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Aug 1, 2012 05:53 PM

What is all the fuss about Red Velvet Cake

I don't really understand what the fuss about Red Velvet Cake is about. Isn't it a white cake coloured with red food colouring and topped with a cream cheese icing. Can't we leave out the red and still have the flavour?

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  1. Personally, I think that Red Velvet Cake clearly goes to notion of "eating with the eyes". White cake with cream cheese frosting (or even just "cake" with cream cheese frosting), sounds fine. And if I was served it at someone's house, I would eat it and smile, and if it was a good version - say lovely things. But it wouldn't have the impact of desire that red velvet cake does (for me).

    Clearly the contrast of the deep red colored cake with the off white frosting, triggers some kind of visual response that then triggers the desire to eat it. And while "cake with cream cheese frosting" triggers nothign for me, "Red Velvet Cake" does - so for me there's also the memory component.

    I have a very simplistic sweet tooth, and so sweet cake topped with sweet stuff generically appeals to me. But I think where red velvet cake works for me, must involve some element of what we see and then what we want to eat.

    2 Replies
    1. re: cresyd

      Clearly the contrast of the deep red colored cake with the off white frosting, triggers some kind of visual response that then triggers the desire to eat it.
      Not for me! The artificial red color of the cake is very unappetizing for me. It may be the tastiest cake in the world, but I will never know...just can't get past the color. Guess that means more for you.

      1. re: al b. darned

        I'm with you. Not only not especially tasty, definitely unattractive.

    2. "Isn't it a white cake coloured with red food colouring...". No, it isn't. It is a slightly chocolate, buttermilk cake with red food coloring. But no one's forcing you to add the food coloring.

      1. Hi Ruthie789, for some home cooks and lovers of RVC it's about tradition. Unfortunately, popularity can also confuse and water down a really good tradition with knock off versions for fun and profit. It's hard to find the real deal lately. A true RVC would never finds its way into the cupcake craze...but so it has.

        30 Replies
        1. re: HillJ

          Thank you all, I might try to make one!

          1. re: Ruthie789

            If you do give RVC a whirl, head over to this CH thread all about a really great version:

            1. re: HillJ

              Glad you posted that link, hillj. Mom Mom's recipe for both the cake and the frosting are the quintessential RV cake.
              Ruthie, cream cheese isn't the traditional frosting- that came around after the carrot cake craze some years back. Try the cooked frosting on Mom Mom's recipe if you want to know what the buzz is all about.
              The two most important ingredients in the cake are the cocoa (don't use Dutched), and the cake flour (don't use AP flour). And the buttermilk...use a good one! It's not the same if you just sour some milk.

              1. re: jmcarthur8

                Buttermilk is just such an awesome ingredient, especialy with chocolate. And thank you for the cooking hints. I am going to try this one.

                1. re: jmcarthur8

                  I have really learnt something about this cake. I have used Dutch Droste chocolate cocoa in the past, is Cadbury Cocoa the type of chocolate that can be used?

                  1. re: Ruthie789

                    Ruthie, I have used Hershey's and I like it. As long as it's not dutched, I suppose any standard cocoa will do. I want to try it with the Penzey's cocoa that I have in the pantry.

                    1. re: jmcarthur8

                      Penzey's is very good, especially the high fat one.

                      1. re: mcf

                        That's the one I've got. Love their products.

                2. re: HillJ

                  Thank you, I am going to try this recipe. Maybe trying the real thing will convert me, because I have tried the RV cupcakes in the Montreal area and really did not like them at all.

                  1. re: Ruthie789

                    When I'm trying something for the first time I make a smaller version. With this recipe you can make a very small batch of the frosting to see if you enjoy it beforehand. If you already enjoy a chocolate cake then close your eyes when you bite RVC and decide. The what's the big deal here is the use of red food coloring. You can bake the cake w/out the color if you prefer. Experiment small batch.

