Red Velvet Cake--what a scam! Nope--it wasn't invented at the Waldorf-Astoria. In fact, it is a Southern concoction.
It dates back to at least 1873. In Southern cookbooks of that time, the term velvet was used to describe a cake with a fine, even texture or "crumb." There were Chocolate Velvet cakes, Silver Velvet, etc.
Then came the Great Depression, and an entrepreneur named John A. Adams. His family had owned a food coloring and flavor extracts business since 1888, but was hit hard by the economy. Mr. Adams set up displays throughout the South and Midwest in grocery stores. Under a banner featuring the reddest of Red Velvet cakes, the offer of a free recipe for Red Velvet cake was given away free with every purchase.
The recipe included Adams Best Vanilla, Adams Butter Flavor and TWO bottles of Adams Red Color. It became a sensation!
Which is why I laugh at the very idea of a Red Velvet Cake as a delicacy. Whether it is vanilla, or has a touch of chocolate in its flavor, basically the cake is a butter cake with a huge addition of red petrochemical dye.