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Is there some place in LA that will alter my opinion of Red Velvet Cake?

I'm looking for the definitive, best-tasting slice of red velvet cake in Los Angeles (preferably on the westside). I am on this quest because, frankly, I have yet to sample a red velvet cake that has lived up to any of the hype. All over this site and elsewhere I've seen people swooning over this decades-old, now-trendy confection. Yet every single version I've tasted has been an expectations-deflating disappointment, striking me as nothing more than a dyed devil's food cake with cream cheese frosting. I like frosted cake as much as anybody, but is that really all there is to it? Is all the fuss simply about the pretty, unconventional coloring? Or can my fellow dessert-loving Chowhounds direct me to a local version that might change my impression forever?

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  1. Which ones have you already tried that you've found unimpressive?

    11 Replies
    1. re: mollyomormon

      I've had about half a dozen red velvet slices and cupcakes at several people's homes or parties - people who I know buy upscale baked goods (i.e., not from a supermarket or Costco). I suppose I could ask them or wrack my brain to come up with a list of where I recall they were from, but, all due respect, I think your very reasonable question somewhat misses the point. I am trying to understand what could possibly make red velvet cake inherently more special, appealing or interesting than what I described in my opening post above, with some local examples to make the case. I know this may just come down to subjective tastes and impressions, but I also can't help but feel that I may be missing out on something that is delectably unique.

      1. re: Arthur

        I asked because I love a a great version of red velvet cake, but have had plenty of poor renditions. But if you've tried one of the versions I consider lovely and found it lacking, then it may just be that you're not a red velvet cake fan and even the best version in the city will do nothing to change your subjective preference. you wouldn't be alone in that sentiment: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/642858. That said, I think the red velvet cake at Susiecakes is the best in the city. I find Sprinkles too dry and the crumb of the one at Vanilla Bake Shop too dense, but Susiecakes is just right...

        Vanilla Bake Shop
        512 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

          1. re: wienermobile

            +3 for SusieCakes.

            2043 Westcliff Dr, Newport Beach, CA

            1. re: maudies5

              Can't vouch for SusieCakes red velvet cake itself - I had a bit of the cupcake-version. But if the frosting-filled cupcake tasted great, complex and a little tangy while still moist, then the cake must be all of that but just more moist. In fact, I think the moistness factor in SusieCakes' cake-type goods is right at brink of moistness. If they were any more moist, they'd be like a lava cake or pudding.

              2043 Westcliff Dr, Newport Beach, CA

              1. re: bulavinaka

                Yet again proof that great minds think alike.. Bulavinaka..so agree with your assessment. (s) . Great moistness factor in susiecakes. I I find that buying one or two slices of my favorites is preferable to buying cupcakes. One can buy a single slice of that incredible 6-layer chocolate cake. As well, the red velvet, by the slice is amazing as is the carrot cake. Why is no one discussing Susiecake's butterscotch pudding? It is not the Butterscotch Budino at Mozza. It is however, a lovely childhood memory fused with real-time home-made vanilla wafers and banana pudding.

                1. re: maudies5

                  Wow - my head is buzzing just considering the thought of being on the same lofty plane if not for just a moment as you! :)

                  I tried SusieCakes' 6-layer chocolate cake and it was so moist, it reminded me of those old cake mix commercials where the fork starts to cut through the multiple moist layers of cake and frosting, and the moist fragile layers practically fall so gently away so from the fork. The red velvet was staring me in the face - same texture visually, but the nice contrasting layers of maroon and white. I'll definitely give this a go in the future.

                  I was a pig that day, and I did also get the butterscotch (toffee) pudding for later. :) It was smooth, rich, and had that wonderful buttered scotch bouquet. Was the portion too small, or was that just me? :) I just looked up and yes, you're still up there and I'm still down here, but thanks for the morale boost!

                  2043 Westcliff Dr, Newport Beach, CA

          2. re: mollyomormon

            Susie cakes +6 THE best. I had one of the red velvet cupcakes this weekend.

            It's also possible that you're just not a red velvet fan. See the wikipedia entry here -- it really is just vanilla cake with a bit of cocoa and red food coloring: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_velv...

            1. re: mollyomormon

              Nicely said. I too like Susiecake's red velvet.

              1. re: OCAnn

                SusieCakes Red Velvet is also the best I've ever had, and they also do it by the slice. Probably 6,000 calories and worth every one of them!

                2043 Westcliff Dr, Newport Beach, CA

                1. re: SugarFrosted

                  >>Probably 6,000 calories and worth every one of them!<<

                  So I had 2,000 calories yesterday after lunch, another 2,000 for breakfast, and the final 2k for a snack this afternoon. Holy heffer, does this sling-shot swimsuit make me look fat?

