“The Best Red Velvet Cake Around,” by Shelli Frew

Jul 7th, 2021 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

Now, I know what you’re thinkin’: “The best red velvet cake? Can’t be the best, what about Little Debbie?”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love me a Little Debbie cake, as much as the next red-blooded southerner. But this recipe, passed down to me by my meemaw, Dorothy Birdie, is better than anything Little Debbie could bake. It’s sure to delight anyone come round for tea.

If you’ve never had a red velvet cake, you are in for a treat! An old southern tradition, modern cakes are dyed with red food colorin’ but the original recipe didn’t use none of that nonsense. The very first cakes had just a slight tinge a’ red caused by the buttermilk reactin’ with the cocoa powder. Later, women folk started dyen’ their cakes, mostly with beet juice, but you do find recipes like this one that use other means of dyin’. Gives it a bit more of a kick, if I do say so myself.

Freshness is key with desserts. You don’t want to give your guests anything that’s been sittin’ around too long. That won’t do at all, not for someone as important as you surely are callin’ down. Or callin’ up, as it may be.

I suggest cake flour as it gives a lightness to the crumb. Regular flour is fine if it’s all you have on hand. I don’t recommend whole wheat for this recipe. We ain’t here to make anything healthy or wholesome, we want our cake a little bit wicked. Some folk might say a good devil’s food cake is the best wicked dessert, but we know. Ain’t no devil in this house, red velvet is older than that. Red velvet has been around a lot longer than those good Christian folk and their false notions of the world. Red velvet will be around long after them.

Unsalted butter is always best, for any dessert recipe. Salted butters aren’t uniform in how much salt is in them and can really mess with the flavor of your cake. Nice, fresh butter is preferred, if you can get your hands on it. I’ve even made some myself when I’m makin’ this cake for especially important guests. Got my homemade butter recipe from meemaw too. My mama always told me, women folk would come from miles around for meemaw’s homemade butter. Throw in some lavender and it’s perfect for dry skin. Or better yet, mix it with some belladonna, jimson weed, and mandrake and indulge a bit before the full moon “book club” with your closest gal pals.

Make sure you use good bakin’ soda and bakin’ powder, those are your leavenin’ agents. Old or out of date powders might cause your cake to not rise properly and we can’t have that!

Don’t ever skimp on the cocoa powder. Buy the most expensive you can afford. Invitin’ the Staggering and Terrible Mother of All down to your parlor for some offerins’ of tea and cake means you gotta do it up right! No cheap stuff here, only the best will do. Especially if you plan on askin’ for favor from her in all things within her realm. You do not want to seem a bad host to someone beyond mortal cant.

I just use regular old sugar for my cake. Nothin’ fancy in this house. I have found brown sugar a good replacement if callin’ upon the Dark All Father of Death, but pretty much everyone else agrees plain white sugar works just fine.

Now, I know there is a lot of fuss over what kind of oil to use. If I’m usin’ store bought butter, I add in some vegetable or canola oil to the mix. But, if I’ve made a batch of meemaw’s homemade butter, well, I just melt a little extra of that in place of store bought oil. Gives the cake a richness you won’t find anywhere else.

Eggs are the hardest thing to get, obviously. If you have a good “book club” you can always ask a few of the gals to collect one for you. Since you need at least 2 eggs for a cake, it’s best to plan at least a month in advance. Now, I know most of you have been told those eggs must be from a youngin, and a virgin to boot, but I can tell you that simply isn’t the case for most of the Old Things of the Deep World. Really only the One of First Blood wants virgin, but she ain’t picky on age. And, the Dusky Fire Reign of the End prefers, well, about as opposite of virgin as one can get, so keep that in mind!

Buttermilk is the secret ingredient to a good red velvet cake. Well, one of the secret ingredients! It adds that richness and moistness that we’re lookin’ for. Obviously fresh is best. If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand and you can’t get to the store because the full moon is upon you, don’t fret! One cup milk mixed with one tablespoon white vinegar will get the job done.

Vanilla extract adds a little something special. If you’re feelin’ fancy, check out the list of extras for some fun add ons. Take the flavor of your cake to the next level!

