Fancy some red velvet cake a la Waldorf Astoria
By Monish Gujral
Sitting by the window of the coffee shop of the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, enjoying the beautiful summer morning and sipping my Arabica beans coffee, I suddenly had this urge for something sweet. On summoning a steward to give me a menu, he recommended the red velvet cake, the house speciality The cake and its original recipe are most well-known in the United States thanks to Waldorf Astoria.
A red velvet cake, with a dark red or a bright red colour, is usually prepared as a layer cake topped with a creamy vanilla icing or mostly with cream cheese icing. The reddish-brown colour of the cake was originally from a reaction of the cocoa powder with an acidic ingredient such as buttermilk. However, red food colouring is often added these days.
Red Velvet has a proportionally red history behind it. When food was rationed during the Second World War, bakers used boiled beet root as a substitute for colouring to enhance the customer appeal of their cakes. Boiled grated beetroot is found in red velvet cakes even today. However, most bakers use red colour.
A Southern variation of the cake is made with cream cheese frosting. Beetroot or beets are not used in the in this version.
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’s matriarch.
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.
In recent years, red velvet cake has become increasingly popular and can be found in most cupcake bakeries.