Ah, red velvet cake. Is there a better cake to end the week with? Well, yes. But I had a bottle of red food coloring, a cup of soon-to-go buttermilk, some butter extract and 1/2 cup of Crisco to use up. So I went with red velvet! Besides, a few months ago I’d promised I’d try the authentic Waldorf Astoria Original Red Velvet Cake with cooked icing (as opposed to cream cheese icing), so I can now cross that off my list.
This is supposed to be the recipe for the original Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake. It’s very good even though it doesn’t have as much fat as some. The cooked icing is interesting and makes the cake taste like a big red Twinkie. It’s delicious, but a real departure from the thicker, twangier, cream cheese icing usually found on red velvet. I am looking forward to trying this icing on a chocolate sheet cake.
More Waldorf Astoria Original Red Velvet Cake Tips
- Before you read the tips you should know this is an old recipe. It’s not my favorite red velvet cake. It’s a good one for sure and I particularly like it because it calls for less fat, but there are more modern recipes out there. Here’s a link to my favorite red velvet cake which is similar to Waldorf Astoria Original, but a little easier. That said, if you are determined to make the old style version, here are some tips:
- Don’t substitute butter for the shortening or the cake will be dry and less fluffy. If you don’t like shortening, go with the other recipe I mentioned earlier.
- Butter extract: Weird little ingredient and I was almost tempted to leave it out, but oddly enough when mixed with the vanilla and other ingredients it really improves the flavor of the cake. And this is coming from someone who doesn’t (usually) like the flavor or smell of butter extract.
- You can use 1 1/2 teaspoons of Wilton Christmas Red paste instead of food coloring. The color will be more of a brick red. My personal favorite thing for red velvet cake making is this stuff called Super Red which you can buy off Amazon.
- For not-dry-as-dirt red velvet cake, weigh out the cake flour and don’t even think about using all-purpose. 2 ½ cups of all-purpose or unsifted cake flour weighs a lot more than 2 ½ cups of sifted cake, so make sure to weigh out 240 grams of cake (and sift out the lumps while you’re at it).
Cooked Icing Tips
- The icing (or frosting) is an old fashioned one that tastes like slick and fatty buttercream. I personally prefer a good cream cheese frosting, but if you love true buttercream and want to try a housewife style adventure, here’s your recipe. It takes a while to go from grainy to smooth, but it will get there if you are patient and have a stand mixer with a whisk. If not, I recommend cream cheese.
- If you don’t end up using this icing/frosting on this cake, save the recipe for when you are bored and make it for cupcakes or cupcake filling. The texture really is something.
I’ll leave you with this lovely old photo of a three layer version. It’s another old photo, but I like comparing the old to new.
Waldorf Astoria Original Red Velvet Cake with Cooked Icing
- 1/2 cup shortening (96 grams)
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (285 grams)
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon butter extract
- 1 1/2 ounces red food coloring
- 3 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder (15 grams)
- 1 teaspoon salt I use Morton Kosher
- 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour (240 grams), make sure to weigh**
- 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt omit if using salted butter
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (230 grams)
- 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray three 9-inch round cake pans with flour-added cooking spray. For a higher ratio of cake to frosting, use two 9x2 inch pans. You may also use three 8-inch pans. If you use three 8-inch or go with two 9-inch, you will probably need to tack on about 4 minutes to the cook time due to the batter being deeper.
- Using high speed of electric mixer, beat shortening and sugar until creamy. Beat in eggs, vanilla extract and butter extract, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Make a paste of red food coloring and cocoa powder, then stir that in. Or, do what I do and just stir the red food coloring and cocoa in, then beat. When the batter turns red, stir in the salt and beat so that it's very well mixed. Starting and ending with flour, add the flour and buttermilk alternately to batter, stirring so that flour gets absorbed.
- Place the baking soda in a little cup. Add the vinegar to the baking soda, then stir the fizzy vinegar mixture into the cake batter to lighten it.
- Now, dump the cake batter into the pans, dividing evenly.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs. Let cakes cool in pans on a rack for 10 minutes. Flip out of pans and cool completely. Note: If your oven runs hot, cook the red velvet cake at 325 degrees F. The cakes will turn out dry if overcooked.
- Make the frosting. In a heavy saucepan, whisk together 3 tablespoons of flour and 1/4 cup of the milk until smooth. Whisk in salt and remaining milk. Turn heat to medium and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is thick and creamy. Let it cool completely.
- Using your electric mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Beat in the thoroughly cooled flour mixture. Beat and beat until the icing is fluffy and no longer grainy (this may take a while, depending on how good your mixer is). For this recipe, I recommend using a stand mixer.
- Cover cake with frosting. If your cake domes, you can trim off the domes and crumble them for garnish.