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Waldorf Red Cake

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  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Shortening
  • 2 1/2 Cups; Divided Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Ounces Red Food Coloring
  • 2 Tablespoons Cocoa
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 1/4 Cups Cake Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Cup Buttermilk
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 Teaspoon White Vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons AP Flour
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 1 Cup Butter
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Paste (or Extract)

Waldorf Red Cake

The precursor to the infamous Red Velvet Cake.

90 minutes plus time for cooling

Serves: 10-12


Very similar to the classic Red Velvet Cake but with a whipped roux frosting that's lighter and makes this cake favorably unique!

Waldorf Red Cake Ingredients

This recipe for the classic Waldorf Red Cake is a big winner! I can remember Grandma and my mom both making this cake quite a bit when I was little. It was always SO good. This cake perfect for any special occasion, holiday or birthday party. It’s definitely a project to make and does require a little skill. If you follow the recipe below though, I’m sure you’ll have great success.

If you’re not familiar with Waldorf Red Cake, it was the precursor to the infamous Red Velvet Cake. Much of the recipe is the same and you can see from the photo that the end result is almost identical. However, the Waldorf Red Cake does not have traditional cream cheese frosting that Red Velvet Cake does. Instead, the Waldorf cake has what is called a whipped roux frosting. That might not sound familiar to you, but I guarantee, when you taste it you will likely be flooded with nostalgia and be transported back to your 8th birthday party. Or something like that. It’s a great frosting that’s not used nearly enough anymore. Wonderfully sweet, but much lighter than cream cheese frosting, I think it pairs even better with the rich, chocolate of the cake.

The whole history of the Waldorf Red Cake and then Red Velvet Cake is fascinating, and I really enjoyed reading about it at:

One important thing about making this cake is that you definitely want to make this on a day that you feel like making sure your kitchen (and yourself) look like a crime scene. Seriously, there is so much red food coloring in this that’s impossible not to get it EVERYWHERE. Just be careful when you’re working with anything that has the food color in it and wash anything that’s touched it in water as soon as you can.

There is nothing I would change about this recipe and I STRONGLY recommend you stick to it. However, there are two substitutions that I used – one out of necessity and one out of preference. I was not able to find buttermilk in the store (they were sold out) and so an easy substitute for that is to get a glass measuring cup and add a tablespoon of vinegar to it and then fill it up the rest of the way to 1 Cup with milk. Stir it well and allow it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes and it should be slightly thickened and ready to use as buttermilk.

Additionally, this recipe call for cake flour which is great, but if you’re limited in storage space in your kitchen or just don’t bake cakes every day, there’s no need to buy a big thing of cake flour for just 2 1/4 Cups. Instead, just take your 1 Cup measuring cup and put in 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch and then fill the rest of the cup with all purpose flour. Voila – you now have a cup of cake flour. For the additional 1/4 Cup you need, just fill the measuring cup with 1/2 Tablespoon (or 1 1/2 Teaspoons) of cornstarch and then the rest with all purpose flour.

I seriously hope you make this cake and enjoy it as much we do! If you give it a try, please let me know how it is in the comments or share a pic with me on Instagram (@bdhbakes).


Waldorf Red Cake Recipe FrontWaldorf Red Cake Recipe Back


  • Preheat Oven to 350º 
  • Prep Two 9" Cake Tins 

    Spray two cake tins with baking spray OR butter each tin and lightly dust it with flour. Line the bottom of each tin with a round piece of parchment paper and spray or butter and flour that as well.

    Waldorf Red Cake Prep Tins
  • Cream Shortening and Sugar 

    In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the shortening together with 1 1/2 Cups of the sugar. Start the mixer on low and slowly increase the speed to high and allow it to mix well for several minutes.

    Waldorf Red Cake Shortening and Sugar
    Waldorf Red Cake Cream Sugar and Shortening
  • Add Eggs 

    Add each egg, one by one, mixing in between for about 30 seconds to combine.

    Waldorf Red Cake Add Egg
    Waldorf Red Cake Mix First Egg
    Waldorf Red Cake Add Second Egg
    Waldorf Red Cake Stir Second Egg
  • Make the Red Cocoa Paste 

    In a small bowl, add your food coloring, cocoa and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Mix well with a small spatula or fork until it becomes a paste.

    Waldorf Red Cake Paste Ingredients
    Waldorf Red Cake Make Paste
  • Add Paste to Creamed Mixture 

    Scrap the red paste into your large mixing bowl with the creamed shortening and eggs. Mix to evenly distribute the red coloring.

