Maybe it's not as big a mystery as the location of the Grail or what happens when you dial an 800 number, but the Origin of the Red Velvet Cake has raged among culinary history buffs for years.
Despite Southern affinity for Red Velvet Cake, there has never been compelling evidence that the cake's origins are Southern. Most sources trace it back to the Waldorf Astoria Cake, which was the urban-legend forerunner to the Neiman-Marcus Cookie.
Now food writer and baker Stella Parks has an article on Gilt Taste, Ruth Reichl's new food writing/food buying hybrid site, that traces Red Velvet history farther back. It's a shame that Parks apparently hates Red Velvet so much, and I wish she had included a little more on the source of her 1910 copy of The Oxford-University Methodist Church Community Cookbook (is that Oxford, Miss.?) and more on the provenance of Alvin Wood Chase's receipt book from 1873.
Still, it's interesting history on the terms "velvet" and "red" as they pertain to cake baking.
On Tuesday, Parks and Gilt Taste promise to continue the tale with a Red Velvet recipe. Happy reading. Here's the link to Parks' article: redvelvetcake.