                  After sampling their red velvet cupcake, I went back and tried a slice of their red velvet cake. It was the last slice left around noon, so I have a feeling the cake started out from the day before. For a SusieCake, it was a little dry - both sides of the wedge were exposed for who knows how long - but for a normal cake, it was more than acceptable. All in all, a good slice, but I was actually more wowed by the cupcake. I'm guessing, but It might be that the cupcake's cake portion is "baked more," meaning that the batter's ingredients bake together more in the cupcake than the cakes do. It had a more pronounced flavor profile compared to the actual cake. It could also be the ratio of cake to frosting. There's a ton of frosting on that cake - four generous layers. You gotta like frosting or you're not going to be warming up to this cake. Still, a nice cake. I'll keep a big glass of milk handy on my next slice - or 1/3 of a slice!

        1. "nothing more than a dyed devil's food cake with cream cheese frosting"

          Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

          4 Replies
          1. re: mc michael

            OP summed it up exactly. It is just hype and you get red poop.

            1. re: janetms383

              Yep. Although I would probably wouldn't even give it credit as Devil's food cake, which I happen to like. I just don't get it.

              1. re: JudiAU

                which red velvet cake is this in regards to?


                1. re: kevin

                  It was a generalization based on most of experience with red velvet cake based on OP's comments. I have never encountered anything, anywhere that tasted anything like Thi's description.

          2. I can't wait to be enlightened on this also. It's like the Emporer's new clothes as far as I'm concerned. People flip over red velvet--why not just get regular chocolate cake & skip all the red food coloring? It's not like food coloring tastes like anything.

            7 Replies
            1. re: sparkareno

              Because It is not regular Chocolate cake. I don't like Chocolate Cake but I Like this. One of the reason is it is not meant to be Chocolaty just have slight overtones. The other thing is the recipe I use has Vinegar and Buttermilk to give it a tang which is not found in a lot versions

              That said we were at Bluebird/ Pajaro Azul In Culver City this weekend and they had a pretty good one in Cupcake form.

              1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

                also, they have good cupcake ones at Auntie Em's.

                And also at Phillip's BBQ on crenshaw and adams, i really like the version here.

                1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

                  i think you are right it should have some sort of sour tang, not too much though.

                2. re: sparkareno

                  It's not. Well, maybe crappy red velvet cake is. But real red velvet cake - it's an old Southern recipe, isn't it? - is cut with something. In a lot of the recipes I've seen, it's Sprite. Other people use buttermilk and vinegar, like Mattapoisett says. There's a subtle lightness, champagney-fizz energy to it. It sort of lightens and balances against the cocoa and the frosting. A great devil's food cake is serene, cool, mellow; a great red velvet skips down the road a little bit like a little schoolgirl.

                  Most of the ones in town are crap, though, and are indeed just dyed devil's food cake. They just don't understand. Screw 'em.

                  The other posters are right: Auntie Em's and Susiecakes make great ones. The difference is subtle, but if you get into it, you crave it. Just look for a little skippy, sunny energy.

                  1. re: Thi N.

                    i forgot it mentioned it before but i really like the one at Phillip's, they get from 57th st bakery or something along those lines.

                    1. re: Thi N.

                      Looked at a bunch of recipes on Food Network. All call for varying amounts of buttermilk and vinegar, none mention Sprite.

                    2. re: sparkareno

                      It doesn't have as much cocoa as a regular chocolate cake, so without that red dye, the cake would be beige.

                    3. I believe the appeal lies in the red color, which can range from a rich, dark blood-red to a bright, technicolor crimson. Throw in the snow-white frosting, and you've got a really gorgeous contrast in colors. I have to admit that's the appeal for me; and as many people say, we do eat with our eyes.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: buttermarblepopcorn

                        Bake and Broil has great Red Velvet Cake. They are in Long Beach.

                      2. I too have been dubious about red velvet, having tried Sprinkles (yech) and a bunch of other places. This changed when I had the red velvet cupcake at La Maison Du Pain on Pico near Hauser. I've had it multiple times to reconfirm my suspicions that it is possible to have a great red velvet. Moist on the inside, slight crunch on the outside, not scary red, not too sweet, nicely cocoa-y. I think the frosting used to be a little better but it's still a great little package.

                        Also, Kiss My Bundt has a great red velvet. More dense than La Maison Du Pain but addictive.

                        La Maison Du Pain
                        5373 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019

                        1. Another place that seems to pop up often when red velvet is mentioned is Auntie Em's in Eagle Rock. Haven't tried it myself, but thought I'd throw it out there for some bites...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: bulavinaka

                            I like Gourmet On The Go in Sherman Oaks. Here's a KCAL segment done on their red velvet. http://cbs2.com/video/?id=93170@kcbs....

                          2. definitely try the red velvet at http://www.kissmybundt.net/. the icing is to die for and the cake is moist with a slight crunch to the outside. soooo good!