    Waldorf Red Cake Add Paste
    Waldorf Red Cake Mix in Paste
  • Sift Flour and Salt 

    Sift your flour and salt in a separate bowl. If you don't have cake flour, make your own by putting 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch into a 1 Cup measuring cup and filling the rest of the way with all purpose flour. For the 1/4 Cup of cake flour, fill a 1/4 Cup measuring cup with 1 1/2 teaspoons of corn starch and fill the rest with all purpose flour.

    Waldorf Red Cake Make Cake Flour
    Waldorf Red Cake Sift Flour
  • Add Flour and Buttermilk 

    Add the sifted flour mixture and the buttermilk alternating between the two and mixing before adding the next. I added about a 1/2 Cup of flour then a 1/4 cup of the buttermilk four times and that seems about right. Be sure to mix ON LOW between each addition to make sure everything is evenly mixed in. Do not over mix and don't mix at a high speed - doing either will create a tougher cake.

    Waldorf Red Cake Add Flour
    Waldorf Red Cake Stir Flour
    Waldorf Red Cake Add Buttermilk
    Waldorf Red Cake Stir in Buttermilk
  • Mix Baking Soda and Vinegar and Add to Batter 

    This step and the next two need to all happen pretty quickly! In a small bowl add your baking soda and your vinegar and mix to dissolve the soda. It will bubble quite a bit. Quickly add it to the batter and mix on low to evenly distribute - should take about 30 seconds.

    Waldorf Red Cake Soda and Vinegar
    Waldorf Red Cake Add Soda and Vinegar
  • Pour Batter into Tins 

    Pour the batter into each of the tins. It should fill each about a third of the way up. To make sure they are even, I use a kitchen scale and try to get each to about the same weight.

    Waldorf Red Cake Pour Into Tins
  • Bake the Cakes 

    Bake the cakes in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until a tester or toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

    Waldorf Red Cake Bake Cakes
  • Allow to Cool 

    When the cakes are finished baking, take them out of the oven and allow them to cool in the tins for about 5 minutes. Then, run the dull side of a knife around the edges to make sure the cake is released from the sides of the tin. Next, place a wire rack, upside down, on the top of the cake tin and invert. The cake should fall out of the tin and be resting - upside down - on the wire rack. Allow each cake to cool, upside down on the wire rack until completely cool. This should take at least 2 hours. This is a good time to put your butter on the counter so it can come to room temperature for the frosting.

    Waldorf Red Cake Cool Cakes
  • Cook Flour and Milk 

    Once the cakes are completely cooled, it's time to make the frosting. In a small saucepan, cook the milk and flour over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it starts to really bubble and the mixture has become thick. Allow to cool completely. This will take about an hour on the counter or about 20 minutes in the fridge. Stir frequently.

    Waldorf Red Cake Milk and Flour
    Waldorf Red Cake Stir and Cook
    Waldorf Red Cake Thick Milk
  • Cream Sugar and Butter and Vanilla 

    Once the milk mixture is cooled, add your butter, sugar and vanilla into a new large mixing bowl or a bowl of a stand mixer. Mix these ingredients starting on low and gradually increasing to high speed. Allow to mix on high for about 5 minutes so the butter and sugar is really light and fluffy. For this step, I recommend using vanilla paste instead of extract. However, vanilla paste will slightly darken the frosting and you will be able to see the small flecks of vanilla. If you want perfectly white frosting, use clear vanilla extract. The perfectly white frosting looks better for sure, but the vanilla paste really tastes quite a bit better.

    Waldorf Red Cake Butter Sugar Vanilla
  • Blend in the Milk Mixture 

    Now, blend in the thickened milk mixture into the creamed butter and sugar until it all comes together. The frosting is ready!

    Waldorf Red Cake Add Milk Mixture
    Waldorf Red Cake Frosting
  • Assemble the Cake 

    Slice each cake in half horizontally. Do this with a cake slicer or with a large, serrated bread knife trying to keep it as even as possible. You want to make sure the bottom of one cake is the base for the final cake, and the bottom of the other cake is at the top, inverted, to keep the final cake having a flat bottom and flat top. Start with the bottom cake layer and add about a 1/2 Cup of frosting on the top of each cake layer and spread out evenly before adding the next. Continue until all four layers are used and then frost the rest of the cake. I created a texture on the side of my cake by pressing the back of an offset spatula into the frosting and then quickly pulling it away.

    Waldorf Red Cake Slice Cake
    Waldorf Red Cake Frost First Layer
    Waldorf Red Cake Second Layer
    Waldorf Red Cake Done!



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