Well here's a different kind of food diary. I've written plenty of them, but this is the first time I've written about a food I personally dislike.
Many families have recipes that get passed from generation to generation to generation. Mayonnaise cake is that kind of family recipe. This particular recipe is a staple in my family, first made by my maternal grandmother in Indiana and then carried on to all of her children's homes, and then to many of her grandchildren's homes. And I hate it. I don't know why our family tradition can't be something that, I don't know, doesn't involve baking with mayonnaise, but those are the cards I was dealt nevertheless.
When my mom was growing up, her family didn't have much money. On top of that, there were seven children to feed. They didn't eat anything fancy, and for dessert, they needed something simple and economical. For Grandma McCune, the solution was this very easy mayonnaise cake recipe, which she made every single week. When it came to dessert, it was literally all my mom and her brothers and sisters ate growing up. And when my mom's or one of her sibling's birthday rolled around, there were no presents. Just a mayonnaise cake, with a "Happy Birthday" message drizzled on it with a confectioners' sugar and water glaze.
Even though it's a mayonnaise cake recipe, as my mom likes to remind us, Grandma never used mayonnaise. Nor did she use Miracle Whip. She used the dirt-cheapest, most generic brand of salad dressing she could find. Although it was purely out of financial necessity, this is a tradition that my mom carried with her to our family, even at times when we could afford the better stuff--she insists to this day that it doesn't taste as good when it's made with Miracle Whip or Hellman's mayonnaise. My mom is also fond of recalling the time Grandma's frugal shopping came back to bite her. One day, she sought out the cheapest salad dressing in the store, but she didn't notice that it had chunks of onion in it. That family wasted nothing, and they got to eat onion-flavored cake that week.
That hellish scenario aside, my mom and her siblings emerged from that household loving mayonnaise cake. Which was terrible for me, because the tradition was quickly adopted in our house. Growing up, I had an aversion to mayonnaise. So, needless to say, once I found out that what I was eating for dessert had mayonnaise in it, I refused to eat it. I'm the odd one out in my family--my dad and brother both loved it. For a while, they would try to trick me by telling me we were having chocolate cake. And it worked. Then, one day, it slipped when somebody at the table complimented the delicious mayonnaise cake. Such deception and betrayal! As a result, I will no longer eat any kind of chocolate cake at family functions. My aversion to mayonnaise has disappeared as I've gotten older, but my aversion to mayonnaise in my cake has not. I remain the black sheep of the family, in more ways than one.
Recently, my cousin found our departed grandma's handwritten recipe in her kitchen. She posted it on Facebook and asked if anybody wanted it, and my mom jumped on it. Apparently, Mom is planning to frame it and hang it in her kitchen. Yes, it's that big a deal in our family. So here it is (I'll also transcribe it below)...but remember, if you're going to make authentic Grandma McCune mayonnaise cake, don't even think about using real mayonnaise or Miracle Whip.
Mix Together:Don't let my personal disdain for the recipe stand in your way. Considering the number of people who really love this cake, I'm sure it's just me.
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons [baking] soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup warm water
Mix water alternately with flour to finish mixture. Put in greased and floured pan and bake at 350 degrees 30-35 minutes.
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