Yes, I genuinely made cakes with mayonnaise. It’s not an exaggeration of any kind, they have mayo in them instead of butter or oil. I did have a recipe, I wasn’t just overcome with my love of mayonnaise and driven to try to put it into every item of food that i could ever possibly eat. I do have a certain love of mayonnaise, although its use in sandwiches should be prohibited for those who have not had the correct training. All too often I have encountered what I will call the ‘mayowich’ – I like the stuff, but not so much that I don’t want some kind of intermediary filling item between it and the bread; tuna or egg are ideal candidates for this position. I also like a chicken salad sandwich – chicken salad with just a smidgen of mayonnaise. A mere hint. A whisper. A soupcon. Or a plate of fries with mayo instead of ketchup. It has to be Heinz mayonnaise though – other mayonnaises are technically available, but why would you bother?
To sum up: as with almost everything else, I have very strict rules in my brain about the use of mayonnaise. Until now, this list did not feature its inclusion in cake. When I saw the recipe, though, I felt that I had to try it, for the purposes of research. Never let it be said that I am not interested in trying new things, as long as those things are in some way related to eating. The recipe is here and is properly called Chocolate-Mayonnaise Cupcakes with Caramel-Butterscotch Buttercream Frosting. Rolls off the tongue like a Malteser that you picked up off the floor and thought was OK but then realised was covered in sub-sofa fluff.
I used Heinz mayo for the cakes, as I’ve said it’s my preferred brand. I think it’s smoother and creamier, both of which I thought would be beneficial as I was using it to make cake with. There was slight Fear as I made the cake mix, because I could smell the vinegar-y-ness (not a place in Wales, but a word that is better said than written down), but I powered through. It did take me a long while to make the cakes and icing – two and a half hours, to be precise, and that was before I even applied the icing to the cakes. This was down to me not having a standing mixer and so having to rely on my hand mixer and extraordinarily un-powerful arm muscles. Also, making caramel or anything that requires good temperature control on an electric hob can be kind of soul-destroying. It’s just occurred to me that I have a camping stove in the cupboard that runs on gas – it might be worth bringing that out for this kind of recipe, as ludicrous as I’d look to anyone who walked in on me using a camping stove next to my perfectly functional oven. Perhaps I should also get a tent, and some mosquito nets, and carry a fishing rod about the kitchen to complete the picture. Frustration he reactions of everyone who got to try one made it almost worth it. There was a lot of extremely flattering talk about the finished cakes – personally I attribute this to the fact that people reckon the more them compliment me on my baking, the more often I will bake. This is, in fact, completely true and is behaviour that I encourage at all times.
The process of making the icing was somewhat complicated, compared o a standard butter icing, though it did produce an icing unlike any I’ve ever made before; it is extremely light with a great depth of flavour. The bourbon, caramel (made by hand, as in this picture) and vanilla all combine to give an almost coffee flavour (hence the coffee bean decoration). I thought that it was difficult to place the flavour of them, it was complex in itself and then further confusing as the icing was so soft, almost textureless, like eating vanilla smoke. One person asked me if it was Angel Delight. If you’re reading this, you were extremely lucky to be allowed to continue eating the cake after that. Angel bloody Delight,indeed. Hmph. Another thing about the icing is that it contains a pound and a half of butter. Sometimes, if I’m making something fattening and delicious, I’ll jokingly say ‘yeah, it’s got a pound of butter in it’… This recipe does, and more. Seriously. However, the amounts given produced 36 iced fairy cakes, and there was plenty of icing left over, so it’s not as bad for you as it first sounds. I’ve frozen the icing, we’ll see if it stands up to it – worth a try, anyway. Also in my freezer are a punnet of strawberries and two small punnets of cherries which have been stoned and combined into one tupperware. This is for trying some more granitas or sorbets – I’ve also kept the cherry stones so I can smash them open and use them to make an almond-flavour syrup. It was news to me last year to find that if you open a cherry pit, there is a tiny pip inside that smells just like almonds. Then it was even more news to find out that almonds are related to cherries, plums and apricots – they’re third cousins twice removed, or something, and they only talk at Christmas, but relatives all the same. So I plan to take my hammer to the cherry stones and then steep the little inside pips in some kind of liquid to see if the flavour will leach out, and if not I’ll try poaching them, and ultimately adding some sugar to make a syrup which I’ll add to the pureed cherry flesh. I have high hopes, having had such a good result from the raspberries.
Back to the mayonnaise cakes. I would be lying through my teeth if I said I hadn’t enjoyed the cakes, though I had trouble getting over the length of time it took to make them. Still, the cakes themselves were moist and the chocolate flavour was rich enough to be extremely satisfactory, without being bitter or kind of chalky like cocoa can sometimes be. I’d like to plug another product at this juncture: Green and Black’s cocoa powder. I’m not really a fan of dark chocolate as a rule, but this unsweetened, ‘Dutch processed’ powder is really excellent. It’s not labelled Dutch Process but it has been ‘alkalized’ (that’s what their website says), which is the same thing. It gives amazing depth to the flavour without sacrificing any sweetness. I feel like they should pay me for saying that – if someone could look into that for me…? The icing on the mayo cakes couldn’t be faulted in terms of flavour, either, with it being nicely sweet without being cloying, as you might expect it to be with so much caramel in it. One thing I would say is that it’s very soft when finished – meltingly soft, in fact, which may be a phrase that advertisers bandy about to encourage you to buy things, but in reality means that you’re left with extremely sticky hands, face, plates, kitchen, house… You get the idea. I also managed to split the buttercream icing (temperature issues) so they didn’t look as pretty as I’d have liked; this was a fault on my part, and not the recipe’s. I did manage to remedy the never-fashionable curdled look to some degree with liberal application of chocolate-covered coffee beans and disco glitter. The disco glitter is amazing stuff, I’m looking forward to using it again soon, even though it is now coating half of my kitchen and many of my belongings. You know how glitter is anyway, it gets everywhere. Well, the cake glitter is so beautifully fine that it gets more than everywhere. It actually defies the laws of physics, that’s how amazing it is.
In short, mayonnaise in cakes works. I supposes it makes sense when you think that it’s made with eggs and oil, it’s just the vinegar part that starts to seem wrong. As I learned when I made brootnies, though, you can cover up a lot of flavours with enough chocolate.