A lot about red velvet cake turns out to be fairly modern. Velvet cakes first appeared in the 1800s, a reference to their smooth texture. In the 1930s, New York City's Waldorf-Astoria started serving a red velvet cake - the red referencing either the hint of red from the interaction between cocoa and acid, or from the use of brown sugar, which used to be called red sugar.
But red velvet cake really didn't take off until a Texas food extract company, wanting to move its red food coloring and butter extract products, started distributing a red velvet cake recipe to shoppers, during World War II. Only after spreading out through the Midwest during the 1940s and 50s did red velvet cake start to become especially popular in the South. And somewhere along the line, cream cheese frosting was added.
And then of course, for the the past 10 years we've had a fancy cupcake craze, in which red velvet has done well. According to someone really, truly named Mr. Sprinkle, the year 2011 was when “red velvet cake flavor emerged as a force of nature.”
So Red Velvet Oreos may, appropriately enough, be the death knell for the whole red velvet cake thing. Unless there is a Red Velvet latte Starbucks. Wait, what? Argh! THERE ALREADY IS!!