Algonquin Test Kitchen: Red Velvet Cupcakes

It’s time for another exciting round of what is soon to be America’s favorite gameshow…Name That Substance!



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Substance #1


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If you guessed leftover props from a Carrie remake or something I would have gladly put in my hair during my goth phase, you’re incorrect. It’s actually the start of this:

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Substance #2



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Delicious red velvet cupcakes that we’re snacking on in the office this week. I, like every good southerner, love red velvet cake, though its southern heritage is a little dubious. One of the first recipes for red velvet cake showed up at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York in the 1920s, and it was Steel Magnolias that gave the cake a resurgence of popularity throughout the south.  Even if it didn’t originate south of the Mason-Dixon, red velvet’s buttermilk twang and titillating red hue make it stand out as potentially the Blanche Devereaux of desserts.

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You don’t have to be from the south to love red velvet cake. In fact, lore says that a local woman loved her slice of the Waldorf-Astoria’s recipe so much that she asked the chef the spill the secret only to find a huge charge on her bill for the information. Furious, she spread the recipe for free via chain letters. The hotel, of course, adamantly denies this tale (but they also deny that Blair Waldorf is a real person, and I’ve watched enough episodes of Gossip Girl to suspect that this isn’t true.)

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One other nugget of red velvet trivia, the original red color is said to come from a chemical reaction between the buttermilk, cocoa, and vinegar. However, during World War II when several of the key ingredients were restricted, creative bakers used sugar beets for sweetness and the trademark color. Some purists continue to use beets in their red velvet recipes, but went took the easier, possibly more carcinogenic route with two teaspoons of red food coloring.

To make some Red Velvet cupcakes of your own, .

To make some Red Velvet cupcakes of your own, just check out this recipe. Also, don’t worry, that was the first and last round of Name That Substance, because with a name like that, no one wins.

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- Stephen Ashley, Publishing Coordinator

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