                  2. re: HillJ

                    I love vintage recipes, how long has your Mom been making this recipe? I have added the recipe to my profile. Have you posted any other recipes of your Mom's. I really appreciate that you have shared this with me. I cherish my Mom's recipes so I will post one here eventually.

                    1. re: Ruthie789

                      Very kind of you Ruthie, but I can't take credit for the recipe. Take another look at the OP s/n. Easy mistake. I can vouch for it being a good recipe to follow; especially a newcomer to RVC.

                      My Mom wasn't much of a baker actually. Although she sure knew what expert baking was. Her parents & grandparents and her inlaws were all professional bakers from Europe. I grew up around them. My Mom was spoiled, I was the student :)

                      1. re: HillJ

                        Yes I see the source now, but it was kind to post it for me.
                        My Mom was a baker, I think she got us addicted to sweets at a young age. She took each of her 4 children by her side and set us up on chair and allowed us to cook with her. I guess that's why I like vintage so much it reminds me of her. I like the Brass sisters cookbooks some good ones in there. Thank you again..

                      2. re: Ruthie789

                        I look forward to reading your posts with your Mom's recipes. I too love a vintage collection.

                        1. re: Ruthie789

                          Ruthie, this recipe is exactly the same as the one my girlfriend's mom used to make when I was in high school in Ohio. She gave me the recipe in the early 70's, and I have never tried any other.
                          Her mom was from the South, and she was the only person I ever met who made this cake until I moved to Georgia ten years ago. I didn't even know it was a Southern tradition.

                          1. re: jmcarthur8

                            I am going to try it. Just have to have a block of time to consecrate to a cake. I am intrigued because it is an old recipe.

                            1. re: Ruthie789

                              One more tip...mix the cocoa and food coloring together before adding them to the batter. That will avoid red lumps that another poster had experienced .

                            2. re: jmcarthur8

                              Is it a Southern tradition? Just Curious when it was Invented? or i should say Who came up with the Idea? A friend of mine made a Chocolate Cake with Red Food Coloring back in the mid Seventies. She called it THE WALDORF ASTORIA RED CAKE. And isn't the Waldorf in New York City? Just Curious, so if its been around since the Seventies, sounds like a Northern tradition thanks

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  Thanks, I read someplace that it started out in the fifties. It was Served at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, was called the Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake. So, it started in the North, but has Become a Southern Tradition.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    I believe before it was called "Red Velvet Cake". it may have been called "Red Devil's Food Cake" and it didn't use food coloring.

                                    The earliest reference I've found to Red Velvet type Cake is from 1959 from the Waldorf.

                                    The 1959 story has a Neiman-Marcus $250 type of cookie story attached to it. Someone was supposedly charged $300 for the recipe. So this urban legend goes back to at least 1959. Read the 1959 story link below for details.

                                    Here are links to old recipes in newspapers:

                                    Red Devil's Food Cake from 1928

                                    Red Devil's Food Cake from 1933

                                    Red Devil's Food Cake from 1943

                                    Red Devil's Food Cake from 1950


                                    The earliest reference I've found to Red Velvet type Cake is from 1959

                                    "Red Cake of the Waldorf" from 1959

                                    Red Coronation Cake from 1960

                                    Red Velvet Cake from 1961

                                    Red Velvet Cake from 1963

                                    Red Velvet Cake from 1967

                                    1. re: Antilope

                                      Thank you for posting the above. Love references from way back when.

                                      1. re: Ruthie789

                                        I found an earlier instance of the "Red Velvet Cake" from 1950:

                                        "Village Inn Red Cake" (same ingredients as the later "Red Velvet Cake").
                                        woman from Monessen, PA sent this recipe into a newspaper recipe contest and it won the first weekly prize of $5.

                                        Here's a link to recipe and story:

                                        Pittsburgh Post-Gazette July 21, 1950

                                        1. re: Antilope

                                          Thank you for posting this and sharing.

