Ian Weightman

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In Search of Red Velvet

Here's a challenge.

Who in the UK is making Red Velvet cupcakes?

Who in the UK has even heard of a Red Velvet Cupcake!?

It started with visit of Hisaki Shintaku from Japan, earlier this summer. The editor in chief of RSVP Magazine in Japan, Mr Shintaku is an Anglophile, and fills his magazine with some gloriously glossy features from all over Britain.

On this occasion he was here to visit, write about, and photograph more than 30 tearooms in less that 14 days.

I never saw him at the end of the trip. But at the start, a thin and fit-looking Mr Shintaku walked into Queenies Cupcakery in Ironbridge, Shropshire, where he was confronted with a wonderful example of a vintage tearoom which, while retaining its traditional backdrop, has also embraced the UK's new-found passion for cupcakes.

For cupcake aficionados, Queenies is a bit of a find – a place where 'vintage' rubs shoulders with tray after tray of Victoria Sponge, Lemon, Coffee Mocha, Banoffee, Snickerlicious, and Chocolate cupcakes.

And there, taking pride of place on a tiered cake stand in pride of place on the counter: the majestic, enigmatic, the veritable king of Queenies' cupcakes.....The Red Velvet.

This, apparently, is the holy grail for all cupcake eaters. Alleged by some to have even been the starting point for America's cupcake craze, its history can be traced back to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City during the 1920s. A signature dish of this hotel, according to a common urban legend of the 1960s a woman once asked for the recipe for the cake, and was subsequently billed a large sum of money. Indignant, she subsequently spread the recipe across America in a chain letter.

Bright red, or red-brown, in colour, some of its key ingredients – so I'm told – are chocolate, cream-cheese frosting, buttermilk, vanilla and red food colouring (traditionally this would have been beetroot).

Apart from being utterly delicious, however, it also possesses a certain aura. And the owners of Queenies Cupcakery (http://www.queeniescupcakery.co.uk/) are excited to tell anyone who is interested, that the response of American visitors to their shop in Ironbridge has been one of both disbelief and amazement. Disbelief that a UK tearoom is serving Red Velvet cupcakes. And amazed at just how good they are. (One couple, apparently, even pronounced they had never tasted better in their native country!).

So here's the challenge. Who else in the UK is making Red Velvet cupcakes? And can we invite some US travel writers over here to go in search of the best of them?

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