Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
May 30, 2009 11:50 PM

What's the deal with Red Velvet?

I'll start out by saying that I've never had any Red Velvet anything . . . not cake, not a cupcake, nothing, so maybe I'm just missing something here. Still, here's my question . . . what is the big deal about it and does the color somehow change the taste? If not, why is it worth it to use an entire bottle of red food coloring (has to cost a dollar or two, I imagine) just for the color?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. It's about texture. There is a little bit of chocolate to give a deeper red color, but as the name suggests, the texture is very velvety, a bit denser than your average cake. I've seen people offer red velvet cakes that were just regular yellow cake with red food coloring added, and I felt like I was cheated out of something. Once you've had a few true Red Velvet cakes, you can spot an imitation one from across the room.

    2 Replies
    1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

      I completely agree with this statement. Red velvet is all about texture, and a really good one lives up to its name, being both red and velvety. I've had super dense and super light versions and everything in between, and while some were very good, none were really a true red velvet. (Moreover, all use the cream cheese frosting.)

      OP: Not all good red velvet uses an entire bottle of red food colouring ... unless you mean those tiny plastic droplet bottles that come in the 4-pack or you're talking about beet juice for colouring, in which case the flavour does change a bit. The legend goes that the original red velvets used cocoa and acid (vinaigre, if I remember right) to produce a muddy red colour and colouring was later added to deepen that red. I don't know how much stock to put in this story. On the one hand, cocoa + acid does give a red colour. On the other hand, I can't find a single recipe that doesn't use some sort of food colouring.

      1. re: Ali

        In the Wiki article on Devil's Food Cake, you will find this:
        "A similar cake, the red velvet cake, is closely linked to a devil's food cake, and in some turn of the century cookbooks the two names may have been interchangable. When used in cakes, baking soda causes reddening of cocoa powder when baked, and before more alkaline "Dutch Processed" cocoa was widely available, the red color would have been more pronounced. This natural tinting may have been the source for the name "Red Velvet" as well as "Devil's Food" and a long list of similar names for chocolate cakes."

        There's a link to an article about the reaction that may have caused early Devil's Food cakes, aka Red Devil Cakes, to be much more red than they are now.
        Perhaps, after cocoa changed, people wanted the cake to be red, so they began to use red food coloring. Who knows?
        This is a very old recipe that does seem to have evolved from that Red Devil Cake.

    2. I've had it a couple of times, and all I taste is the food coloring. I don't taste chocolate at all, which is a waste of my tastebuds. Not a fan.

      7 Replies
      1. re: coll

        I actually really dislike it. I don't enjoy it at all. I don't like the color, don't like the flavor and don't like the texture. I'm not a big sweet fan so maybe that is it. But I will take a nice chocolate cake, spice cake, carrot cake. But I just don't get the red velvet. And there are many many fans. It just isn't for me is all. It is velvety, smooth but, just not my cup of tea.

        1. re: kchurchill5

          I have a feeling that I will agree with you and coll, kc. Probably most of us in our group will agree as we're all big dark chocolate fans...but this is about our co-worker tomorrow, not us. I just think that we'll all just be shaking our heads in wonderment thinking "what's the big deal?" This is the same co-worker who thinks Thai food is weird so now we all can't go out to our favorite Thai place for our monthly lunch...LOL! I could probably write an episode for that show "The Office" based on this.

          1. re: Val

            I would eat it and say it was wonderful. I'm all for group parties events and making them feel good. It isn't a bad cake, just not me. But tomorrow it will be absolutely wonderful.

            Sounds like fun, enjoy ... and we had our "office" scenarios as well. Let me know what you think of your RV experience.

            1. re: kchurchill5

              It's so funny...2 new cupcake businesses have just opened in Naples...both feature the Red Velvet cupcakes and all other kinds...word has it that the cupcakes are like $3.00 each (co-worker exclaimed the bill was close to $40 for a dozen!) Can't imagine that these places will survive in a recession but what do I know?

              1. re: Val

                $40 ... I'd go for some good fresh shrimp, a pot of broasted osyters and a few beers including the tip (for 2) Skip the cupcakes, go for the good stuff!!

                1. re: kchurchill5

                  Well, I still have not tried Red Velvet cupcakes...our baker made a huge mistake in the recipe and put in twice the amount of butter called for and the cupcakes came out like pucks, so she said. (gotta give her a break...she has a 5 year old and 9 month old) She bought regular cupcakes at Fresh Market on the way in...and then the graduate of honor called in sick...LOL! We'll have day-old cupcakes tomorrow if she shows up. Too funny! Guess it was not meant to be, right?

                  1. re: Val

                    Another time time. I've been there with kids, well just one, but I understand.

      2. Funny you should mention this...I guess I'm going to find out tomorrow about this Red Velvet mystique. One of our co-workers graduated with her master's degree over the weekend so we're decorating her cubicle and bought her some 'Hello Kitty' items and her most FAVORITE cupcakes in the world are Red Velvet. She's from the South and so this seems to be a factor, though I'm not claiming that all Southerners love Red Velvet cake. Another co-worker is baking them for tomorrow morning to help with the celebration...she's using the Epicurious recipe (this co-worker could easily be a pastry chef and has made Epi's Celebration cake a number of times...go see it on Epi, it is GRAND, a work of art!). So really, everyone in our group will find out about this tomorrow...should be fun! The red food coloring factor does not thrill me one bit at all but what the hey, it's for a celebration and I get to try something new.

        1. I have loved Red Velvet Cake for many years, way before its recent overblown popularity (speaking of overblown, I don't get cupcakes). Anyway, chocolate doesn't ring my bell, I didn't know RV was chocolate until I starting making it 20 years ago which may explain why chocogasmics find it bland (which it is). I think it is all in the texture and the icing. I also don't really have an understanding of what red food coloring "tastes" like; but the color is aesthetically appealing and may play a role in its popularity, as well as the disrespect of those who worry we are being poisoned by "chemicals." Color certainly affects our perception and enjoyment of food. Purple strawberry short cake or green tuna fish salad just wouldn't be the same. As with many things, the recent RV mania probably raised expectations to the uninitiated. Finally, it is culturally Southern and nostalgia may play a role in all this.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Sinicle

            I agree that purple cake or green tuna wouldn't be the same for most people (wouldn't bother me a bit, but I'm unusual), but we're all used to light colored cake. White or yellow if there were no food coloring, even pink with a couple of drops, but a whole bottle? Just seems like a waste. Still, I appreciate the response, and would love to hear from some other RV lovers.

            1. re: queenscook

              And I do admit it is good. It just isn't anything special for me. Chocolate does so much more for me, but yes it is a good cake overall

          2. I have to say I've never had a mind-blowing great red velvet cake. The color and concept intrigue me. My guess is there are too many bad versions out there.

            One of these days I may get around to making this old family recipe that has garnered so much praise on Chowhound. If I do make it and it doesn't impress then it may not be my thing.

            Mom Mom's Red Velvet Cake/Butter Cream Icing