|Red Velvet Cake from Waldorf Astoria|
Red Velvet Cake, the royal cake of the South, is a cake with either a dark red, bright red or red-brown color. It is traditionally prepared as a layer cake topped with cream cheese or a cooked frosting. Common ingredients include buttermilk, butter, cocoa, and flour for the cake, beetroot or red food coloring for the color.
James Beard referenced red velvet cakes in his 1972 book American Cookery. The three cakes he mentioned varied in the amounts of butter, shortening, and oil but all used red food coloring. Throughout its history, red velvet cakes have used beetroot or red food coloring to achieve its signature red hue; however, even without the coloring, the cocoa used in the cakes reacts with acidic ingredients, such as vinegar or buttermilk, revealing the naturally present red anthocyanin in cocoa. (Anthocyanins are naturally occurring pigments in all tissues of plants, including leaves, stems, roots, flowers, and fruits.) Before more alkaline “Dutch" 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".
When foods were rationed during World War II, bakers used boiled beet juices to enhance the color of their cakes. Beets are found in some red velvet cake recipes, where they also serve to retain moisture. Adams Extract, a Texas company, is credited for bringing the red velvet cake to kitchens across America during the time of the Great Depression by being one of the first to sell red food coloring and other flavor extracts with the use of point-of-sale posters and tear-off recipe cards.
|Original tear-away recipe from Adams Extracts (front)|
|Original tear-away recipe from Adams Extracts (back)|
The popularity of the cake increased after the release of the 1989 film Steel Magnolias that included a scene with a red velvet groom's cake made in the shape of an armadillo.
Red Velvet Cake1 ¾ cup oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 ½ cup plain flour
1 ½ cups sugar
2 tsp cocoa
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp soda
1 or 2 oz red cake coloring
Cream oil and sugar, add eggs and beat well. Add flour and buttermilk alternating. Make paste of cocoa and coloring and add to mixture. Add salt and vanilla and soda; mix together and bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
1 box confectioners sugar
¼ lb or 1 stick oleo or butter
8 oz cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts
(SOURCE: Homemakers Cook Book by Pickens County Homemakers Club, Pickens County, Alabama, 1977, recipe by Mrs. Orman Storey)
Most people nowadays use a modern cream cheese-based frosting because of its simplicity and ease; however, Ermine Frosting, also known as boiled milk frosting or butter roux frosting, is the original icing on Red Velvet Cake. The combination of the names - Red Velvet Cake with Ermine Frosting – conjures images of royalty and this cake is indeed the queen of Southern cakes.
Ermine Icing (for Red Velvet)
1 cup whole milk
3 TB all-purpose flour
A pinch of salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Whisk flour into milk and place over medium heat in a small saucepan.
Cook mixture until thickened, whisking constantly.
Remove from heat and whisk in the salt.
Pout into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap on the surface. (This will stop the cooking and the plastic will prevent crusting)
Set aside to cool slightly.
In a stand mixer, begin creaming the butter and sugar until fluffy.
Add vanilla extract and mix to combine.
When milk mixture is slightly cooled, add 1 TB at a time to the creamed butter mixture while the mixer is running on medium speed.
Slowly the mix will combine into an extremely fluffy, light and buttery frosting.
This icing needs to be refrigerated though as it does not stand up well to temps above 70 degrees