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Red velvet cake - why?

I don't understand why people like red velvet cake so much. Based on my experience and understanding, it's very mildly(if at all) chocolatey and packed full of red dye. Personally I'd rather have a true chocolate cake or a true white or yellow cake. Do people just like it because it is usually frosted with a cream cheese frosting?

Despite it's seeming drawbacks, people seem drawn to it - why?

And yes, I'm kind of a cake snob.

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  1. I think it's pretty good, has a pleasant texture, but I think it's for people who "eat with their eyes".

    On another board I got flack for saying it was for girls, but I'd like to see some stats that prove it's not mostly women eating these things.

    5 Replies
    1. re: SnackHappy

      My experience is limited mostly to 27 years in Nashville, but of all the people - and there were plenty - who spoke of red velvet cake (or "someone's" red velvet cake) in reverent tones, I don't think any of them were men. The closest a man would come would be to mention that his wife or mom made a "pretty good" red velvet cake.

      I think those of us who grew up eating devil's food cake, as opposed to real CHOCOLATE cake, are more than familiar with this when we see it, because that's basically what it is, only with the food coloring added. DF was the only cake my mom knew how to make, usually with Seven Minute icing (egg whites and powdered sugar, mostly), and while I would never lust for this confection I always thought it was okay ... which leaves me being yet another guy who can easily take or leave red velvet cake.

      1. re: Will Owen

        Thank you, Laurel I don't really get it, either. It unnerves me that it is dyed so red that it stains the tablecloth and the tips of my fingers, and really, it's just a not-very-chocolate cake, right? I'm not such a fan of chocolate, so guess that may be one of the reasons it just doesn't thrill me.

      2. re: SnackHappy

        I like it because it is very beautiful and it was the only cake consistently served with cream cheese frosting. As for the cake itself I wouldn't eat it with out cream cheese frosting, but I do enjoy its moist dense texture and light chocolate flavor.
        Believe it or not it is my husband's fav cake, and I make it for him on his birthday.

        When you say its something for "girls" especially coming from a male, such a phrase is seen as derogatory and negative ie "you throw like a girl" "Red velvet is a girl's cake" which may be the reason you caught so much flack on the thread. It also implies that men eschew it not based on its taste but based on the fact that it implies femininity, and femininity= weakness. It might in some ways also imply that women have no sense of taste and only eat it because its pretty, and that definitely would not go over well. Just a couple of ideas of why they may have given you a hard time.

        1. re: SnackHappy

          The only people I know who glaze over and get mushy when RVC is mentioned are men. has something to do, I think, with being Southern, their mamas, their grandmamas....

        2. My understanding is that Red Velvet is a Depression era cake for the most part. They did not use red food dye to color it to start with. The cake had beets in there to color it. So, it did not have a lot of cocoa powder to keep costs down, but the color made it more festive and the beet veggies made it more moist.

          I've also heard that Waldorf=Astoria created the cake, but I'm pretty sure that it dates before that and to the South. Perhaps someone just took the idea to the hotel at some point.

          That's just word of mouth that I'm drawing on, but my great grandmother was a Mississippi riverboat cook/chef before she married my great grandfather.

          I've had a lot of pretty bad Red Velvet cakes and a few really fabulous ones. If you ever get a really good one, then I think you'd like it.

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              That article is interesting. It does seem to support some of my word of mouth info on the cake. They mention the W=A and also mention the beets. It sounds like there are a lot of variations. The best ones I've had have been home cooked by local ladies.

            2. Why?

              Aside from what was previously mentioned that originally Red Velvet was made with beet juice during the Great Depression, there's another reason.

              We tend to eat with our eyes first, and our mouths second.

              The red dye that you refer to so condescendingly make the cake appeal to people at a very visually visceral level.

              The same cake made with "Pea Soup" green would not evoke the same type of appetite-inducing emotions in people.

              It's the same reason why people prefer red roses, as opposed to say Pea Soup Green roses.

              8 Replies
              1. re: ipsedixit

                Good point. Aesthetically pleasing and it's got cream cheese icing. I know it's also a sentimental favorite here in parts of the South.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  My sons made it with green food coloring once when they were in middle school. Guess what? It hardly got eaten. In a family that loves red velvet cake. Plus they made it in a sheet cake pan. It was all wrong.

                  1. re: jmcarthur8

                    We did a little bit better than that: my dad had an idea to do an Italian flag themed cake for some holiday, so there was one red layer, one green layer, plus the white frosting. It was pretty striking, and it all got eaten. Then again, it was the only time we made it that way. Red Velvet is a classic, this thing was a gimmick ;)

                  2. re: ipsedixit

                    "We tend to eat with our eyes first, and our mouths second."

                    But for me, red velvet cake does not look appetizing. It just looks "too red" to be food. It turns me off.

                    I'm with the OP on this; I think it appeals mostly to women.

                    1. re: ttoommyy

                      "But for me, red velvet cake does not look appetizing. It just looks "too red" to be food. It turns me off. "

                      Same here. It looks blatantly unnatural and is therefore unappetizing to me.

                      1. re: ttoommyy

                        I'm with the OP on this; I think it appeals mostly to women.
                        ~~~~~~~~~~~
                        not this woman! and yes, the artificial color is an immediate turn-off for me.

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          This. The red color freaks me out and I don't know why anyone (man or woman) would eat something JUST because it looks pretty. I haven't ever had one that was worth eating over another type of cake.

                          1. re: LaureltQ

                            "I don't know why anyone (man or woman) would eat something JUST because it looks pretty."

                            That's a great point, LaureltQ. Now that you point this out, I really don't like "pretty" food. I want my food to look like food and have colors that are associated with food. The bright red of RVC is not something you'd find naturally in a lot of other foods we eat (strawberry jam comes to mind, but that red is natural).

                    2. I came late to red velvet, but come I have. I am not particularly fond of chocolate or sweet cakes, so this cake with its subtle flavor, moist tang and tender crumb is a perfect dessert for me. The shocking color gives the cake added dramatic appeal, but that's not as large a factor as the combination of cake and cream cheese frosting.