Leaping to her feet instantly, arms outstretched and swinging wildly, happy exclamations filled the previously quiet room. Lipstick kisses imprinted our cheeks as the hubbub slowly died down, the birthday girl was genuinely delighted by her unexpected brunch guests and party in her honor. It may have been a surprise party for my grandma, but honestly, I was the most surprised; No one told me we weren’t expected!
No matter, even without the full details there’s no way I’d arrive at any celebration empty-handed. Far from it; The 3-layer, chocolate-smothered tower weighed quite a bit more than calculated, and I was relieved to have it out of my hands upon arriving. Knowing me, you might imagine that some wonderful, unexpected twists must be lurking inside. Some crazy flavor or bizarre ingredient, unusual preparation, funny shape, anything! But no, the surprises ended after our dramatic entry, as this is just a chocolate cake.
No, I take that back- It most certainly is not just a chocolate cake, but in fact the chocolate cake. The chocolate cake I’ve been searching for before I even knew what good chocolate cake was, when I would have been just as thrilled by a half-price grocery store cupcake as a fine French gateaux. All it took to get there was of coarse endless experimentation over the years, but also a bit of humbling. That’s because I had to enlist some help from an ingredient previously reviled and downright banned from this household… Mayonnaise.
Way back when I was 10 years old, from the time I took a bite of a croque monsieur at the Charles de Gaulle Airport on a tedious layover to Italy, I was convinced that mayo was nothing but evil in condiment form. Shocked to find this pasty, fatty white sludge lining the limp bread, it was everything wrong with airport food, and everything wrong with mayonnaise. It was the worst thing I had ever eaten in my young life, and may still hold that illustrious title today, if I cared to think of all those terrible meals past. Though that was our first chance meeting, I was done with mayonnaise forever, and very vocal about my passionate animosity. That’s why it was even harder to reach for the glass jar, and admit that this substance may actually have a place in my kitchen.
This is one accidental re-introduction that I’m blaming squarely on Dreena Burton. Yes, the wholesome sweetheart behind a string of fool–proof cookbooks. It was her fault that I needed a dab of mayo to photograph her rocking veggie burgers, her advice to get Vegenaise instead of the other gloppy stuff that’s almost worse than the original, and thus her fault that I had almost a full jar of the stuff to contend with afterwards.
Without the mayo, this cake couldn’t happen, so I’m trying to accept that painful reality. However, the cake itself isn’t hard to swallow; it practically melts in your mouth, despite its impressive density. So moist, in fact, that I could only think to name it the first thing that popped into my head, “Ultra-Moist Amazing Chocolate Layer Cake.” Not just under-baked or painfully gummy like so many other “moist” cakes, this one holds itself together with a nearly fluffy crumb, which dissolves into pure chocolate fudge in moments. Creamy bittersweet chocolate frosting is the luscious glue that holds together this tower of three tender cake rounds together, and though no further decoration is needed, a light dusting of confectioner’s sugar really seals the deal. Nothing short of a show-stopper, it may not be a surprise, but it’s sure not your average cocoa birthday cake.
*Chose a full-fat, richer variety for the best results; I prefer almond milk that’s slightly on the thicker side. Coconut milk would also be a good choice here.
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