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Delicious Memories: Grandma’s Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake
Childhood memories seem so precious as we reach adulthood and beyond. One of my favorites revolves around the delicious Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake that my Grandma made for my birthday each year. A friend who had worked at the prestigious Waldorf Astoria in New York shared this recipe with my Grandma many years ago. And it became a permanent part of my birthday celebrations. We didn’t do lavish parties. Usually, it was our family and maybe a friend or two. In fact, I rarely celebrated on my birthday as I was born in December in the snow belt region of Chautauqua County– a rural area in southwestern New York State, just off Lake Erie. Snowstorms were almost always happening around my birthday time. As such, my family’s birthday party might be a week or two after the actual date. No worries, though, as long as Grandma’s Waldorf Astoria Cake appeared on the table and we were surrounded by my family, including grandparents. All was good!
Many CopyCat Red Velvet Cake Recipes
I’ve seen so many versions of the Waldorf Astoria Cake. Some just call it the Red Velvet Cake. But to be a true Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake, it needs to have slim layers separated by the incredibly sweet, fluffy white icing, then topped with that same incredible icing. Sugar overload? Probably. But that’s just the way the original recipe read.
Many bakers now make this cake with just two layers. While it is still delicious, it’s just not the same. For me, the thin layers and frosting make the cake the ultimate perfection that Grandma always baked for me. Still, you will use less frosting if you leave the layers intact. And it is quicker to make that way. For me, the extra time and effort pay off in incredible perfection!
The Red Food Coloring Dilemma
Years ago, no one worried about food colorings. However, if you prefer to use something more natural, consider these options:
- Pure beet juice.
- Beet powder.
- Pure pomegranate juice.
- Dried hibiscus flowers steeped in hot water, strained.
- Cranberries boiled with enough water to cover, strained.
Of course, they might affect the flavor and even the texture. And maybe even in a better way! Consider experimenting with these options and see what works best for you and your family.
Grandma’s Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake Recipe
Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake
- ½ cup shortening
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 ounces red food coloring
- 3 tablespoons cocoa
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 ¼ cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 cup butter must be butter
Make the Cake
- Grease and flour 4 8 inch cake pans. Or, use 2 8-inch pans and see notes below.
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- In a large bowl, cream shortening, sugar and eggs.
- Make a paste of food coloring and cocoa.
- Add to creamed mixture.
- Mix flour and salt. Add to the creamed mixture, alternating with the buttermilk
- Mix in vanilla.
- Add soda to vinegar, and blend into the batter.
- Pour into cake pans.
- Bake at 350°F for 24-30 minutes.
- Split into layers (see notes below). Fill and frost with the following frosting.
Frosting: Add milk to flour slowly, avoiding lumps.
- Mix flour and milk. Cook over medium heat until very thick, stirring constantly.
- Cool completely.
- Cream sugar, butter and vanilla until fluffy.
- Add to cooked mixture.
- Beat on high speed until very light and fluffy.
Note:When using 2 cake pans, allow about 7-10 minutes longer to bake but watch closely to avoid overbaking. Use a wire or floss to cut each of the 2 layers into 2 more layers (4 layers total). While you want them fairly even, you can use frosting to fill in and level, as needed. If you prefer lighter layers for more dimension, make the 4 layers (or 3) and cut each of them in half (to create 8 layers). This makes a very stunning display when cut!