Red coloring. Now, I know what you’re thinkin’. I already got the eggs, shouldn’t that be enough red? No. No it is not. Not for the Deep and Ancient Things from Before Time and Space. No, you will need more. Do not fear however, it is easy enough to get that red. Head down to your town, go on. Get in your car and cruise around. Think back to the last full moon, when some of the “good Christian” women came to you, askin’ for your help. Showed you their bruises, their tears. Think how you held them as they wept and you pulled them into the group, the other sisters embracin’ them under that swollen, full moon. How you rubbed that baby fat butter, mixed with those sacred plants, on their bruised and delicate skin. You watched that sparkle fill their eyes, knew the old ways were fillin’ their tender hearts fit to burst. You held them, held each other as you chanted to the Ancient Ones. Lo, Mother of the End, Dusky Fire Reign of the End. Lo, One of First Blood. Lo, Staggering and Terrible Mother of All. Lo, Dark All Father of Death and your ten thousand hungry children of Terror. We beseech thee, we beseech thee did come upon our realm and bestow upon us this dark night. Fill us with your eternal and never-endin’ self! We are your vessels, your humble followers upon this stricken land! We offer up to you that which hurts your followers and creations! We give these things in love! We gladly offer ourselves in love and reverence! We beseech thee! And, with that glorious night in your heart, you look out at the men of this town, fat and rich off the backs of others. And you follow the husband of one of those women who came to you. Follow him slowly, as he makes his way home. His house is empty, his wife is sittin’ in your front parlor, sippin’ iced tea and talkin’ with your mama. You go up the back steps, knock lightly. You know the reputation you have in town, undeserved though it may be. He smiles at you, says his wife isn’t home. You know that already. The dumb shit lets you right into his home, expects he’s gettin’ something from you. Instead you stick him with your good kitchen knife, wrap him up in a sheet, and take him away to your barn. You fill an old bucket with his hot, fresh blood. A perfect offerin’ to the Deep and Ancient Things from Before Time and Space. They will approve mightily of this. You carve up that ripe flesh, cook it as a burnt offerin’ out back. Mix it with ash, say a prayer to the Blank Faced One, and feed it to that housewife. She weeps tears of joy. You know she will be a dedicated follower and will be richly rewarded for it. You have done well this day. You have done well. This red will add much to your cake and the ancients will be pleased by it.

An extra dash of white vinegar really brings out the flavor of this cake. Just a little extra acidic flavor really makes the chocolate pop.

Well, there you have it ladies. My meemaw’s red velvet cake. Passed down to her from her great-granny. Sure to please even the most picky guest. Let me know how yours turned out!

Prep Time:  Minimum 28 days
Cook Time:  30 minutes
Total Time:  28 days and 1 hour
Servings:  2 layer cake, cuts nicely into 8 pieces

2 c Flour
1 tsp Baking soda
1 1/2 tsp Baking powder
Pinch salt
4 tbsp Cocoa powder
2 c. Sugar
1 c. Rendered baby fat butter
2 Collections of monthlies
1 1/2 c. Buttermilk
1 tbsp Vanilla extract
Red. Red for the Dead God. Red to satisfy the most Ancient and Glorious Mother of All.
1 tsp White vinegar


  1. Preheat oven to 325 F or stoke coals until the fire feels sufficiently warmed to sizzle fat.
  2. Grease your cake pans. Be generous with that baby fat, we don’t want anything stickin’.
  3. Mix dry ingredients.
  4. Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl, or if your red is a large quantity, use a bucket.
  5. Mix wet and dry ingredients together.
  6. Pour into pans.
  7. Bake in a middle rack for 35-45 minutes. If cooking on open fire, cook until the smell becomes an intoxicatin’, revelry-inducin’ cloud that envelops all your “book club” members like a sweet lover’s kiss and brings you to the height of ecstasy.
  8. Allow to cool completely before removin’ from pans and frosting with cream cheese frosting.
  9. Serve and enjoy!

If someone in your “book club” is gluten-free, I suggest substitutin’ the regular flour with 2 different types of gluten-free flour (use 1 cup of each type). To make into cupcakes, simply pour in a lined cupcake tin and bake around 18-20 minutes. For some fun variation, add in some ground lavender, chocolate chips, or some candied ginger. For a real kick, add in 1 teaspoon each of cayenne pepper and ground black pepper, 2 teaspoons nutmeg and cloves, and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.


Shelli Frew is a published author. Her debut novel Time Sailors is out now and one of her short stories, “Animal Teeth,” can be found online at Fabula Argentea. She is a southern transplant to the SF/Bay Area, circus performer (yes, for real), and immersive theater playwright. She’s even won an award for her spooky show The Gravermind Estate. She currently runs Mystic Ventures Collective, a queer theater group she started with some friends.

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