Red Velvet Cake

Red velvet cake is a dessert with a very interesting history. It was rumored to have been invented at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

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This cake uses vinegar and baking soda to make it rise, along with buttermilk that adds a subtle tanginess and tenderness to the crumb. It’s paired with a creamy, light cream cheese frosting.

History

Red velvet cake has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the Victorian era. Back then, cake flour wasn’t widely available, so bakers used acidic ingredients like vinegar and baking soda to tenderize cakes. When those acidic ingredients reacted with non-Dutch processed cocoa, the cakes took on a faint reddish tint.

As the recipe migrated to America’s South, cooks started adding buttermilk to the mix. This added tang to the cake and amplified its natural reddish tint. When the United States entered World War II, ingredient rationing became part of American life. Staples like sugar, butter and cooking fat were hard to find. Women, who were primarily home cooks at the time, had to get creative with their ingredients and find ways to make their food stretch.

Some cooks turned to beets for a natural reddish hue. The beets also acted as a filler to keep cakes moist. The resulting cakes were less vibrant, but still had a distinct red tint that was very appealing to many people.

As America’s tastes shifted, many began to prefer cakes that were more subtle in color. By the mid-20th century, you could hardly walk into a bakery without seeing a red velvet cake on display. The iconic dessert got another boost in 1989 when the movie Steel Magnolias brought the ruby red gateau roaring back into the spotlight.

Ingredients

Red velvet cake is a classic American dessert developed in the Southern United States. It is made of a cocoa powder-buttermilk-vinegar batter that’s usually tinted with food coloring (affiliate link). The color comes from anthocyanin, which is a naturally occurring pigment that turns red when exposed to acid. This is why the cakes have a tangy buttermilk flavor that’s different from other chocolate cake recipes.

Some recipes call for coffee to be added to the batter, which enhances the chocolatey taste and makes it more robust. This is not traditional, but it can be a nice addition to some versions of the cake. This recipe calls for the use of butter, eggs, and buttermilk that are at room temperature. This ensures that they rise at the same rate when the cake is baked. It also helps prevent a dome from forming in the center of the cake when it is cooled.

Many bakers use liquid red food coloring in their cakes, which is easy to find at most grocery stores. However, if you’re looking for a more vibrant shade of red, try using paste or gel colors instead. These are more concentrated than liquid colors and will give your cake a more vivid shade without being as strong.

This cake is traditionally served frosted with ermine frosting, but it can be topped with any of your favorite types of frosting. It’s a beautiful and delicious cake that’s perfect for special occasions.

Variations

Red velvet cake is softer than chocolate cakes and has a slight tang from the buttermilk used in it. It’s most commonly paired with white cream cheese frosting and is an absolute showstopper. It is usually made from a mix, but it’s possible to make it from scratch if you wish to.

According to Stella Parks, author of Bravetart: Iconic American Desserts, the first recipes labeled as red velvet cake were published in the early 20th century. The cakes were originally more of a dusty maroon color, but when food coloring company Adams Extract added vinegar to the recipe in the 1920s to create a chemical reaction that amplified the reddish hue of the cocoa powder, it became the bright scarlet we know and love today.

Some people prefer to use a natural dye to avoid the chemicals in food coloring and opt for beet juice, beet powder or pomegranate powder instead. The results may not be as vibrant as the fire engine red you’ll get with traditional food coloring, but they’re still a beautiful and delicious treat.

This cake is a great choice for any occasion and can be dressed up with different toppings like strawberries, raspberries or sliced fresh fruit. It’s also delicious drizzled with Nutella. To keep the frosting from melting, you should wrap it in tin foil and store it in the refrigerator for up to two hours before serving.

Preparation

Red velvet cake is a showstopping dessert that’s surprisingly easy to make. More than just a chocolate cake with red food coloring added, it’s tangy and buttery, with a mild cocoa and sweet vanilla flavor.

This recipe calls for butter (salted or unsalted) and natural cocoa powder. Both Dutch-processed and natural cocoa will work, though Dutch-processed is better for this cake as it has less acid. Red food coloring is essential for the color; liquid and gel can both be used, but the latter will produce a more vibrant hue.

Most recipes for this type of cake use a variation of the creaming method, which calls for butter to be beat until light and fluffy before eggs are added. Dry and wet ingredients are then added alternately. Some bakers use oil in place of the butter for a lighter cake.

Before World War II, bakers added vinegar or baking soda to their cakes to tenderize the batter. The acids in those ingredients reacted with non-Dutch processed cocoa to give the cakes their red tint. When those ingredients were rationed during the war, bakers started using beet juice to add that same effect. The dye company Adams Extract stepped in to promote and popularize the recipe we know today, using a red food coloring that really amplifies the color.