The name of this cake comes from one of those pre-Snopes stories about a woman who had a slice of cake in a famous New York (or Chicago, or New Orleans) restaurant and it was so delicious she paid the chef $100 for the secret recipe. I always felt the story was an unnecessary foil for what is, actually, a very tasty chocolate cake that holds up well to bake sales and buffets (pieces don’t crumble) and can be made with one bowl and a mixing cup of unassuming ingredients. It is also entirely dependable – this is the first cake my son learned to make.
I made this particular cake for the monthly Tri-County Beekeeper’s Association meeting at the Prospect Community Hall last night. The decoration is a set of painted HO gauge figures from Woodland Scenics and, if you ever have to decorate a cake for a roofer, or you’d like a wide selection of tiny tombstones for Halloween, here you go. I recommend gluing the figures to a (clean and unused) popsicle stick with nontoxic glue and sinking it into the frosting, so that no one breaks a tooth on a miniature wheelbarrow.
Stir (or sift) together in a large bowl: 2 C cake flour (regular unbleached will work, but cake flour makes a lovely texture), 1 C sugar, 4 heaping Tbs cocoa, 2 tsp baking soda*, 1/4 tsp salt. In a measuring cup whisk together 1 C cold water and 1 C mayonnaise, 1 tsp vanilla.
Use real mayonnaise – this ingredient represents both the fat and the eggs in this recipe. Soynaise doesn’t work (trust me on this). Homemade mayonnaise is wonderful, should you have any leftover.
Combine the two mixtures until smooth (I use a whisk, gently). Pour into a 9 x 12 or 10 x 13 pan and bake 1/2 hour at 350, until the top springs back when lightly touched.
Allow to cool completely and frost with: 1/2 C softened butter, 2 C confectioners sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla. Decorate!
*Way back in April when I first posted this, I left out the leavening agent. My son just let me know that there was something missing. . .it was still tasty, but rather more brownie than cake. Sorry about that! APo 19 March 2011