My Aunt’s Red Velvet Cake

In the mid-70s,  my mom, my aunt, and all the bakers in the family got upset and almost militant because Red Dye #2 was being taken off the market.  They weren’t really worried about the prominent cancer scare and alleged risks involved with this artificial additive.  Instead, they were concerned that they would not be able to make the family favorite, Red Velvet Cake.

I even remember my mother obtaining a gallon of this dye and parcelling it out like gold.   Who knows if we were all subjected to health risks, but we did still get the cake every time we requested it from our aunt.  When I think of this recipe, I always think of her.  We all made it to adulthood without any after affects of Red Dye #2.  Of course, we weren’t drinking cupfuls of it, we just ingested a bit with every birthday cake—Red Velvet Cake was the cake of choice for all family birthdays and celebrations. 

Red Velvet Cake

1/2 c. shortening
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar

Mix in mixer until creamy, add:
2 oz. red food coloring
2 T. cocoa
Add 1 t. salt and 1 t. vanilla to 1 c. buttermilk.
Sift 2 c. flour and alternate flour and buttermilk into first mixture and beat until smooth and fluffy. 
Add 1 T. vinegar to 1 1/2 t soda.  Fold into mixture by hand and bake 350 degrees, 45-50 minutes.

5 T. flour
1 c. milk

Mix and cook until very thick.  Cool in the refrigerator while you mix 1 1/2 sticks butter with 1 c. powdered sugar.

Add cooled mixture and beat until fluffy. 
Add 1 t. vanilla.   If not thick enough,  add more powdered sugar.

This recipe was retyped from a card I found in the old tin recipe box.  I am sure that it was taken down in dictation form as my aunt called out the recipe.

I always remember the frosting on this cake separating, but it was always delicious. 

Today, most everyone in my immediate family has at least tried to eat healthier and fresher.  I think if the “Red Dye Scare” happened today, we would not have been up-in-arms.  We would have found an alternative way to make the cake (just like we do today)—with regular red dye that we still can buy from the grocery store. 

So, I wonder how awful this cake would look without the food coloring?   Hmmm.

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