The homemade red velvet cake recipe is unique and fun to make. These rich-tasting layer cakes are famous for their delicate chocolate flavor and thick, white-as-snow icing. But, what really sets these spectacular dessert cakes apart is their eye-catching appearance when cut — their interiors are an unexpected, blood-red color!
Strangely, I could not find any mention of a homemade red velvet cake recipe while rummaging through Grandma's collection of old fashioned recipe books. Not a single one!
I was hoping to include some early recipes in keeping with the vintage theme of this site, since only modern cake recipes are found on other food blogs. But, I came up short.
However, I did manage to find an old fashioned Philadelphia Red Cake recipe that produces a cake bearing a striking similarity to the famous red velvet cake. Could it be the forerunner of a homemade red velvet cake recipe? Try it and see.
The original 1920 recipe is given below followed by my tips for adapting it to produce a traditional red velvet cake.
The Perry Home Cook Book (1920)
Cream 1-1/2 cups sugar and 1/2 cup butter; add-beaten yolks of 3 eggs, 1/2 cup sour milk, 1-1/2 cups flour. Dissolve 2 squares of chocolate in 1-1/2 cups boiling water; add 1 teaspoon soda to chocolate. Let cool; add to cake batter; lastly, fold in well-beaten whites of 3 eggs. Add to it red coloring. Flavor with vanilla. —Ida Repstine
Adaptation by Don Bell
The Philadelphia red cake recipe as given above makes a delicious cake,
but if you want to adapt it to more closely resemble a homemade red velvet cake recipe, just reduce the water called for to 1/2 cup and
increase the sour milk or buttermilk to 1 cup, to make a
richer batter; and add 1 teaspoon white vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt to the list of
Below are some tips that will help you to create a red velvet cake.
Mom's Recipe Scrapbooks (c. 1920s)
Some food historians believe that historical recipes for Devil's Food Cakes and Philadelphia Red Cakes might have inspired what we know today as a homemade red velvet cake recipe.
I chose several of the best old fashioned devil's food cake recipes and included them below so you can experiment and taste-test the theory. However, the distinctive deep-red color cannot be duplicated using today's baking soda and coca products, so you'll need to resort to adding red food coloring.
Try them and see what you think.
1-1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoonfuls butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
1/2 cup sour milk
1/2 cup boiling water
2 squares Baker's Unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sift flour once, measure the correct amount, add baking powder, and salt, and sift three times. Add sugar gradually to melted butter, and cream together until light and fluffy. Add eggs. Beat mixture vigorously. Add flour and sour milk alternately, a small amount at a time. Pour the boiling water into the melted chocolate; mix quickly. Add baking soda to chocolate and stir until thick. Cool slightly before adding to cake batter. Mix thoroughly. Add vanilla.
Bake in two greased 9-inch layer pans in moderate oven (350°F) for 25 minutes. To make three 10-inch layers, double the recipe. Put favorite white frosting between layers and top and sides of cake.
1 cup butter; 3 cups sugar; 4 eggs (whole); 1 cup sour milk; 1 cup cocoa, 1 cup hot water; 4 cups flour; 1 teaspoon soda. Pour hot water over cocoa and soda and stir in last of all. Be careful that water is boiling. Flavor with vanilla.
Filling: Boil 1-1/2 cups sugar, very small amount of water beaten in the whites of 2 eggs, with ground raisins. —Mrs. H. B. Dougan
1 cup sour cream; 1-1/2 cups sugar; 2 eggs; one-third cup hot water; flour; 1 teaspoon soda; 3 tablespoons cocoa; 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Filling for above cake: 2 cups brown sugar; 1/2 cup sweet milk; 1 tablespoon cocoa; butter size of a walnut. —Mrs. Galen O'Roke, Oskaloosa, Kansas
1 cup butter; 1 cup brown sugar; 1 cup white sugar; 1 cup sweet milk; 1/2 cup molasses; 4 cups flour; 1/2 cup chocolate; 1/2 cup boiling water; 4 eggs; 1/2 teaspoon cream tartar; 1/2 teaspoon soda; 1 teaspoon each of allspice, cloves and cinnamon; 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg; 2 cups raisins; 1 cup citron; 1 cup English walnuts. Ice with caramel icing. This also makes a unique Christmas cake. —Mrs. John Hackett
4 tablespoons butter; 1/2 cup powdered sugar; 1 tablespoon cocoa; 4 tablespoons coffee; cream butter, sugar and cocoa; then stir in the coffee little by little. —Mrs. W. E. Cain
1 egg white, unbeaten
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine egg white, sugar, salt, water, and corn syrup in top of double boiler. Beat about 1 minute, or until blended. Cook over rapidly boiling water, beating constantly for about 4 minutes, or until frosting will stand in stiff peaks.
Remove from boiling water. Add Vanilla flavoring and beat for 1 minute, or until frosting is thick enough to spread on cake.
The history of red velvet cakes remains unknown, but this unusual cake has long been a favorite in the American South. A popular urban legend links its origin to New York's famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, but it cannot be substantiated, and the hotel persistently denies the alleged connection.
Some food historians think these cakes might have originated as a devil's food cake. Chocolate devil's food cakes became very popular in the early 1900s, and it's said that a chemical reaction between the old-style baking sodas and processed coca powders sometimes gave the cake batter a distinctively reddish tinge. Apparently, some cooks enhanced and encouraged this phenomenon by adding a generous amount of cochineal (red) food coloring.
Enjoy experimenting with the historic recipes that might have inspired the modern homemade red velvet cake recipe. One thing that IS known, everybody loves red velvet cakes. These layered dessert cakes are most popular for serving on special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries.