Portillo’s Chocolate Cake

Portillos chocolate cake

Portillo’s is a Chicago area icon, a restaurant known for their hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, and chocolate cake! This is supposedly the recipe that they use and it’s dangerously good!

Portillo’s is a Chicago area icon, a restaurant known for their hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, long lines of cars in their drive thru, AND chocolate cake! Never in a million years would I have thought to try this unassuming chocolate cake at a hot dog joint until my hubby came home from work one day to tell me that him and his co-workers had bought a whole chocolate cake from there, and it was to die for! He was nice enough to smuggle a small slice home for me to try, and I had to agree. It was SO good!


Then one day while I was stumbling upon reviews on Yelp, I checked out the reviews for Portillos and EVERYBODY was talking about the chocolate cake, and the chocolate cake shake! All these years had gone by, and I had no clue what I was missing out on! The secret to the insanely delicious, ultra-moist cake, come to find out, is mayonnaise. Before you get all grossed out at the thought of mayo, in a cake, did you realize that mayonnaise is simply oil, and egg yolks whipped together, ingredients you’d find in baked goods already?

A quick search with the help of my friend Goog (you know, short for Google), and I had the top-secret (not really) recipe for Portillos chocolate cake in my hands. I thought I’d have a hard time finding it, but it’s ALL over the Internet (so I don’t know who to credit!). I have to say, I was surprised to say the least. The base of the cake? Betty Crocker devil’s food cake mix. The only time I make an exception and use boxed cake mix is when I make this Better Than Sex Cake. I was skeptical, but enough people, including some former Portillo’s employees confirmed that Betty Crocker is what they use!

So after being blown away by the fact that one of the best tasting chocolate cakes out there starts with a box of Betty Crocker cake mix, I was further blown away when I read that the frosting was simply Betty Crocker Chocolate Frosting…. from a CAN!!! You could say I was a little skeptical when I started baking this cake, but all of my doubts were washed away when I tried the first bite. Just as good as Portillo’s!

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Portillo’s Chocolate Cake

Portillos chocolate cake

Prep Time: 10mn
Cook Time: 32mn
Total Time: 42mn


  • 1 box Betty Crocker Devil’s Food Cake
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup ice cold water
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 2 cans Betty Crocker chocolate frosting
Need to convert the measurements? Click here!


  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and grease (2) nine inch cake pans
  2. In the bowl of your mixer, combine cake mix, eggs, water, and mayo on low speed for 30 seconds, then mix on high for about 4 minutes.
  3. Split the batter evenly between the two cake pans.
  4. Place in the oven for about 30-32 minutes, or until a tooth pick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  5. Allow the cakes to rest for about 5 minutes, then transfer them out of the pans, and onto wire cooling racks to cool for about an hour.
  6. Place one of the cakes on a plate and spread about 3/4 of one jar of frosting on the top of the cake. Place the second cake on top and use the remaining frosting (1 1/4 jars) to coat the top of the cake, and the sides. 

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Comments (73)

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  1. OMG all you had to say was Portillo’s and you are practically my BFF!!! Love that you made a copycat of their cake, it’s practically the cake from the gods

    • I knew I’d find some fellow Portillo’s fans (and BFF’s ;)…) with this recipe! I can’t take credit for it though, it’s all over the web! And so, so, so simple to make.

      • Hey, Ashley.
        Have you ever made this cake like a birthday cake/sheet cake?

      • I haven’t, but you certainly could!

    • ellen

      Do you or can you get recipe for their Italian beef, yummy many on internet but don’t even come close to theirs

  2. Shery Sullivan

    I tried this several times, it is always toothpick tested and after it comes out for a few minutes the whole thing shrinks. It still tastes good, almost like brownies, but I want it to stay bold and beautiful like when I take it out.

    • Hi Sherry. I’ve noticed this tends to be a problem when using any boxed mixes from the store. When I use darker coated pans, it tends to help with the problem. Another solution might be to let the cakes sit in the pans a little longer before transferring them to cool. Unfortunately, those are the only two suggestions I have, but like I said, it tends to happen with the boxed mixes.

