Chocolate Mayo Cake

Say what?! A cake. On safari. In the Mara. For my Dad’s 80th. To feed 36 people.

To celebrate such an achievement in life, no ordinary cake will do! But add on the logistics of carrying a cake to the Mara, working out how to do icing and decorating, and ensuring that there would be enough to feed everyone – well that was pretty vexing. A lot of research later and I seemed to have a plan; and it was in the form of a mayonnaise cake from Food 52. Yes you read that right – and yes, I had to read it a couple of times through before I believed it might possibly work. But what appealed was that the mayonnaise would make a deliciously moist chocolate cake.

In order to make a cake big enough, I took the recipe below but poured it into our biggest tin – the tin that was bought to make the base of our wedding cake 8 years ago! This meant it cooked quite quickly, so you need to keep an eye on it. However, it also meant a very neat square shape to wrap in clingfilm (only do this when it’s 100% cool) and freeze flat, which meant transporting it was easier. When we got to camp, I tried to keep it frozen as long as possible, but it slowly defrosted in the clingfilm which was fine. On the day, I brushed chocolate syrup over each layer together with lemon curd before sandwiching the following layer on top (there were three layers). I think the syrup makes an enormous difference to the moisture and flavour of the cake, so do use it! It’s easy to make in advance and we had lots left over which I have put to use with subsequent cakes or even drizzled over ice-cream! We also made some caramelized popcorn to go around the edge of our safari scene… it always goes down well… and had lightly toasted dessicated coconut as grass. You’ll probably also notice that I drew the line at trying to make trees out of fondant and resorted to broccoli instead!

To decorate the cake, I had made buttercream icing, which was frozen. Once it was defrosted, I whipped it up (by hand of course, we were in camp!) and then spooned it carefully into piping bags to use for the cake…

I’ve since made a similar recipe from Epicurious but ran out of mayo and used oil as a substitute for the missing mayo, and it worked really well!


2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (optional, for enhanced chocolate flavour)
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mayonnaise
1 1/3 cups water


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease and flour (or grease and line with parchment rounds) two 9″ round cake pans. I found the grease and flour method worked well.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and espresso powder (if using).

In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla on high speed until very light and fluffy (at least 3 minutes).

Reduce the speed to low and add the mayonnaise, beating until well-combined.

Add the flour mixture and the water to the batter in three additions, alternating between the wet and dry. Mix until just combined. Don’t overmix!

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake for about 30 minutes (less if you are using a very large tin), or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean and the cake just begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes in the pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.


Take 1 cup cocoa powder, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup cold water, a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of vanilla extract, combine all ingredients in a pan over heat, and warm, stirring until everything has come together. There’s no need to boil it for any length of time. I store mine in the fridge, which makes it nice and thick.



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Baking Ingredients

Vanilla Extract – 100ml

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