Hate it or love it, red velvet cake seems to be here to stay. A constant during holidays like Valentine’s Day and Christmas because of its brick and white coloring, the moist, light and fluffy confection is a standout!
But where did the recipe for the crimson chocolate cake come? How has it remained as a staple for so long? Here’s a brief history of the cardinal-colored pastry…
According to one source, velvet cake actually dates back to the 19th century when bakers used almond flour, cocoa or cornstarch to soften the protein in flour and make finer-textured cakes. This eventually spawned the reddish-brown devil’s food cake, the cousin of the red velvet.
Some think the red velvet got its start at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. Vanilla and food dye distributor John A. Adams of Austin, Tex. tasted the cake there.
When congress passed the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act in 1938 “shoring up regulations for food coloring,” Adams took advantage and started putting red dye in his mahogany cakes and selling them in the region at festivals. By the 1930’s, the recipe for RVC was spreading throughout the U.S.
According to Adrian Miller, the author of Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time, red food plays an integral role in a Juneteenth party, as it serves as a metaphor for the blood shed during slavery and in the Civil War.
By the ‘70s, the cake had somewhat lost its luster. Famed foodie James Beard once famously dismissed it as bland.
But, the cake received a boost in popularity in 1989 when an armadillo-shaped RVC made an appearance in the Academy Award-nominated film Steel Magnolias. The opening of the Magnolia Bakery in the West Village in New York City in 1996 also gave a push to cake’s rep as the pastry shop sold red velvet as a homage to the film.
Today, the popular red velvet cake flavor is everywhere! Nabisco now makes red velvet Oreos. Kellogg’s makes red velvet flavored Pop-Tarts. Liquor line Zing even carries a red velvet flavored vodka.
It’s safe to say, this thing is here to stay!