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Red Velvet Cake Recipe
Red Velvet Cake Recipe


 This cake recipe was given me by a friend of mine. His Grandmother  used to make this recipe as he was growing up and nobody was able to make the  cake like his Grandmother did before she past away. He gave me the recipe so I could make the cake for him and his family. He died a couple of years ago at the age of 56. It has taken me a few years to feel comfortable giving their recipe away. They had this recipe for more than 60 years in his family. 


The true origin of the Red Velvet is a mystery. Some people say that the name velvet was given due to the texture of the cake. Most people believe the cake was created by the Waldorf Astoria. While no one knows exactly when and where Red Velvet Cake originated, a story began circulating around the United States about a cake that supposedly was served at the restaurant in New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. 

Here’s an account of this urban legend as it appeared in Jan Brunvand book, The Vanishing Hitchhiker (W.W. Norton, 1989):  

Our friend, Dean Blair, got on a bus in San Jose one morning, and shortly after, a lady got on the bus and started passing out these 3 x 5 cards with the recipe for “Red Velvet Cake.” She said she had recently been in New York and had dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria and had this cake. After she returned to San Jose, she wrote to the hotel asking for the name of the chef who had originated the cake, and if she could have the recipe.

Subsequently, she received the recipe in the mail along with a bill for something like $350 from the chef. She took the matter to her attorney, and he advised her that she would have to pay it because she had not inquired beforehand if there would be a charge for the service, and if so, how much it would be. Consequently, she apparently thought this would be a good way to get even with the chef.


 Others believe that the red velvet story began at an Eaton's Department store in Canada where the employees were sworn to secrecy about the recipe. Finally, you have the next version of the red velvet that states this recipe is just a spin-off from Devil's food cake.

You will find some recipes with beets, but that was not the original recipe either. The original red velvet had a hint of color caused by the vinegar, buttermilk, baking soda, and cocoa combination. Cocoa powder traditionally has anthocyanins. This compound reacts to acids by giving a reddish tint. It's a compound also found in red cabbage.

If you wonder why this reaction doesn't happen when you bake your cakes these days, it's because most of the cocoa powder sold in the market is processed with an alkalizing agent that neutralizes its acidity. So even getting a hold of the old recipe of red velvet you won't have the same reaction as our ancestors did.

What brought a lot of attention to this cake was the movie "Steel Magnolias. After the movie was aired, a lot of people wanted to try the red cake that was used inside the Armadillo cake that was in the movie. I remember seeing this movie. I was amazed at the sculpted cake that look so realistic and when they cut into the cake, it was a huge surprise to see a red cake inside.

When foods were rationed during World War II, bakers started using boiled juice beet to enhance the color of the cake. So if you see a recipe that uses full beets in the recipe that is not the way the red velvet is done. I remember years ago trying a recipe with them, and I was not happy with the beet taste. I remember throwing that whole cake in the trash. With some research I found out that the way the bakers used to do it back then, was by taking the juice out of the beets and reducing the liquid overheat, so you mostly got the color of the beets.

In the 1930's Adam's Extracts, a company in Texas was struggling through the depression years. John A. Adams decided to place in his points of sale across the country tear-off recipe cards for red velvet that used his vanilla extract and food coloring to make the red velvet cake with the deepest red anyone has ever seen. This idea became wildly successful and gives John A. Adams the credit for the modern-day red velvet cake.

One thing that seems to be common in between all the stories is the recipe. Basically a small amount of chocolate ( 2 tablespoons) and a combination of vinegar, buttermilk, baking soda, and cocoa. Many new recipes are out there being called red velvet and some people saying they are the originals. Some people are adding coffee to the recipe, or adding way too much cocoa. Some are changing the buttermilk for sour cream. It's ok to have new creations and flavors for cakes but keep in mind they are a spin-off of the original cake. There is only one original. Some recipes you will see, have changed the fats for oil and they work really well with cupcakes. I have tried them on the cake but I find them a bit too oily, that's my personal opinion.

As far as the original recipe goes, there is something we have to change and I am guilty of doing too. The original recipe had a specific frosting. The frosting was not made with cream cheese. It was a boiled mix of frosting made with flour, milk, sugar, and butter. It was made with granulated sugar but some people had trouble getting the sugar to not be grainy, so you will see some recipes where people have changed the sugar to powdered sugar. The frosting is really delicious when is done well but I am a cream cheese frosting lover. So I use my Crusting Cream Cheese Buttercream Recipe to finish the cake. To fill the cake I use my Creamcheese Filling recipe since it has more cream cheese flavor to it.

So here below is the original recipe and I am posting the original frosting that came with the recipe. I hope you enjoy it!


1/4 cup Vegetable Shortening
1/4 cup Unsalted Butter
1 1/2 cup of sugar
2 large eggs
2 oz. red food coloring 
(I use Wilton no taste red)
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 tablespoons of cocoa
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of buttermilk
2 cups of cake flour
1 teaspoon of vinegar
1 teaspoon of baking soda


* Sift the cake flour
* Make a paste of the red food coloring the salt and the cocoa
* In a bowl cream the shortening and the butter, then add the sugar. Beat until light and fluffy
* Add the eggs one at a time and beat them after each addition.
* Then add cocoa and food coloring mixture.
* Add vanilla
* Add flour alternately with buttermilk mixture to the butter-sugar mix, stirring just enough to blend.
* Combine the baking soda and the vinegar. Add to the mix and fold into it. 
* Place cakes in the oven and lower temperature to 325
* Bake around 35 to 40 minutes or until done. I use 2, 8-inch  
* Seal cakes well in plastic and place them in the fridge overnight so the flavors settle.


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