The question of “why is red velvet cake the color red?” has been debated for decades.
Some people believe that it’s because the name comes from its reddish-brown hue, while others think it’s because of the crimson coloring in its icing.
But what makes this cake so special? What about texture? Texture can make or break a dessert.
If you don’t like soft cakes, then you might not enjoy red velvet cake as much as someone who does!
We’ll explore these topics and more in this blog post on why Red Velvet Cake should be your favorite type of cake.
Why Is Red Velvet Cake Red?
It’s is a mystery to everyone why red velvet cake is the color red. Some say it’s because of its brownish hue, while others think it comes from the blood-like appearance of the icing on top.
It doesn’t matter what shade of red your favorite cake happens to be, because these cakes are all about texture!
The trick for perfecting this recipe is using buttermilk in place of water to make this cake nice and light, along with butter power instead of shortening to make it stretchy! Texture can make or break a dessert.
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Something you don’t like? You may not enjoy Red Velvet Cake as much as someone who does! Read more our blog post Why Red Velvet Cake Should Be Your Favorite Type Of Cake.
The “Velvet” Isn’t About the Color
It’s funny that the “red” portion of “red velvet” became the aesthetic focus that we consider.
This is because the velvet name was actually in reference to the texture. A quality red velvet cake is smooth and, you guessed it, velvety in nature.
The texture of the cake was influenced by the ingredients that were used to make these types of cakes.
While some recipes for red velvet cake have varied throughout the years, they all had some combination of baking soda and either buttermilk or vinegar.
Because vinegar and buttermilk are both acidic, when mixed with the baking soda, they create bubbles.
When those bubbles are created, they are what wind up fluffing up the cake and making it both smooth and light in texture.
What’s also unique about red velvet cake is that the buttermilk and vinegar will react with the cocoa powder in the cake mix as well.
This is due to the aforementioned anthocyanins. You can find these compounds in things such as red cabbage.
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They can be used to indicate pH levels since they get redder and redder in the presence of acids that are a bit stronger in nature.
This is the same active ingredient in cocoa that gives red velvet cake the red finish that we all know.
Cocoa Powder Has Changed the Game
When it comes to red velvet cake, there are some who believe that cocoa powder was one of the ingredients that made this cake so unique.
Devil’s food cake has been around for a while but it wasn’t until the inclusion of cocoa powder that we started seeing recipes for red velvet cakes.
This is because the cocoa powder has a different pH than that of the other ingredients used to make red velvet cake.
When it is mixed with buttermilk and vinegar, there are additional acids created which will react with this cocoa powder in order to color the cake as well as give it unique flavor notes.
Cocoa powder was first introduced into these recipes during World War II. At the time, cocoa was a lot harder to come by and this is because of its production.
Cocoa beans were being used for more than just making chocolate.
At that point in history, they were also being imported from South America as well as Asia so supply wasn’t quite what it is today.
Because red velvet cakes have an additional cocoa powder in the mix, you get a more complex flavor profile.
This is what makes red velvet cakes stand out among other cake recipes and it was definitely because of these ingredients that they were able to do so at all.
Cocoa powder has also become one of those pantry staples for many households who enjoy baking as well as those who enjoy more chocolate-based desserts.
How Can Red Velvet Be Used?
While red velvet cake is mostly known as a dessert, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be used in other applications. There are some who enjoy using red velvet cake mix in order to make brownies.
This is because the chocolate and buttermilk flavors pair well with one another. You can also use red velvet cupcakes as the base for something like a trifle or even an ice cream sundae.
There are many variations of this type of recipe and you definitely don’t have to stick to just the classic flavor profile either.
If there’s one thing that we know about red velvet cakes, it’s that they’re versatile!
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You can also find recipes out there for red velvet cake pops, whoopie pies, and even bread pudding.
The sky is the limit when it comes to using this type of cake in other applications so feel free to experiment!
Confusion with Chocolate Cake
While there are many who believe that red velvet cake was created to mimic the flavor of chocolate, it’s actually a bit different.
The cocoa powder used in these types of recipes is not Dutch-processed and will have more acidic notes than other forms of baking cocoa.
This means that while you do get some chocolate-Esque flavors from this cake, the cocoa powder also gives it some unique notes that can’t always be found in other chocolate-based cakes and desserts.
To add to this confusion, many red velvet recipes will instruct you to use both baking soda and baking powder for leavening purposes.
This is because of all the acid created when vinegar and buttermilk meet with cocoa powder.
This type of batter was originally used more often than not as a way for bakers who were working with wheat flour (which doesn’t rise quite as gluten-free flours do) to make their baked goods rise up without having an issue on their hands later on down the line.
While we don’t necessarily recommend using these ingredients if you have issues with gluten, it is something to keep in mind if you do want to try out a red velvet cake recipe.
How to Make a Red Velvet Cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Make a dry cake mix of flour, sugar, and cocoa powder with milk and lemon juice or vanilla extract.
3. Prepare an oblong pan with cooking spray and then pour your dry mixture into it.
4. Bake it for 20 minutes until just barely done on the outside but still gooey on the inside, then remove from oven and let cool completely before icing.
5. For the icing: make cream cheese icing or ganache with butter and cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed). Spread evenly over cooled cake and refrigerate for 30 mins to firm up before topping with chocolate sprinkles or other decoration.