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PRODUCT: Red Velvet Cookies

We’re not fans of red velvet cake. We just don’t find a lot of flavor in it. We don’t want faint hints of cocoa: We want chocolate cake (or banana cake or buttery yellow cake or anything with lots of taste).

But we can’t deny that red velvet cake has become a national craze—so much so that Schmerty’s Cookies of Santa Monica, California have created a red velvet cookie! The cookies are also certified kosher.

Where did the storm of red velvet cake begin?

Actually, in the film Steel Magnolias, featuring six stars of the silver screen: Olympia Dukakis, Sally Field, Daryl Hannah, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton and Julia Roberts.

Follow the trail prior to then, and there are claims that the red velvet cake originated at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City in the 1920s—birthplace of classics such as Waldorf Salad, Veal Oscar, Thousand Island Dressing and the Manhattan cocktail.

Like red velvet cake? Try red velvet cookies.
Photo by Jerry Deutsch | THE NIBBLE.

While the hotel certainly popularized the cake, beginning in the 1920s, the origin of that cake is the Devil’s Food Cake that began to appear in print at the beginning of the 20th century.

The first published record for Devil’s Food Cake is a 1902 recipe from Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book. A recipe in Good Housekeeping Woman’s Home Cook Book, in 1909, more closely resembles modern recipes for Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake. A recipe for Philadelphia Red Cake, published in the Perry (Kansas) Home Cook Book in 1920, uses squares of chocolate, baking soda, buttermilk and egg whites—identical to recipes for Red Devil’s Food Cake.

Our mother made Red Devil’s Food Cake—a rich, chocolaty cake, not the bright red, vaguely flavored red velvet cakes of today. So where did today’s red velvet cake come from?

No one knows, exactly. In the 1960s, recipes for today’s red velvet-style cake were being published that added red food coloring as a prominent ingredient, along with buttermilk and cocoa powder. A southern favorite, it was launched to stardom in Steel Magnolias.


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