You may have noticed that red velvet cake has become popular again. The story of the outrageously expensive recipe for this cake is an old urban legend. In recent decades, this legend was given new life when its subject was switched from cake to chocolate chip cookies and when it began to circulate via e-mail. The basic story involves a restaurant patron who asks for the recipe of a dessert without knowing that a hefty charge for it will be placed on their bill. This person consults with a lawyer and is told that there is no way to avoid paying.
According to Jan Harold Brunvand in The Encyclopedia of Urban Legends, this story is most often associated with a red velvet cake supposedly served at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City in the 1960's. In this version of the legend, the pricey secret to the cake was merely a large measurement of red food coloring added to a white cake mix. The angry purchaser of the recipe then distributes it freely out of revenge.
This legend transferred over to Mrs. Fields Cookies in the 1980's and most recently to Neiman Marcus as the "$250 cookie recipe". In response to the urban legend, Neiman Marcus posted a free cookie recipe on their website.
Unfortunately, neither Escape nor Suspense ever based an episode on this urban legend but the comedy series The Couple Next Door did. Their humorous version of this story is about a French chocolate cake and has an added twist where their lawyer adds insult to their injury.
"The Cake Recipe" was broadcast on January 13, 1958.