me know – thank you. I love to hear stories like this. Nothing ever quite matches what our mother made, does it? Lillian

  8. My parents always had friends over for coffee in the afternoon, this cake was always on the table. It was always fresh and moist. My mother passed suddenly, and although I always meant to get this recipe, I never did. I have looked on many websites and the results were never like Moms..this one is it! I will make a tradition of bringing this cake to family functions, as it never fails to start a conversation about our wonderful parents. Thank you so much!

  9. I have always loved this cake. My Mother always made it when I was a child. She explained that this was a WW2 recipe and the mayonnaise was used to replace eggs and butter or oil as many things were rationed, particularly eggs and butter. Since mayonnaise is made of eggs and oil it was a perfect substitute to make a very moist cake.
    My recipe is slightly different: It uses 1&3/4 cups unsifted AP flour, 1/3 cup cocoa, 1&1/2 tsp baking soda and 1&1/2 baking powder, 1/8 tsp salt and 2 tsp of vanilla. Otherwise it is the same.

  10. Glad to find this. My mother made it using Kraft Miracle Whip, otherwise the same. She also said people started making it when eggs were rationed during World War II but it was so good they kept making it.

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