Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes


So… about the title. I know, the word “mayonnaise” doesn’t exactly inspire confidence when applied to a cake recipe, but using mayonnaise in cakes is actually pretty common, and makes sense– after all, what is mayonnaise but oil, eggs, and a little acid? And when you’re trying to add richness to a cake without adding dairy (sour cream is my usual go-to for stuff like this), it sounds like a great option.

I made a huge batch of cupcakes– half chocolate, half yellow cake– for a joint birthday party this winter, and when I say “huge” I mean “100+ guests HUGE.” And one of the birthday girls was allergic to dairy, so rather than single her out by making her a few “special” cupcakes, I decided to make the chocolate cupcakes dairy-free in their entirety.

I do have a dairy-free chocolate cake recipe that I use for all of my standard chocolate cakes, but honestly, when it came to making several dozen cupcakes I decided that it would actually be easier (if not cheaper) to start with cake mix. Duncan Hines chocolate fudge cake mix is naturally dairy-free, it was on sale at the grocery store, and I didn’t have to worry about measuring out dry ingredients or buying expensive cocoa. Works for me! All I needed to do was doctor it up!

After a little research I found a recipe that told me to replace the 1/2 cup of vegetable oil called for on the back of the box with a full cup of mayonnaise, leaving the rest of the ingredient list (1 cup of water, 3 eggs) intact. I baked up the first batch, but unfortunately the cupcakes, while nice and fluffy-looking immediately upon coming out of the oven, shrank down significantly as they cooled– not attractive (though they tasted fine). Internet diagnosis suggested that they might have been overbeaten, overbaked, or had too much liquid added, so I decided to tweak the recipe a little to compensate for the extra fat by adding a bit more flour and sugar. Here are the resulting cupcakes before and after the recipe tweak:


The next batch with the thickened batter came out great! Slightly domed and nicely fluffy, and they stayed that way! So without further ado, here’s the (easy) recipe:

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake (from a mix)

Makes 24 (or possibly 26)

1 15.25 oz box chocolate cake mix

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup full-fat mayonnaise

1 cup water (or coffee if you like)

3 eggs

1. Mix all ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer. (usually I do wet ingredients first and then dry, but it really doesn’t matter with this recipe)

2. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.

3. Fill cupcake pans (with paper liners) only just over half full– if you overfill they’ll run over the tops of the liners and won’t look as nice when frosted. Also you won’t get as many cupcakes.

4. Bake in cupcake pans  at 325 degrees F for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. The low temperature prevents excess doming on the cupcakes.

5. Cool in pans for a few minutes, then turn out to cool the rest of the way on a rack.


I topped the cupcakes with a fluffy marshmallow frosting– dairy free, of course– that nicely complimented the dark chocolate flavor of the cake. Recipe is coming up in the next post!


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