Friday, July 23, 2010

Better with Age?

I simply couldn't decide on a single recipe for my next baking challenge, so instead I chose two.

Since many of the contemporary red velvet recipes differ by only a few ingredients, I thought it would be interesting to juxtapose it with an older, and hopefully more traditional recipe.

I went to the New York Times archives to do some digging, which by the way, is an amazing resource for baking cakes. Not only are their cake recipes some of the most popular, but you can search their archives back to 1851. You won't have any luck finding red velvet until the 20th century, but a good resource nonetheless.

For my first contender I chose a recipe that was published in the NYT on April 25, 1977. Earlier that same year, the NYT published a Q&A about red velvet cake that prompted a flood of responses from readers claiming to have the more authentic recipe. The recipe that was chosen and eventually published was from a woman named Carolyn A. Knutsen who claimed that hers was "an old Southern standard cake" that was passed down from her family in Alabama. Authentic? Perhaps not, but a solid first round pick.

For the opposition I settled on another NYT recipe, but this time published in 2007. I figured, what better competitor to the '77 recipe than one from the same authoritative source, published 30 years later?

And as such, the gauntlet has been thrown. I'll be baking both cakes this weekend and bringing them into my office on Monday to determine the winner. I'll follow up with the recipes, photos and results soon!

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