What Makes Red Velvet Cake Red? (Plus, why is texture important?)

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If you have even a passing acquaintance with sweet sweets, you have almost certainly heard of red velvet cake. It has a lovely, glossy look that gives the impression that you are eating the most delightful of sweets.

It is distinguished by its red, crimson, red-brown, or scarlet hue. The recipe might vary, but the primary components are usually buttermilk, flour, sugar, butter, cocoa powder, and some form of cream cheese-based frosting. Beetroot may be be added, although it is not required.

Red velvet cake is well-known for being a particularly light, fluffy cake that may be presented as a luxury dessert. It became popular about the same time as devil’s food cake, and some think that red velvet cake evolved as a consequence.

But, the issue remains: why is red velvet cake red? And the solution is rather straightforward.

Why Is Red Velvet Cake Red?

Red velvet cake was originally prepared using buttermilk, vinegar, and cocoa powder. The chemical interaction that occurs between the cocoa powder, buttermilk, and vinegar is the cause.

This is due to the presence of an element known as anthocyanin in cocoa powder. This is a pH-sensitive antioxidant that has a natural response to acids, giving red velvet cake its distinctive red hue.

Enter Adams Extract, a food coloring manufacturer. Adams Extract wanted to sell more food coloring, so they devised a brilliant marketing strategy: design a recipe for red velvet cake that called for a lot of their red food coloring.

The end effect was obvious: a vivid crimson cake that we now identify with red velvet cake. It isn’t to say the cake can’t be the red or maroon hue we see from time to time. That is entirely dependent on the nature of your recipe.

The “Velvet” Isn’t About the Color

It’s ironic that the crimson component of red velvet has become the aesthetic focal point that we consider. This is due to the fact that the velvet term refers to the texture. A good red velvet cake is smooth and, you got it, velvety.

The ingredients used to manufacture various varieties of cakes altered the texture of the cake. Although certain red velvet cake recipes have changed throughout the years, they always used some mix of baking soda and either buttermilk or vinegar.

Since vinegar and buttermilk are both acidic, when combined with baking soda, bubbles form. As those bubbles form, they are responsible for fluffing up the cake and making it smooth and light in texture.

What makes red velvet cake special is that the buttermilk and vinegar react with the cocoa powder in the cake mix. This is because of the previously mentioned anthocyanins. These chemicals may be found in foods like red cabbage.

They may be used to show pH levels since they get redder and redder in the presence of stronger acids in nature. This is the same active component in cocoa that gives red velvet cake its famous crimson colour.

Cocoa Powder Has Changed

Most forms of cocoa powder available in supermarkets today have been treated with an alkalizing agent.

This is a base used to balance the acidity of the cocoa powder. That is also the reason why most cocoa powder recipes will mention what sort of cocoa powder to use for that cake.

The alkalizing ingredient in the cake alters how it reacts to baking powder or baking soda. Because of the alkalizing ingredient, it will either become overly puffy or fall flat.

This is what prevents it from getting the crimson colour that you notice when it’s blended with vinegar or buttermilk.

Even if you find an earlier recipe for red velvet cake, you won’t achieve the same results because of the alkalizing ingredient that is now routinely used in cocoa powder.

Remember that red velvet cake was invented during the Great Depression, when the words weren’t precisely identical (brown sugar was called red sugar, for example), so things are a bit different.

How Can Red Velvet Be Used?

What’s amazing about red velvet is that it doesn’t have to be the conventional icing-covered cake that we’re accustomed to seeing. It truly has a broad range of applications and implementations, allowing you to construct the perfect cocktail for your needs.

Red velvet, for example, may be used in both sweets and breakfast foods. Red velvet pancakes are a popular breakfast choice that combine vinegar and cocoa powder to achieve the vibrant crimson color that makes the pancakes stand out.

With the cake mix, you may also utilize red velvet in items like cookies and cinnamon buns. Red velvet may be utilized in any manner you like and still provide the same rich, velvety texture that has made the cake so famous.

Confusion with Chocolate Cake

Believe it or not, for a long time, red velvet cake was mistaken with chocolate cake.

It may look strange since red food coloring is used to give red velvet its appearance, although chocolate cake is naturally a dark brown tint. This was attributable mostly to the components used in both varieties of cake: buttermilk and vinegar.

Both forms of cake include cocoa powder, which contributed to their misidentification. The distinction here is that chocolate cake does not include the vinegar and buttermilk combo that gives red velvet cake its characteristic texture.

Because of the cocoa powder, they have a similar flavor, but the vinegar-and-buttermilk combination gives red velvet cake a finer, more rich texture and flavor than buttermilk.

