Question of the Week: What is a Red Velvet Cake?
It seems even amongst professional bakers this is open to interpretation. One thing for sure: the reference to Red Velvet is a flavor and texture reference as well as a color. Some bakeries just make a traditional chocolate cake and add TONS of red food color to it.
Red Velvet is sort of indiscriminate: it is neither a Chocolate cake nor Vanilla. It is actually a soft, tender Buttermilk Cake (vanilla) with a small amount of cocoa powder and red food color. There is not enough cocoa powder to make it truly “chocolate” and the addition of cocoa powder makes it not truly “vanilla”. It is typically iced with a cream cheese icing.
Red Food Color often imparts a flavor to the cake – an “off” chemical flavor. These days, you can purchase flavorless red food color. My oldest daughter had an allergic reaction to red and yellow food color when she was a child, so I’ve always been careful not to use it at home. In the bakery, I used just a fraction of what is called for in a recipe – enough to get the color but not so intense. Do you know that a Red Velvet Cake can have up to 1/4 cup of red food coloring in it?!! Fortunately, some bakers prefer to use beet juice as a natural food color.
Food dye has recently been attributed to contributing to hyperactivity in children. It has long been linked to food allergies and suspect for certain kinds of cancer.