Let Them Eat Cake: Grandma’s Waldorf Astoria Cake with Ermine Icing

I am feeling especially nostalgic as we wrap up this decade.  The past 10 years have seen highs and lows, triumphs and a few defeats, loss and gain.  I am stepping in to this next decade a completely different person, for that I’m grateful but also a little sad.  Grateful because this decade brought me my dream job, one that challenges me, has made me grow out of my comfort zone, and makes a difference in the community I love.  Sad because I lost both of my grandparents, two of the most important people in my life, who shaped me into the person I am today.

The holidays have been a lot more weepy for me than usual.  Sometimes it just catches you by surprise.  But even though there are tears there are also lots and lots of fond memories.

Every year for my mom’s birthday my Grandma would make this cake.  I decided this year that I would tackle making it on my own for the holidays.  It’s festive and nostaligic all at the same time.  Having never made it on my own before I was a little apprehensive and as you can see from her directions they aren’t super detailed, lol. It’s a good thing I know how to bake or I’d be in trouble!


This cake is moist, not too sweet, and the boiled milk frosting is light and fluffy.  It tastes exactly like I remember and I got choked up on the first bite. I’m pretty proud of myself and I think my Grandma would be too!

Waldorf Astoria Cake with Ermine Icing*

1 cup vegetable shortening
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 ¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 oz. red food coloring
1 teaspoon white vinegar

3 Tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease 4 9-inch pans and set aside.

With a hand mixer, cream together shortening, sugar and salt on high 3-4 minutes or until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until incorporated, scraping sides as you go.

In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and soda. In a measuring cup, stir together buttermilk and vanilla. Add part of the flour mixture to the butter and sugar, mix well. Alternate flour mixture with buttermilk until everything is just incorporated.

Make a paste of the cocoa powder, food coloring and vinegar. Add to the cake batter and mix well. Divide batter into 4 pans to make thin layers.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cake is done, test with a toothpick, it should come out clean. Cool in the pans for about 5 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

While cakes are baking, combine flour and milk in a small saucepan. Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes or until thick like a pudding. Transfer pudding to a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill until cold.

When milk mixture is cold, beat with a hand mixer for about 5 minutes or until smooth. In another bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy 2-3 minutes. Gradually add sugar and beat another 2-3 minutes until incorporated, add vanilla. A spoonful at a time, add milk mixture to butter mixture and beat until fluffy like whipped cream, being careful not to overbeat, 5-6 minutes at most.

Assemble cakes by spreading a thin layer of frosting on one layer, top with a second layer, frost again. Continue until all layers are assembled. Finish cake with a thin layer of frosting on top and sides.

Slice, serve and enjoy!

Source: Ruth’s Table, 2019.

I wondered where the name “Waldorf Astoria Cake” came from so I did a little research. “Velvet cake” refers to a tender, moist, smooth texture and dates back to the post-Civil War period.  The first reference to “red velvet” was in 1959 and was the subject of quite a few urban legends.  What I learned though is that Ohio played a major roll in the popularity of red velvet cake (coincidence that my family is from Ohio? I think not).  Also, a recipe for this cake first appeared in the Hillsboro Press Gazette in May of 1959.  My mom was born in November of 1959.  Can’t help but wonder if my Grandma was craving cake that summer. 🙂


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Bernice says:

    A beautiful cake!! Just stunning! 💕

      1. Bernice says:

        Your welcome! 💕

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