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Decadent Red Velvet Cake

Updated: Jun 11, 2020

Red velvet cake, a classic. It was even my wedding cake flavor for the top layer. And yes we saved it for good luck and ate it on our 1 year anniversary. (wrapped a million times around to seal in the freshness! and in our freezer it went for our first year of marriage)

Made up of a chocolate cake base but enhanced by buttermilk and vinegar. Sounds weird I know, but the sourness of these balances greatly with the sweet cake and helps the color pop.

So why red? Today we dye the batter red to give it that deep, rich color. Originally, when these cakes were made they were mostly just chocolate cakes that had a hue of red. This was accomplished by the reaction from natural cocoa powder to the acidity of the buttermilk.

Then in the 19th century, Dutch processed cocoa powder was invented. Dutch processed cocoa powder has neutral pH, making it not acidic like it's brother natural cocoa powder. The reduced acidity makes for a brown hue. This is when bakers started using food coloring. They soon realized the food coloring gave it an even brighter color and more eye catching to their customers. Red Velvet became very popular for its color, texture, and moistness.

Soon thereafter, in the 1900s when World War II came about, bakers needed to be creative with what they had on hand because of rations. They started using beet juice to enhance the red color in the cake. The beet juice also gave the cake even more moisture, making it even more craveable. Some bakeries and recipes still call for beet juice instead of food coloring. I'm not a huge fan of beets so I personally have not tried using beet juice, but some bakers swear by it.

Dutch Processed vs Natural Cocoa Powder

Where did the word "velvet" get added in? Velvet because the cocoa powder softens the flour and makes for a finer crumb. This finer crumb makes for a softer cake, compared to as velvet. Velvet cakes came about in the 1800s. This not only included red, but other variations like the original chocolate cake known as mahogany cake.



Yield: Two 6 inch cakes or 12 cupcakes

Sugar 1 cup

Vegetable or Canola oil 1/2 cup

Eggs 1

All purpose flour 1 1/4 cup

Cocoa powder 1 TBSP

Salt 1/2 tsp

Baking soda 1/2 tsp

Vinegar 1/2 tsp

Buttermilk 1/2 cup

Red food coloring

  1. Preheat oven to 325F.

  2. Spray and parchment line your cake pans, or line your cupcakes.

  3. In a standing mixer paddle together the sugar, oil, and eggs.

  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.

  5. In another separate bowl mix together the vinegar, buttermilk, and red food coloring. (I start with 20 drops or a small toothpick of gel paste)

  6. Alternate dry and wet ingredients into sugar mixture. Scrap after each addition.

  7. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

  8. Cool in pans for 5-10 minutes then transfer out of pans onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Cake be made in advance and frozen for future use. After it is completely cool, wrap tightly in plastic wrap then a layer of aluminum foil, or a freezer safe container. Store for up to 3 months.

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