Some of you might already know what red velvet cake is and probably include it on your favorite cake list. Red velvet cake is a crimson-colored chocolate layer cake with cream cheese icing. You can make this cake by combining buttermilk, butter, cocoa, flour, and vinegar. Thought to have been introduced sometime in the Victorian Era, red velvet cake was originally a high-brow dessert reserved for special occasions or the elite.
Red velvet is everywhere, from cupcakes to candles. Seeing it on a dessert menu will never get you bored. It is something a little more unique than the usual chocolate cakes. For you who is not an enthusiast of overly luscious cake, red velvet is probably one of the preferred options. Red velvet cake looks fabulous and comes in all different shades, making it perfect for any occasion such as Christmas, anniversary, and Halloween desserts.
5 Red velvet cake facts
1. Red velvet cake vs. devil’s food cake
There is a widely believed story that red velvet is just devil’s food with food coloring. That could not be further from the truth because unique ingredients used in each popular recipe make them two completely different cakes.
Devil’s food cake is a dense, rich kind of chocolate layer cake. Its name comes from the simple fact that it is the opposite of the light and airy, white or yellow angel food cake. It is often prepared with sour cream and coffee to ensure a dense texture and intense chocolate flavor. It also typically calls for Dutch-process cocoa—treated cocoa with an alkalizing agent.
Red velvet cake’s signature strong taste comes from vinegar, an ingredient that devil’s food or classic chocolate cakes rarely has, and buttermilk. Red velvet recipes almost always rely on natural cocoa to enhance their red color.
2. Red velvet cakes were not always so red
When you see red velvet cake today, the color is clear. It was not always so bright and red, and that is because the initial color came not from food dyes but a chemical reaction. When the vinegar, cocoa powder, and baking soda in a red velvet recipe react, a color change happens. They turn the cake from brown to a sort of brownish-red. It is not a glorious color and certainly one that does not reach the aesthetic goal, so now, we combine food dyes to provide it that extra pop.
Modern recipes often use food coloring to intensify the cake’s signature red hue (and beets during the Great Depression). However, many experts think the color comes from a chemical reaction, which is natural cocoa powder that contains anthocyanin, a compound discovered in fruits that creates dark-colored pigments. When anthocyanin mixes with an acid, like the vinegar found in red velvet cakes, its color becomes reddish.
The cocoa powder once contained anthocyanins responsible for the red color found in foods. Most of the cocoa powder today has an alkalizing factor that neutralizes a lot of acidities. In turn, the color-changing properties. That is why we need to fancy up our red velvet cakes with a little more makeup these days.
The solid truth about the pigment is a source of debate among food scholars and historians. Other experts assume the cake’s name comes from its use of brown sugar, which they consider red sugar. The cake owes its velvety surface to almond flour, cocoa, or cornstarch. These ingredients break down the protein in flour, appearing in a smooth and silky cake.
3. Red velvet cakes have some pretty awesome other names in older times
You recognize it as a red velvet cake, but it has been popular with some pretty hip names over the decades. Next time you decide to bake a red velvet cake, how about calling it a flame cake? Not cool enough? How about a feather devil’s food cake? Food historian Gil Marks stated that those are the titles given to cakes that would become red velvet now.
There are many other red velvet cake names such as red mystery cake, a $300 cake, red carpet cake, and a Waldorf red cake. There were also red velvet cake names like red feather cake and red devil’s food cake, although those tended to be not as bright as what we know today.
4. The secret to creating perfectly red, red velvet cake
Achieving that deep red color in your red velvet cakes can be challenging, and you do not want to always end up with cake flops. But there is a secret to get your ideal red velvet cake, and it is super easy.
First, use gel food coloring instead of liquid. You will not need nearly as much, and you will not be adding all that excess liquid to your cake.
Also, do not just pour it into your batter. Prepare it first by mixing it with your vanilla, then blend that with your cocoa. Next, add that to your batter. Super easy!
There is also another idea by using red wine. The wine has some of the same elements that came into play in the older red velvet recipes. When you pair it with plain, raw cocoa powder, the ingredients act together to deliver you a natural deep burgundy color without the usual food dyes.
5. You can make red velvet cake that is heart-healthy
Cakes do not have to be terrible for you. A nutritionist and dietician, Maggie Michalczyk, suggests using something different to get the unique red color of red velvet cake, and that is beet powder. She calls beet powder an excellent alternative to red food dye for some reason.
Beets are all-natural and comprise high levels of nitrates, which aid regulate blood pressure and contribute to increasing stamina. They also contain vitamin C, which is essential for the immune system also a natural sweetness that goes surprisingly well in cakes. That can be a great way to have any picky-eaters eat their veggies. It is going to be extra rewarding when you sneak it into their birthday cake.