The Epicurious Cake Recipe Matrix

According to Marks, German immigrants brought the cake to America with them, and the first marble cake recipe in English was published in the Illinois State Chronicle in September 1859. The German marble cakes available in Jewish bakeries were made with a touch of almond extract, and as chocolate became more accessible and popular, bakers gradually replaced the spices in their cakes with chocolate.


Made up of a hazelnut meringue, a dark chocolate ganache and smooth vanilla and hazelnut buttercreams, marjoram is a confection appreciated by chefs all over the world. French chef Fernand Point created the cake in the 1930s and served it at La Pyramide, his restaurant in Vienne, France.

The recipe may seem daunting, but if you break it down into parts, it’s really like any cake you might make for a birthday, Valentine’s Day, or other special occasion: you bake your diapers, bake your toppings, then assemble. Put on some music and dedicate an afternoon to this masterpiece, you won’t regret it.

A slice of Marjoram cake with a cup of espresso.

Mayonnaise cake

Mayonnaise is great in potato salad, tuna salad and, surprise!, chocolate cake. The emulsion of egg yolks and oil in the mayonnaise helps the fat more evenly and effectively coat the flour particles in the cake, resulting in a rich, succulent bite.

As I recently wrote for Epicurious, the first mayonnaise cake recipe appeared in print in 1927 in the Oakland Grandstand. The cake, however, only became popular in the 1940s when ingredients like dairy and sugar were rationed during World War II. Mayonnaise cake was popularized ten years later by Mrs. Frank Price, whose husband was a salesman at Hellmann’s and Best Foods. Price pitched his recipe—which called for ready-made mayonnaise—to the company as a way to boost sales.

After Best Foods included Price’s recipe in a company booklet in 1937, recipes for mayonnaise cakes began to appear more frequently in newspapers and became a hit with homemakers. This chocolate mayonnaise cake is quick, easy and ultra-moist, making it an ideal dessert for busy weeknights and celebrations.

A chocolate mayonnaise cake with a slice cut out and a cup of tea.
chocolate cake and mayonnaise

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Chocolate cake

In 1987, Jean-Georges Vongerichten was the chef of the Lafayette restaurant in New York’s Drake Hotel when he accidentally served undercooked chocolate cake to diners. Against all expectations, the cake was a success. The dessert had a warm, oozing, chocolatey center, and guests immediately wanted the recipe. Soon, Vongerichten was making up to 1,000 melted chocolate cakes a day at his restaurant, JoJo. The cake has since appeared on restaurant menus everywhere, and Vongerichten’s simple five-ingredient cake recipe has been published in Gastronomy and wines, the Los Angeles Times, and many other publications.

Several years before Vongerichten launched his melted chocolate cake, French chef Michel Bras served a similarly-concept cake – a chocolate coulant – at his restaurant, Maison Bras, in Laguiole, France. Bras wanted to capture the feeling of coming home after a day of skiing and warming up with a hot chocolate. Bras inserts a thimble of frozen chocolate ganache into his version of the cake, which melts into liquid as it bakes.

Today, melted chocolate cake can be found frozen at grocery stores like Aldi and Trader Joe’s and on the dessert menu at Chili’s. Save yourself the trip and make your own – this melted chocolate cake recipe only has five ingredients and takes less than 20 minutes to prepare.

The image may contain cutlery and a chocolate spoon.
Chocolate Fondue Lava Cakes

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With three thin and tender layers of Joconde sponge cake and a layer of espresso buttercream and a layer of dark chocolate ganache, the Opera cake is a rich and complex dessert. The cake is a staple of French pastries, where it is glazed with chocolate, sometimes with the word Opera glazed on top, and sold in square or rectangular slices.

Although pastry chef Cyriaque Gavillon is often credited with creating the cake in 1955 for the French bakery Dalloyau, some, including pastry chefs Michael Suas and Judith Choate and the editors of the September 2004 issue of Gourmet, believe that the cake was created much earlier. At the 1903 Culinary Exhibition in Paris, pastry chef Louis Clichy presented a similar cake bearing his name. Instead of “opera”, the name “Clichy” was scribbled at the top. When Dalloyau presented its version of the cake in 1955, the bakery named the cake L’Opéra in homage to the shape of the opera stage.

Almond sponge cake covered with espresso buttercream and chocolate ganache.

pound cake

Pound cakes are sweet, tender, and chewy with a dense crumb, and traditionally they are baked in a Bundt pan or loaf pan. Some bakers, like cookbook author Cheryl Day, start their pound cake in a cold oven, which gives the sourdough more time to work its magic and results in a lighter, finer crumb. Associate Editor Jarrett Melendez describes Day’s Cold Oven Pound Cake as “a sweet, buttery cloud wrapped in a savory, delicately crispy crust.”

Michael M. Tomlin