The Urban Legend Red Velvet Cake Was A Part Of

Here's a story you might have heard before — a woman walks into the restaurant of a high-end hotel or department store and orders a chocolate chip cookie. The cookie is so good she asks the waitress if she can have the recipe, to which the waitress responds "of course, it will be two fifty." The woman agrees, but when the bill comes she's been charged almost $300! Apparently, the cost of the cookie recipe was $250, not $2.50, so as revenge the woman sends the recipe to everyone she knows and asks them to send it on. Sound familiar?

That's probably because this is actually an urban legend, not a true story (via Snopes). In fact, it's been circulating, in one form or another, for over 75 years, per the Museum of Hoaxes. The first known reference to the story was printed in the 1945 issue of Time magazine, though this early version didn't mention the treat or the hotel by name. Over time, the legend was retold and warped into many different forms, from being about the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and their fudge cake to, by the 60's, being about the hotel's red velvet cake. We don't even know for sure which came first, the legend or the hotel's red velvet cake. What we do know is that, by the 70's, the Waldorf-Astoria was giving away free copies of the dessert recipe in efforts to squash the rumor. You can still find versions of it for free online (via

More versions of the overpriced recipe legend

Since it was first printed, many versions of the ripoff recipe legend have come and gone. In the 80's, the popular iteration involved Mrs. Fields Cookies and their original chocolate chip cookie recipe. In fact, the rumor grew so popular that, again, the company had to issue a comment to try and stem the tide of negative attention. The company's founder, Debbi Fields, posted the following notice in all Mrs. Fields stores, "Mrs. Fields recipe has never been sold. There is a rumor circulating that the Mrs. Fields cookie recipe was sold to a woman at a cost of $250. A chocolate- chip cookie recipe was attached to the story. I would like to tell all my customers that the story is not true" (via Museum of Hoaxes). 

The most recent iteration targets Neiman Marcus as the cookie culprit, even though at the time there was no Neiman Marcus cafe, and their restaurants did not sell chocolate chip cookies at all (via New York Times). In fact, the company's media relations manager was forced to refute the rumor with the following public statement, "We would never, ever charge for a recipe. We gladly give our recipes away for the asking.” So, if there's a restaurant out there with a recipe you love, you might as well ask them for it. In all likelihood, they'll either give it to you or they won't, but it's very unlikely they'll charge you $250.