For those of us who fancy ourselves “real cooks,” who pride ourselves on making everything from scratch, it is an interesting exercise to go and study our cupboards. My pantry shelves contain everything from staples such as salt and oil to canned sardines, pumpkin and peanut butter. And, of course, there’s my all-time favorite, mayonnaise.
Over the years I’ve made mayonnaise in cooking classes many times, but I’ve never wavered from my preference for commercially made Best Foods mayonnaise. According to John Mariani in “The Dictionary of American Food & Drink” (Lebhar-Friedman Books, $29.95), the first important examples of commercial mayonnaise were made in 1912 by Richard Hellmann at his New York delicatessen and by Best Foods in California. The two merged under the Best Foods name and now Hellmann’s sells east of the Rocky Mountains, while here in the West it is Best Foods.
In fact, this Mayonnaise Chocolate Cake, which had a wild surge in popularity during the 1950s, was developed by the wife of a distributor for Hellmann’s. The use of mayonnaise, which seems puzzling in a cake, does two things: It gives the cake a luscious richness, and it keeps it moist and fresh tasting for much longer than a conventional chocolate cake.