Red velvet cake, which had a cult following at Eaton’s department store restaurants in the 1950s and 1960s, is making a comeback in the form of cupcakes.

Katie Holmes recently had red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting delivered from New York to the Toronto set of her History Channel miniseries The Kennedys.

The story made complete with the recipe from Isabelle’s Curly Cakes.

Starbucks, the arbiter of mainstream taste, has been selling a red velvet cupcake (also with cream cheese icing) for two years and says it’s a customer favourite.

“It might seem odd, at first, that something you eat would be named after something you wear,” says “But after you taste this deliciously moist cupcake, we think you’ll agree that it’s as luxurious as spun silk.”

Speaking of moistness, Duncan Hines makes a “moist deluxe” red velvet cake mix. Katie Rousonelos of Madison, Wis., created Red Carpet Glamour cupcakes from the mix and just won a trip to the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. Her cupcakes will be served at an Aug. 27 reception for the nominees.

In Toronto, you can quell a red velvet cupcake craving at multiple bakeries, including For the Love of Cake in Liberty Village, The Cupcakery on St. Clair Ave. W., and Sweet Tooth on the Danforth.

Still, for every red velvet fan there’s someone else who has never heard of the flavour or is baffled by the appeal.

This is really just a mildly chocolate cupcake with a dramatic red hue and gobs of icing. Cocoa powder and red food colouring (or sometimes beet juice) are key ingredients. Buttermilk and some type of vinegar are usually involved.

Red velvet cake was the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel’s signature dessert in New York City in the 1920s. In Canada, Eaton’s eventually stopped making it in its Round Room. Some say concerns over eating red food dye contributed to the cake’s fall from favour.

“Red velvet is one of those thing that garners so much attention because of the name,” laments Torontonian Howard Chang, who blogs about eating and making cupcakes with his girlfriend Sylvia Chan on A Baked Creation.

Chang and Chan’s favourite cupcake shop, Life is Sweet in the Beaches, doesn’t sell red velvet cupcakes. The couple tasted a good version at SugarTiers in Markham, but haven’t tried enough red velvets to say with certainty who makes the best one.

Genevieve Griffin, who co-owns For the Love of Cake in Toronto, finds it “kind of funny” that Holmes turned to New York for something so readily available here.

For the Love of Cake’s “four-dimensional” red velvet cupcake is filled with chocolate ganache and topped with cream cheese frosting and silver candy pearls.