Marion’s Mayo Cake (& reasoning)

My little sister’s alarm went off. Again. She didn’t stir. Again. I crawled in beside her, jostling her awake.

“I don’t wanna get up,” she mumbled, rolling over.

“None of us want to be awake, do we?” my mom said, coming into the room. She stood at the foot of the bed, looking down at us. Decision flashed across her face. She smiled. “Make room for Mom!” She crawled in between us, making a sandwich. Daughter, mother, daughter. Not to be left out, Edgar jumped up onto the foot of the bed. He quickly fell back asleep, despite the tossing and turning of three other bodies. My mom faced my sister and I began to scratch her back, an absentminded move I’d picked up from her – years of her tucking us in at night or snuggling on the couch.

I see that moment in my mind’s eye so clearly. Viewing it from the ceiling, watching the scene play out below. My mom turning the other direction, facing me, smiling. My little sister now scratching her back. We laid there for awhile, my foot dangled off the edge of the bed. No one rushed to get up, to start the day. Instead, we laid in silence for a while – our breathing beginning to match Edgar’s steady inhale and exhale.

When people ask me how being home is – I wish I could show them this moment, have them feel what I felt. Because this is how being home is. It’s the opportunity to crawl into my little sister’s bed and joke around with her, the ability to make my mom laugh when I eventually try to dismount from the mattress and land less-than-gracefully on my backside.

It’s the chance to reconnect with the family I’ve missed for so long. To share moments and memories and meals. To take treasured family recipes and make them my own, influenced by my live in the South. That’s what I did with this cake – a recipe of my grandmother’s that my mom has made countless times over the years. One that I’ve finally mastered. And you can too.

Marion’s Mayo Cake (makes a 9×13 pan)

2 cups flour

½ cup cocoa powder

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. espresso powder

1 cup sugar

1 cup mayo (IMO it’s gotta be Duke’s or death, there are no alternatives)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup whole milk, at room temperature

1 batch Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cake pan with baking spray and set aside.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, mayo, and vanilla until thick. Add in 1/3 of the dry ingredients and stir to combine, followed by ½ of the milk. Repeat this process, ending with the flour, stirring well to ensure there are no lumps in the batter.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for 30 – 35 minutes, until edges begin to pull away from the side of the pan and the center is set.

Remove from oven and allow to cool on wire rack.

While the cake cools, prepare the frosting.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

4oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

16oz. powdered sugar

½ cup cocoa powder

1 tsp. vanilla extract

pinch of salt

2 – 4 TBSP milk

Cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add in the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt. Add milk, one tablespoon at a time, and whip until desired consistency is reached. Spread over cooled cake.


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