Saturday, January 18, 2014

Eaton’s original Red Velvet Cake by Margaret Ullrich

When I was the mom of a preschooler back in 1984 I had a dream for my future.
This goal crystallized for me in a moment of crisis.

I was in Winnipeg's downtown Eaton's, on the third floor.
Yes, the third floor where the crystal and fine china were on display.

I had to pay a cashier and had let go of my son’s hand.
In less than a heartbeat he was racing toward the crystal and fine china department.
Of course he wouldn’t be running to anything cheap.
I ran and grabbed him just as he reached out to a crystal goblet.
Financial disaster averted.

And I had a moment, like Scarlet O’Hara had a moment, in Gone With the Wind.
You know, the moment she had at Tara just after she barfed after eating a raw carrot.
When she swore, “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”
Believe me, I was swearing, too, but my food goal was more specific.

I was dreaming of a future when I could go to Eaton’s without hauling a child in tow.
When I could browse through the crystal without picturing a major financial disaster.
A time when I could casually stroll into the Grill Room, and order a lovely adult meal.
When I could leisurely enjoy a well prepared lunch, topped off with Red Velvet Cake.

A time that has gone with the wind, literally.
Eaton’s is gone.
It was torn down over a decade ago.
The MTS Centre is in its place.

Last week Pink performed there.
I know Pink’s received the Billboard 2013 Woman of the Year Award.
I know she puts on a really good show.
It’s just that watching Pink is not what I pictured enjoying as a senior.

Eaton’s is a memory from my past.
Luckily I still have the recipe for Eaton’s original Red Velvet Cake.

                                     Red Velvet Cake

Preheat oven to 350º
Grease well 3 9-inch round pans or 1 9x13-inch pan

2 1/2 Cups cake flour

Make a paste of
2 ounces red food colouring
2 Tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon salt

In a bowl cream
1/2 Cup shortening
Add gradually
1 1/2 Cups white sugar
Beat until light and fluffy.
Add one at a time
2 large eggs
Beat after each addition.
Add cocoa / food colouring mixture.

1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon vinegar
Add to the buttermilk.

Add flour alternately with buttermilk mixture to the shortening,
3 dry and 2 liquid additions, stirring just enough to blend.
Mix until smooth and pour into prepared pan.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until done.
Cool cake thoroughly before frosting.

While the cake is baking, prepare


In a saucepan place
5 Tablespoons flour
Add gradually
1 Cup milk
Mix until smooth.
Cook at medium heat until thickened.  
Remove from heat.

While the sauce is cooling, in a medium bowl cream together
1 Cup butter
1 Cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat until light and fluffy.
Add cooled flour mixture to the butter / sugar mixture a spoonful at a time, 
beating well after each addition.
Spread frosting over the cooled cake.

Enjoy with Earl Grey Tea in your best china cup.


  1. I miss the old Eaton's. Ladies in hats used to meet there for elegant lunches. The Red Velvet Cake and the Butter Tarts were fantastic. At Christmas, each store window had a different scene from the North Pole or Toyland, full of magically moving automatons: elves, reindeer, teddy bears.

    These days, Salisbury House has Red Velvet Cake. Not quite the same thing. And they make it with Cream Cheese Icing, which just isn't right!

  2. Hi, Pamela,

    Me, too. Downtown hasn't been the same since they tore down Eaton's. The MTS Centre just brings people in for evening shows, not for the whole day, as Eaton's did.

    It's good that the Christmas Village was saved. How magical it was before we took CGI effects for granted. Oh, the Christmas store windows!!! I love that scene in 'A Christmas Story' - that's what a Christmas window was for children. Big box stores and malls just can't create the same magic.

    You don't know what you've got, till it's gone.

    Cream Cheese Icing? And what do they put on carrot cake?

  3. My grandma would LOVE it if I made this recipe for her! She talks about Eaton's all the time and the treats she enjoyed there with her grandparents. Thanks for sharing! And it's nice to "meet" a fellow Manitoba food blogger, too! :)

  4. Hi, Chrissie!

    Happy to meet a fellow Manitoba food blogger!
    Yes, your grandma would enjoy a slice or two of Eaton's cake! That store was such an important part of our lives back then. Oh, well, time marches on.

    Very impressed by your blog

    Wishing you a great summer!

  5. HI Margaret, can't wait to make this. Any chance you would have the recipe for Eatons carrot cake? I miss Eatons! Many fond memories

    1. I miss it, too!
      I'll look for the recipe for the carrot cake. I have boxes of recipes, so with any luck... :)

  6. My mom and I used to take the bus from St Andrews to downtown just to purchase some Eatons shepherd's pies. Any chance you have the recipe? I'd like to be able to surprise my mom.

    1. Will look for it.
      Hope I hope I find it before Mother's Day :)

  7. Thank you for sharing this recipe. I have fond memories of getting on the bus and going downtown to Eaton’s on Portage Avenue with my Mom and sisters once a month to get a Red Velvet Cake from Eatons.

    1. You're very welcome!
      I'm happy you found this recipe and that it brought back good memories to you.
      I miss going downtown to Eaton's, too.

  8. Thank you for the recipe. I worked at the Toronto Eaton's in the accounting department in the 60's and it was my big treat once a month to have a slice of the cake at lunch. So many fond memories.

    1. I'm so glad you found the recipe. Enjoy!!
      Our main Eaton's is still sorely missed. Downtown Winnipeg is just not the same without it.

  9. Looking forward to making this! Reminds me of my Mom. She would buy me this for my birthday and it was my favorite! I also remember they sold something else I loved. I believe they were called duck balls?

    1. I'm happy you found this recipe and I hope you enjoy it. I'll see if I can find a recipe for Eaton's duck balls.
      Thank you for visiting!