                            1. nickel diner. it's the one place that made me say wow after having a slice of the red velvet cake. on another note, their salt peanut cake is ridiculous.

                              1. Hands down best Red Velvet cake is Doughboys on West 3rd in West Hollywood. They started the Red Velvet craze when their Red Velvet was mentioned on Oprah.

                                It is so moist it looks like its bleeding inside. The frosting is amazing too.

                                Trust me just try it.

                                1. sweet lady jane makes a killer red velvet cake with fondant. too bad their employees all have an holier than thou attitude.

                                  1. Susiecakes does the best RVC in the city that I've tried. Other places may do better cupcakes, but a slice of RVC at susiecakes is amazing. So amazing that we decided to have it as our wedding cake. There's a location in Brentwood if you are on the westside.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. Just wanted to say thanks to all of you for your generous, helpful, insightful responses to my original post - YOU ARE THE BEST!

                                      It seems very clear that the winner by a landslide here is Susiecakes. I hope to make it over there sometime over the next few days. I'll make sure to post back here to let you know if and how much their red velvet cake rocked my world.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Arthur

                                        I think the Red Velvet at Susina is really great too...It's super moist and the icing is so yummy.

                                      2. Not Westside, but the one at Nickel Diner downtown is certainly worth the drive from any point in LA.

                                        Nickel Diner
                                        524 S Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90013

                                        1. To answer the OPs question about what a red velvet cake has that makes it so great, for me, is the cream cheese frosting. I like it a bit more on the savory side, but frankly, it could be an overcooked asparagus cake and I wouldn't care if it had cream cheese frosting. I am the type that will eat a giant spoonful of Philiadelphia for no reason. So, yes, I jumped on the red velvet train from the second I had Toast's red velvet cupcakes about six or seven years ago.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. Ms. Rubys Bakery in Inglewood. NOT fancy, just a take out storefront on Manchester Blvd (good to stop at on the way to or from LAX) with AMAZING slices of RVC.


                                            1. You really should try the red velvet cake at CARE collective in van nuys,I promise you will like it and they have other great treats there too.

                                              1. I recall my mom’s red velvet cake as something amazingly special, something beyond just the cool, regal color. I never knew her recipe but I do recall three things. One, she blended cooked beets into the batter, two, she did not use food coloring and, finally, the icing was not made with cream cheese. It was sweeter and much more buttery. She mixed and prepared it stovetop.

                                                To this day, I have not had a better, or even equal, red velvet cake. So much so that I gave up ordering them long, long ago. Perhaps the fruits of this thread will help rekindle an old flame.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: degustateur

                                                  The icing you speak of sounds like a boiled icing, something of a dying breed even in the South.

                                                2. For those that might want to consider baking their own Red Velvet Cake (without red dye), there is a discussion on the recipe side of Chow:


                                                  Buttermilk is an important part of the recipe for taste - probably missing from a lot of commercial cakes. Someone has discovered how to prevent the chemical reaction and keep the red batter from turning brown (use beet powder - where does one buy that?) and several southern cooks share their family frosting recipe - NOT buttercream or cream cheese based - those frosting would never stand up in the hot, humid south. They claim the family's cooked frosting recipe is better, but it's unlike any other cooked frosting. It has FLOUR in the recipe.

                                                  That being said, does anyone know of a good red velvet cake or cupcakes available in northern OC/east Long Beach area? Having never tasted an "authentic" one, I can't be an accurate judge, but Katella Deli does have "Red Velvet" cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Not sure how they'd rate against the other bakeries mentioned.

                                                  And skip the boxed cake mix - they are completely worthless - totally disappointing.

                                                  Katella Deli-Restaurant
                                                  4470 Katella Ave, Los Alamitos, CA 90720

                                                  1. Well, as promised above, I hit Susiecakes this afternoon and got a slice of their red velvet cake, which I taste-tested fresh on the premises with a cup of coffee.

                                                    First, let me say that Susiecakes serves up an incredibly impressive slice of cake. It is simply huge, big enough for at least three servings. But it is not just enormous. It is gorgeous. This is, no contest, the prettiest, most crimson slice of red velvet cake I have ever seen. I would be proud to serve it to guests in my home, or to bring it as a guest to someone else's.

                                                    So how did it taste?

                                                    Like an exceptionally good, not overly sweet, not overwhelmingly chocolatey cake with four layers of light cream cheese frosting. In other words, it was an outstanding rendition of the same trendy frosted cake I described in my original post on top.

                                                    Which isn't a complaint, just a defining moment of clarity. My conclusion: Red velvet cake is not inherently a particularly unique taste experience. It remains for me an aesthetic one. And, as such, the version sold by Susiecakes is delightful.

                                                    SusieCakes Bakery
                                                    11708 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Arthur

                                                      That's what I said: it's really just the color.