Red Velvet Cake (of Urban Legend Fame)

Total Time
Prep 15 mins
Cook 25 mins

Here is the Red Velvet Cake recipe, given to me by Urban Legend Master Jan Harold Brunvand (yep, the guy who wrote the books; a friend of mine). It's also known as the "$500 cake" or "Waldorf-Astoria Cake" - recipe distributed since the 1950s (at least) by the Adams Extract company of Austin, TX. It's just one version of this folkloric dessert, and a good one.

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. Begin making the cake: cream shortening, sugar, eggs, flavors.
  2. Make a paste of cocoa and food coloring, add to first mixture.
  3. Alternately add flour and buttermilk.
  4. Mix soda and vinegar in small bowl; add to batter; blend.
  5. Bake in 3-9" or 10" pans for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees; let cool completely
  6. Make frosting: cook milk, flour, salt, until thick; stirring constantly; let cool.
  7. Cream shortening and sugar very well; add flavors - combine with the first mixture; beat well.
  8. Cover cake with frosting.
  9. Tell legend while serving.
  10. Reference: Brunvand, "The Vanishing Hitchhiker," NY: WW Norton, 1981, 154-160; more information coming in Brunvand,"The Brain Drain and other Timely Tales" Urbana: Univ of Ill Press, 1999.
  11. The Adams products, of course, may be substituted if you do not live in Texas or nearby where they are sold.
  12. Note from Julie: for St. Patrick's Day, substitute *green* food coloring and make Green Velvet Cake! Or during Halloween, mix red and yellow to make orange.
Most Helpful

I like this recipe, but prefer it a bit more moist so I used my southern Grandma's cure for dry cakes and substituted the shortening for Wesson oil. Saved the day.

MommaBakes2 October 30, 2010

Not bad, most people liked it but after following the directions to the tee, and putting the batter in the pans, I realized the directions for the cake recipe didn't include the salt, which was listed as an ingredient. So I guess I will throw it in with the other dry ingredients next time...

Amy Teee April 25, 2008

this is the recipe my former mother-in-law used and it is wonderful. all our birthdays she made the "red cake" she was a blessing and so is this cake.

Karin Max March 25, 2008