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BOOK: Red Velvet Lover’s Cookbook

It’s the best-selling flavor at New York’s Magnolia Bakery, L.A.’s Sprinkles Cupcakes, London’s Hummingbird Bakery and other cake emporia. Since 2005, its inclusion on restaurant menus has grown by more than 500%. It has been used to flavor coffee, tea, waffles, doughnuts, even fried chicken. It’s easy to find red velvet truffles, butter cookies, and even hot chocolate.

Red Velvet is the flavor that came from—where, exactly?—to grab the spotlight.

WHERE DID RED VELVET COME FROM?

“The history of red velvet is not black and white,” says Deborah Harroun, author of the recently published Red Velvet Lover’s Cookbook.

Stories detail its discovery in the 1870s in Canada and in the 1950s in Pennsylvania. Some give credit to the Deep South, where red velvet cake is topped with cream cheese frosting.

   

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A gift book for red velvet fans. Send it from Amazon.com. Photo courtesy Harvard Common Press.

 
One claim is that the Waldorf-Astoria’s restaurant in New York City was the first to serve red velvet cake as we know it today. Harroun writes:

“According to legend, a woman visited the Waldorf-Astoria, tried the cake, and fell in love. She wrote a letter to the hotel, asking if the chef would send her the recipe. The hotel did send her the recipe—along with a bill for $350. In retaliation, she made copies of the recipe and distributed them high and low.”

That does sound like a legend; and the truth is, we don’t know where red velvet cake originated.
SHOULD RED VELVET HAVE CHOCOLATE FLAVOR?

Before we read the book, we were under the impression that red velvet cake should be a type of chocolate cake with red food coloring. Our mom has baked a recipe called Red Devil’s Food Cake since the 1950s.

Think again, says Deborah: “The cocoa taste actually appears as just a hint when done correctly. I say that a red velvet cake or cupcakes taste like butter cake with just a hint of cocoa. It may be a hard flavor to describe, but once you’ve had it, you probably won’t forget it!”

And while many committed bakers deride red velvet for its use of “fake” red food coloring, there are natural ingredients that can be used to achieve the same red hue: cranberries, other red berries, pomegranates. Mom used beets in her Red Devil’s Food Cake.

 

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Red velvet cheesecake. Photo courtesy McCormick.
  A CORNUCOPIA OF RED VELVET RECIPES

What initially appeared to us as a gimmick has become a bakery staple, like another arrival of the same time, the cake pop. (Their offspring: the red velvet cake pop.)

In the book, Deborah presents the classics as well as a host of new, inventive uses for red velvet: red velvet biscuits, donuts, cheesecakes, icebox cakes, molten lava cakes, muffins, mug cakes, pancakes and even waffles.

There are a dozen recipes for bars, brownies and cookies, plus red velvet rolls and breads. Don’t stop there: Make red velvet cannoli, churros, éclairs, snowballs and truffles.

Even if your favorite red velvet lover doesn’t like to bake, he or she will be entertained just by the recipes and the photos.

Order yours at Amazon.com.

 

  




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