The true origin of the Red Velvet cake is a mystery. One of the more popular stories involving this chocolate cake was believed to be around 1959, when a woman dining at the elegant Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City was served the dessert. She was so pleased with this early Red Velvet Cake that she asked for the recipe. The kitchen obliged to her request, but she found out later she was charged $100 (or $200, depending on the version of the story) for the recipe itself. To get her revenge on the NYC Hotel, she shared the kitchen’s Red Velvet Cake recipe in the form of chain letters, which she sent to hundreds of individuals, therefore exposing the “secret” and exploding the popularity of and demand for the Red Velvet Cake as a birthday cake and elegant dessert.
James Beard's 1972 reference American Cookery describes three red velvet cakes varying in the amounts of shortening and butter. All use red food coloring, but the reaction of acidic vinegar and buttermilk tends to better reveal the red anthocyanin in the cocoa. Before more alkaline "Dutch Processed" cocoa was widely available, the red color would have been more pronounced. This natural tinting may have been the source for the name "Red Velvet" as well as "Devil's Food" and similar names for chocolate cakes While foods were rationed during World War II, bakers used boiled beets to enhance the color of their cakes. Boiled grated beets or beet baby food are found in some red velvet cake recipes, where they also serve to retain moisture.
In Canada the cake was a well-known dessert in the restaurants and bakeries of the Eaton's department store chain in the 1940s and 1950s. Promoted as an exclusive Eaton's recipe, with employees who knew the recipe sworn to silence, many mistakenly believed the cake to be the invention of the department store matriarch, Lady Eaton.
A resurgence in the popularity of this cake is partly attributed to the 1989 film Steel Magnolias in which the groom's cake (a southern tradition) is a red velvet cake made in the shape of an armadillo.
WALDORF-ASTORIA RED CAKE
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 ounces red food coloring
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar (DC cupcakes uses cider vinegar)
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon baking soda
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1.Cream together the shortening, sugar, and eggs.
2.Make a paste with food coloring and cocoa. Add to shortening mixture.
3.Add salt and buttermilk to mixture.
4.Next add flour, vanilla, vinegar, and baking soda in that order. Mix.
5.Bake for 30 mins. at 350 degrees in two 8" rnd greased cake pans. Let cool.
6.Frosting: Cook 5 tablespoons flour and 1 cup milk until thick, and then cool.
7.Cream together 1 cup confect. sugar, 1 cup butter and 1 tsp. vanilla 'til fluffy. Add to flour mixture.
8.Cut layers of cake in half lengthwise. Spread frosting on each half layer. Stack and frost over all.
Amount Per Serving Calories: 287 Total Fat: 15.4g Cholesterol: 47mg