                              1. re: Ruthie789

                                I found a great source for old & cherished cookbooks...thrift shops &/or used book stores==I've spent many hours at a time just reading thru them--you never know just what you might find, sometimes for only .50 cents & up Good luck & tasty eating

                              2. re: HillJ

                                HillJ thank you again for this recipe. I would like to make it but am unclear on the sugar used in the icing sugar. Does the 1 cup of sugar refer to icing sugar or plain white sugar?Not sure on what am supposed to do.

                                1. re: Ruthie789

                                  It's plain white sugar Ruthie....and it's my pleasure

                                  Mix cornstarch (or flour) with milk. Cook until thick, whisking the entire time. Set aside to cool. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla and cooked cornstarch mixture slowly. Beat until it feels like whipped cream.

                                  1. re: HillJ

                                    Thank you. I will be making this redition of RVC on the weekend. Can't wait.

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      It takes about 10 to 15 minutes of beating to get the fluffy texture on this cooked frosting. Doesn't that sound about right, hillj?

                            3. I also fail to see the appeal in this type of cake. I avoid coloring things, unless they are colors that are included primarily for flavor (think Paprika, Turmeric, etc.).

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: cazort

                                I love those "flavor" colors too. I once suggested to spouse that we repaint the kitchen in tumeric and paprika to match all the stained wooden spoons.

                                1. re: cazort

                                  I'm not a fan of this cake, and have never been tempted to make it....but I thought I read somewhere that it was originally made with beets or beet juice to give it the red color? Now that I might try someday.

                                  1. re: coll

                                    There are quite a few chocolate cakes made with beets. The recipes I have seen mix about 2 Tablespoons of cocoa with red food colouring.

                                    1. re: coll

                                      There is a Cake Recipe on the Jar Label of Aunt nellie's Sweet and sour Harvard Beets. i made it about 25 years ago, Beets are put in a Blender, put into the Cake. it is a Spice Cake. the Batter is Red, but comes out Brown. I tried it again a few years ago, didn't turn out quite the way i remember, but I think it is still on the Jar of Aunt nellie's Sweet and Sour Harvard beets.

                                      1. re: PeggyJ

                                        Thanks I do love beets and I wouldn't feel so guilty eating a cake that contained them!

                                  2. I had never had it until this year. I tried a cupcake and was nauseated. Then I tried an actual slice. Equally as sick. Finally it was someone's wedding cake, who went out of their way to go to "the best" place for this. It was disgusting. Aside from the bland cake, with it's weird color, the frosting is so sicky sweet, I find it inedible. I can't believe anyone can like this. I've eaten cane sugar from the damn cane and it's not as sweet.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: jhopp217

                                      jhopp, all red cakes are not made with the actual red velvet cake recipe, even though they are called RV cake. I wonder what it was that you had? When I make it, it doesn't seem sickly sweet to me. But when I have it from a bakery or restaurant, it's not the same taste at all, and sometimes it's just a mouthful of sugar. Even from "the best" bakeries.
                                      It's kind of like hating all burgers when you've only ever had a Big Mac or a Value Menu cheeseburger. I'd make you a delicious RV cake if you ever come to West Georgia!

                                      1. re: jmcarthur8

                                        I agree, I don't typically care for overly sweet foods. I would not consider RV cake to be in that category.

                                        1. re: SAHCook

                                          Maybe I have just had bad examples, since when RV Cake is mentioned, my teeth sort of vibrate.


                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                            when RV Cake is mentioned, my teeth sort of vibrate.

                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                              I've had bad ones, and I've had it from the most fabulous bakery in my town. The cheap/imitation ones are disgusting sugar bombs and the superb bakery one was beautiful, not a bizarre shade of red, but meh. The only thing from there I ever didn't like. At least it didn't give me tooth chills from sugar.

                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                Lol! It seems like maybe there are a few often-baked versions ... maybe regional? I will say I rarely eat frosting, so I probably had only a bite or two with frosting and ate around the rest of it. That could account for some of it ... but when I had it, the cake part wasn't super sweet!

                                          2. re: jhopp217

                                            You had 3 poor expressions of the form. Doesn't mean all are.