Red Velvet Cupcakes — a recipe and a story

    Grandma Richardson made this recipe for family gatherings at her house. Instead of Red Velvet, she referred to it as Waldorf-Astoria Cake. We loved the “red” color and were intrigued by the story.
     Today that story is referred to as legend and no one knows for sure the origins of the cake. But, this is the essence of the story that I grew up hearing . . . After eating a slice of the signature red cake at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, a lady asked if the chef might share his recipe. She gave the waiter her name and address. Later she received a copy of the recipe in the mail . . . along with a bill for $100.00. Her attorney advised her that since she had not inquired about a possible charge, she would have to pay. Infuriated, she decided to share the recipe with anyone and everyone.
     The frosting recipe that my grandmother always used was quite unusual – a cooked base, that includes flour, that is beaten into butter and granulated sugar. The process is bit  tricky and there is a chance the frosting could curdle if there is lots of humidity or a thunderstorm in progress. Guess what? The morning I made  these cupcakes, it was raining! So, I just frosted them with a basic cream cheese frosting and decorated them with chocolate chards.

Red Velvet Cupcakes    Makes 24
2½ cups all-purpose flour
John's birthday cupcakes.
1½ cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ cups vegetable oil (canola)
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1.     Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.
2.     In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder.
3.     In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.
4.     Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled.
5.     Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness.
6.     Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

Original Waldorf Astoria Frosting  . . . or at least the one my grandmother used
1 cup milk
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla

1.     Combine flour and salt in large saucepan; add milk gradually while whisking.
2.     Cook, over low to medium heat, while stirring, until thick.
3.     Cool and beat with electric mixer. Add sugar, butter and vanilla. Beat until fluffy.
4.     Spread on cupcakes.
John's birthday dinner in Kansas.
From left - Anne, Mary, Phyllis, Barry, David, John.

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