Red Velvet Cake

Attention, readers! Here in the Palo Alto kitchen we have a science-defying, diet-busting, jeans-shrinking, mind-blowing red velvet cake. This distinctly Southern delight was inspired by a certain character in a certain play that a certain theatre class is certainly performing soon! That would be Clairee Belcher in Steel Magnolias, people. Yup, that’s the one where (SPOILER ALERT) everyone cries. The absolute tear-jerker of a play manages to be hilarious, devastating and breathtakingly written at the same time. I get to bring to life the matriarch of the whole thing, the epitome of a proper Southern lady (not unlike a particular grandmother [yup, Gram, I’m talking about you]). Clairee is sweet and sassy and she inspired this cake. The cake itself is a recipe from the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. I got it from a woman who found it in her shed with a note that said that the recipe-recorder had paid $250 dollars for it.

The decorations were – an adventure. I, being the Buzzfeed addict that I am, was inspired by one of those classic Buzzfeed lists, this time about cake decorating. Unfortunately, once I’d melted my chocolate, with which I was going to artfully pipe out some pretty decorations, I added cold milk. This turned my nice, melted chocolate into basically chocolate clay. I will let you in on a secret, readers. I am a baker. I am not a decorator. Decorations are usually the weakest part of whatever I am baking. Hopefully I will improve with time, but it is a work in progress. Riley Guggenhime, if you’re reading this, THANK YOU! you are a decorating lifesaver. So here it is. The cake that tastes delish, has a beautiful red color, and which broke the no sugar pact I’d been keeping up for a week.

Note: Try this substitute for cake flour: 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons regular flour, 2 tablespoons cornstarch. You can put the cornstarch in the bottom of your measuring cup. For buttermilk, try this: 1 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice with 1/2 cup milk. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes. I learned that from Sally – thanks, Sally!

Waldorf Astoria Cake from

Makes two 8-inch round layers.

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ounces red food coloring (I used “christmas red” gel)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa (heaping)
  • 1 cup buttermilk (see note)
  • 2 1cups cake flour (see note)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  1. In a stand mixer, cream butter, sugar and eggs.
  2. Make a paste with red food coloring and cocoa. It will basically still look like cocoa powder, your paste will not turn red. Add to mixer.
  3. Combine flour and salt, then add half to the mix.
  4. Add half your buttermilk, then the rest of the flour and salt.
  5. Now, add the rest of the buttermilk and mix.
  6. Add vanilla.
  7. Create that super fun reaction with the baking soda and vinegar together (let out your inner second-grader!) and wait for it to stop bubbling a bit to add it to the mix.
  8. Pour into greased and floured cake pans (I also put parchment paper circles on the bottoms of mine), and bake at 350˚ for 24-30 minutes.
  9. Let cool and frost.

Cream Cheese Frosting from the Food Network:

  • 4 ounces butter
  • 4 ounces soft cream cheese (I used low fat neufchâtel cheese)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Combine butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer.
  2. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, with mixer on s l o w  s p e e d.
  3. Beat in vanilla.

IMG_4793 IMG_4795

and yes, I am burning the almost-midnight oil to post this. you’re welcome. 😉


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