      • Claudette Trudgeom

        That is because the ounces of the mix have been reduced. I have many recipes that use a cake mix as a base in recipes. They always sink. I just decided to make them from scratch.

    • gene

      I did not take it out of the pan for 15 minutes. I also greased the pans, then lined the bottom with wax papaer and greased that. The oven was hot when the cake batter went in. I used regular mayo, not canola or olive and not light mayo. All items went in very cold. The eggs were organic. I don’t know why it worked for me and not you, but for sure it tasted good, and the in looks are only skin deep. It’s what’s inside that counts. One advantage you had is you have a very good excuse to lay on the frosting pretty thick!

    • John

      Your oven temperature might be too high, don’t over mix cake mix, and no need for a toothpick. Just use your finger and press lightly in the center of the cake to check it. If it springs back it’s done. I try and never open the oven door too early. When taking out of the oven handle with care. Sit it down carefully.

    • Shari

      My friend and I were having the same problem. She had a sears guy come and check her oven. I bought an oven thermometer. For both of us, it was the pre-heat. Our oven beeped 100degrees off. So we were baking at a low heat for the first 20 minutes. So now that we pre heat for 20 minutes longer, our baking has been coming out great.

  3. triciab

    Love this! I am baking it right now! Smells delicious… In response to the other post, a sever temperature change can cause shrinkage as well :). Keeping the cake in the pan as it cools and on top of the warm oven should help. It will always shrink a bit as the air pockets relax after baking, but it shouldn’t turn into brownies :/

    • Hi Tricia, thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed the cake. :) And thanks for the tip!

  4. Brittany

    One of the best chocolate cakes and super easy to make!

  5. Lindsay

    OK – I am not one to make boxed cake mixes, but I make an exception for this recipe because my husband LOVES it.
    The frosting from a can though does NOT make the cut. I think it tastes pretty darn disgusting. Try this chocolate frosting recipe and I swear you will never buy the can again. It is AMAZING!

    Macinac Island Chocolate Fudge Buttercream Frosting
    (Why do I call it that? Because that is what the taste reminds me of – chocolate fudge from a fudge shop! It is the best chocolate frosting!)

    •1 cup salted butter
    •scant 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa (Slightly less than ½ cup)
    •3 one ounce squares of melted then cooled semi-sweet or milk chocolate
    •1/2 tsp instant coffee
    •1-2 tbsp heavy cream
    •3 cups powdered sugar

    1.Melt your three chocolate squares in the microwave, slowly and carefully until they are liquidy smooth. Set aside to cool.
    2.Whip the butter in your mixer until it’s light and fluffy.
    3.Add in the cocoa, beating until combined.
    4.When the chocolate is cool, add it to the butter. Make sure it’s cooled!!
    5.Add the instant coffee to one tablespoon of cream, then add to the butter mixture.
    6.Now you can put in the powdered sugar one cup at a time, beating until combined.
    7.Adjust the thickness/texture by using another tablespoon of cream, adding it slowly until the texture you want is achieved.

    • Thanks for the recipe, I’ll have to give it a try! :) I usually don’t do the can of frosting route, but apparently that’s what they really use with a Portillo’s Chocolate Cake!

      • Anonymous

        Hi Ashley ! Any recipes to follow for Portillo’s chocolate cake shake?

      • I don’t have a recipe for a Portillo’s Chocolate Cake Shake, yet! I’ll add it to the to-do list! :)

  6. hey!

    please tell me what is mayo? i cant get it :) thanks !

  7. Mayo is short for mayonnaise Hello!

  8. Debbie Whitten

    OMG! that is just not a nice thing to post!!!!!! LOL!!!!!!! YUMMY YUMMY YUMMY!

  9. Julie Stewart

    they have the best chocolate cake, delish!! along with the beef sandwiches

  10. Colleen Davis

    Guess we need to go to Chicago and try it out!

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