Apparantly, the Red Velvet Cake has quite a history...full of intrigue and steeped in Urban Legend.
I had no idea.
You see, sometime in the 40's or so a lady enjoyed a slice of Red Velvet Cake at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. After doing so, she asked the hotel for the recipe. They obliged her request, and charged her somewhere between $25-500 (depending on which story you read) for doing so. Outraged, this vengeful woman circulated the spendy, albeit delicious recipe along with the story to bakers far and wide.
Wasn't there a Nordstroms Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe story like this???
Taking all of this into consideration, I am left with the question: "Does this cake have Southern Roots or is it a City-Slicker NYC cake?" I'd always thought of it as a tradition in the South - a cake for special occasions. Remember Steel Magnolias?
The Armadillo Grooms Cake?
Sure, the historical context is intriguing but it has nothing to do with why I gave myself the challenge of perfecting the red velvet cake. Red happens to be my favorite color, the cake looks very cool when you cut into it, I enjoy random family traditions and thought that this would be a fun one...and because, to me, the celebratory color symbolizes strength and love.
Happy. Red. Cake.
Once I announced to friends, family and blog-buds that I was planning this - the recipes started rolling in. They are all similar with interesting little nuances. Some use buttermilk, others add in vinegar or use cream cheese frosting vs. "mystery" frosting. Due to the wide range of differing formulas, I thought it wise to start with the original and chose the Waldorf-Astoria Red Velvet Cake Recipe for my maiden voyage.
Two important ingredients - cake flour (sifted THREE times, thankyouverymuch) and red food coloring.
The original recipe called for "3 bottles of red food color". All that I had was one fancy FRENCH bottle of "gel" food color that measured about .75 ounces. As I looked at other recipes, they seemed to call for 2 ounces...3 bottles...2 tablespoons. Hey, my bottle was from FRANCE and had a designer color name to it. It had to be enough, right? Who needs THREE bottles of Safeway red food color, really?
Before adding fancy, FRENCH, gelee food colour:
Honestly, I was worried that this would turn out to be more of a Orangey-Pink Velvet Cake.
Good news is that once it was cooked, it looked more red than pink:
I've been struggling with naming the shade of red that my cake turned out to be. For now, I've decided to call it Carmine. Future cakes I will be shooting for more of a Crimson or Ruby.
Yeah, Ruby. Ruby is really what I'm shooting for.
**Updated to add**
2/11/07 - I was so consumed with the color aspect of my first cake that I forgot to say anything about how it tasted.
It was a'ight.
Not bad, but not as good as I wanted it to be. I wanted for it to be slightly jaw-dropping. As striking in taste as it is in color, I suppose. The cake was a bit on the dryish side and the frosting was sorta so-so. All the taste-testers liked it, so that is good. But, there is still cake left - a week later. Not the best sign. Next time, I'll try a recipe with oil vs. butter perhaps...or a "3-egg" cake that is described in my old skool Betty Crocker cookbook.
If anyone has any ideas, or well-loved recipes let me know. I'm taking the test kitchen seriously on this one. XO