Hence, although they may taste identical in nature, there is no genuine resemblance between the two forms of cake.

How to Make a Red Velvet Cake

The recipes vary depending on where you look or who you ask, but there are broad elements that make a red velvet cake what it is.

Most recipes call for vanilla, eggs, butter, some kind of red food coloring, buttermilk, vinegar, and chocolate powder. There are interchangeable components that may be added or subtracted, but these are the building blocks for red velvet cake.

Begin by collecting all of your materials and preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. To avoid sticking, oil or cooking spray, as well as flour, should be used in round cake pans.

If you do not apply anything to avoid sticking, the whole cake may crumble, which would be awful for the outcome.

Begin by combining sugar and butter until the texture is light and fluffy. Put in your eggs and beat them for approximately a minute before adding in your vanilla extract and mixing until the mixture is totally combined.

Then, whisk in your food coloring, cocoa powder, and around two teaspoons of water until you have an egg creamed mixture that you will ultimately combine with salt and flour. Alternate between adding buttermilk and flour textures to the mixture, mixing on low to medium speed as you go.

When you’ve made the batter, spoon it equally into as many cake pans as you’ve made the batter for. After your oven is completely warmed, put your cake pans in the oven and bake for 22 to 28 minutes. Everything depends on the sort of stove you have.

As it bakes, prepare your icing. This is just milk and flour boiled in a pot and chilled in the refrigerator.

Next you combine it with sugar, butter, and a dash of vanilla extract. If you don’t want to go through the hassle of making your own frosting, you may just purchase a store-bought cream cheese icing.

When the cake has done baking, all that remains is to cover the top and sides with icing and you will be ready to enjoy a wonderful, smooth, velvety cake that has been loved by millions over the years.

Yet making a red velvet cake is considerably simpler than you would think. So started making and enjoy red velvet cake like millions of others.


What is the purpose of the red food coloring in red velvet cake?

You may have heard that red velvet cake is just chocolate cake with red food coloring added, however this is not the case. The distinctive crimson color of the cake was really a byproduct of the ingredients used to achieve its trademark “velvety” texture.

Why is the red velvet cake important?

The Red Velvet Cake is well-known for its silky, velvety texture and notably deep, rich crimson color. It is the most important dessert eaten on Emancipation Day since it serves as a remembrance of the carnage and those who died while enslaved.

What is the texture of red velvet cake?

Red velvet cake is a cocoa-based cake with a smooth, densely crumbed texture with a faint, acidic taste that is made with vinegar, baking soda, and buttermilk.

What is the meaning of red color in cake?

The color red represents strength, energy, desire, speed, heat, love, danger, blood, battle, and stopping. For obvious reasons, it is primarily used on cakes around Christmas and Valentine’s Day. It also comes in a variety of different colors such as blood, cherry, burgundy, and brick.

Why is it called red velvet cake?

Prior to the widespread usage of food coloring to turn the cake crimson, the colour was much more faint and was generated by the way vinegar, cocoa, and buttermilk interacted together. The term “velvet” refers to the smooth texture of fine cake crumb rather than the color of crushed velvet.

What makes red velvet unique?

What gives red velvet cake its distinctive flavor? The buttermilk, vinegar, cocoa powder, and cream cheese icing give red velvet cake its unique characteristics. Some red velvet cake recipes call for just a tablespoon or two of cocoa powder, which results in almost no chocolate taste.

What makes red velvet different from other cakes?

Cocoa powder, chocolate chips, or melted chocolate are used to flavor chocolate cake. Red velvet cake, on the other hand, includes cocoa powder that gives it a somewhat chocolaty taste, but the buttermilk and vinegar create an acidic edge that distinguishes it from the other.

What is the meaning of red velvet?

The definition of red velvet cake in English

a chocolate cake prepared with vinegar, buttermilk, and red food coloring, topped with cream cheeseicing: Because of the buttermilk, the red velvet cake is a touch sour. Red velvet cake has a striking appearance, with a brilliant crimson color contrasted with white frosting.

What gives red velvet its texture?

The key to the Red Velvet Sponge’s extra fluffy texture is to add cocoa powder, buttermilk, and vinegar or vegetable oil to the standard cake mix.

Is red velvet cake supposed to be red?

Traditional red velvet cake is a red, red-brown, crimson, or scarlet-colored layer cake layered with ermine frosting. Traditional versions do not utilize food coloring, with the red color coming from anthocyanin-rich, non-Dutched cocoa. Buttermilk, butter, chocolate, vinegar, and wheat are all common components.

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