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 at 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 with a nutty hazelnut meringue, dark chocolate ganache, and silky smooth vanilla and hazelnut buttercreams, the marjolaine is a confection beloved by chefs around the world. The 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 into parts, it really is just like any cake you might make for a birthday, Valentine’s Day, or any other special occasion: You bake your layers, make your fillings, then assemble. Put on some tunes, and devote an afternoon to this masterpiece—you won’t regret it.

A slice of Marjolaine 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 mayonnaise helps the fat more evenly and efficiently coat flour particles in the cake, resulting in a rich, luscious bite.

As I recently wrote for Epicurious, the first mayonnaise cake recipe appeared in print in 1927 in the Oakland Grandstand. The cake, however, didn’t become popular until the 1940s, when ingredients like dairy and sugar were rationalized during World War II. The mayonnaise cake was popularized ten years later by Mrs. Frank Price, whose husband was a salesman for Hellmann’s and Best Foods. Price pitched her recipe—which called for ready-made mayonnaise—to the company as a way to increase sales.

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

A Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake with a slice cut out and a mug of tea.
Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

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Molten chocolate cake

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

Several years before Vongerichten debuted his molten chocolate cake, French chef Michel Bras served a cake that was similar in concept—a coulant au chocolate—at his restaurant, Maison Bras, in Laguiole, France. Bras wanted to capture the feeling of returning home after a day of skiing and warming up with a hot chocolate. Bras inserts a thimbleful of frozen chocolate ganache into his version of the cake, which melts into liquid as it bakes.

Today molten 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 molten chocolate cake recipe has just five ingredients and takes less than 20 minutes to whip up.

Image may contain Food Dessert Chocolate Cutlery and Spoon
Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes

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With three thin, tender layers of joconde sponge and a layer each of espresso buttercream and dark chocolate ganache, the Opera cake is a rich, intricate dessert. The cake is a staple at French patisseries, where it’s glazed in chocolate, sometimes with the word Opera iced on top, and sold in square or rectangular slices.

Though 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 the cake was created much earlier. At the 1903 Exposition Culinaire in Paris, pastry chef Louis Clichy presented a similar cake named after himself. Instead of “opera,” the name “Clichy” was scrawled across the top. When Dalloyau presented its version of the cake in 1955, the bakery named the cake L’Opéra as a homage to the shape of the opera stage.

Almond sponge cake layered with espresso buttercream and chocolate ganache.

pound cake

Pound cakes are sweet, tender, and moist, with a dense crumb, and traditionally, they’re baked in a Bundt pan or a loaf tin. Some bakers, like cookbook author Cheryl Day, start their pound cakes in a cold oven, which gives the leavening 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 flavorful, delicately crisp crust.”


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