Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake

My great-grandmother was the original hipster: she was making red velvet cake before it was cool.

Though, in all sincerity, it does seem that red velvet cake has suddenly become A Thing. I’d never heard of it before, then suddenly the kids at ACAD are making it, the recipe is showing up in hip Friday newspaper supplements, and my parents claim to have found red velvet cupcakes at a high-end cupcake joint recently (…which about brings me to the limits of my pop-cultural awareness. Still. It seems to be cropping up a lot lately.)

No kidding people want to make red velvet cake: it’s a really beautiful colour, and it has a fancy (and frankly delicious-sounding) name; it’s an old-fashioned recipe, and there’s a real joy in this kind of interactive nostalgia.

My aunt made red velvet cake from this recipe and brought it to a family gathering, and it turns out that my uncle has my Great-Grandma’s original recipe in his possession: typewritten with handwritten comments in pencil. I have reproduced it below.

Apparently there is an urban legend that red velvet cake originated at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, hence the name, but I suspect it has more to do with how posh you sound when you offer ‘Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake’ to your family/friends/lover(s)/neighbours/co-workers. Undoubtedly, my Great-Grandma J was an impressive woman with or without the ‘Waldorf Astoria’.


‘Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake’

1/2 cup crisco

1 1/2 cups white sugar

2 eggs

1/4 cup red food colouring [my great-grandmother has crossed this out in the original, and hand-written,] Cochenial* [sic] from Drug Store (too strong, use less)

2 tablespoons cocoa

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour

1 tablespoons white vinegar

1 teaspoon baking soda

Cream crisco and sugar until fluffy, add eggs one at a time and beat one minute. Put cocoa and red food colouring in a cup and make a paste and add to above. Add salt. Put vanilla in buttermilk and add slowly to mixture alternating milk and flour. Put vinegar in a cup and add soda, add to mixture. Bake in 2 – 9″ pans at 350 oven, 30 to 40 mins.


1 cup milk

5 tbsp. flour

Mix flour and milk to make a smooth paste; cook until thick. Cool.

1 cup butter

1 cup icing sugar (apparently my aunt used granulated sugar and that worked well)

1 tsp. vanilla

Beat with mixer. Add flour mix gradually till all blended.

*This is a misspelling of “cochineal”, a dye made from crushed bugs of the same name. As far as strange ingredients go, this one takes the cake (haha). (I’ll be writing more about this soon.)


I do not have a photograph of what this cake ought to look like when it’s finished, which, I think, is part of the fun — no glossy, intimidating photographs to frighten me away from giving it a go. Instead, I’ll leave you with a photo of my Great-Grandmother J and my aunts.


Hello and happy Food Revolution Day!

Mississauga and Kamloops (like most other pairs of cities in Canada) are very different and very far apart. Four thousand kilometres, give or take. It’s important to recognise our geography: Canada is a big place and the unique characteristics of each little corner play a big part in how we live our day-to-day lives, the weather, the things we do, the things we eat, the things that grow around us. There is no such thing as ‘one size fits all’. That said, we also have a lot in common. Despite our distance, we wanted to do something together to celebrate, explore, experiment with, and share our common passion: good food shared with good people. Good food brings good people together, and good people come together and share good food, whether around the kitchen table, patio table, picnic blanket, campfire, or cookstove. [In our culture,] important discussions, crucial decisions, hysterical laughter, passionate dialogue, plans for the future, business strategy, and demonstrations of love and friendship and family often happen around a table of one form or another. These are important things in which food plays a big role, but we don’t spend nearly enough time really thinking about the food we eat, where it came from, who harvested and/or prepared it, and how it was prepared. Here, we think, write, and learn about food; across distances, one thing we all have in common.

We have been working on this blog concept for sometime now. We decided that Food Revolution Day would be an excellent day to launch.

Welcome to 4000 km + 1 table. We hope you will visit us often.

– Kate & Amy