Red velvet cake is one of my favourite cakes. I always enjoy baking it and sharing it with my friends and family. Often my friends are curious and ask me all sorts of questions. Is red velvet a chocolate cake? Is it strawberry flavored? Why is it always paired with cream cheese frosting?
In this blog post, I wanted to find the answers to these and other curious questions about red velvet cake. We’ll take a deep dive into the history of red velvet cake, the ingredients that give it its distinctive flavor, and the reasons why it’s become such a popular dessert.
So, grab a slice of red velvet cake (with cream cheese frosting, of course) and join me on this journey of discovery!
What is red velvet cake?
Red velvet cake is a cake that is typically made with cocoa powder, buttermilk, vinegar, and red food coloring. The combination of cocoa powder, buttermilk, and vinegar gives the cake a slightly tangy flavor and a fluffy texture.
The exact origin of red velvet cake is unclear, but it has been a popular dessert in the United States since the early 1900s. The cake is usually served with layer of cream cheese frosting and is known for its signature red color, which comes from either natural ingredients like beets or red food coloring.
What flavour is red velvet cake ? The quick answer
Red velvet cake has a mild chocolate flavor with a slightly tart or tangy edge. The cocoa flavor is not as strong as in a traditional chocolate cake. The cream cheese frosting is also a prominent flavor in the cake. The best red velvet cakes I’ve had were light, but moist with ‘melt in your mouth’ crumb and delicious fresh cream frosting. I usually find them not as sweet as other cakes.
Is red velvet cake a flavor or color?
Red velvet cake is both a flavor and a color. The cake has a mild chocolate flavor with a slightly tart or tangy edge, and the signature red color comes from either natural ingredients like beets or more commonly, red food coloring.
MORE CAKE RECIPES
Why does red velvet cake taste differently than chocolate cake?
The difference in taste between red velvet cake and chocolate cake comes from the use of organic cocoa powder in small quantities in red velvet cake. The added vanilla extract and cream cheese also contribute to the complex taste, which is defined as somewhere between devil’s food cake, vanilla cake, and chocolate cake.
I also find that natural cocoa powder has a more fruity and light taste than the rich Dutch cocoa used in most chocolate cakes, and natural cocoa’s acidity also takes on a leavening property when combined with baking soda.
Red velvet cake is not exactly a chocolate cake, but it does contain a small amount of cocoa powder, which gives it a mild chocolate flavor. Red velvet cake contains only 2 to 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder per 2 1/2 cups of flour, which is significantly less cocoa powder than most chocolate cake recipes. Red velvet cake recipe traditionally uses unprocessed cocoa powder, which has a more acidic taste than the Dutch-processed cocoa powder used in most chocolate cake recipes.
What is the difference between red velvet cake and chocolate cake?
Red velvet cake and chocolate cake are completely different in several ways. While both cakes contain cocoa powder, red velvet cake has a milder chocolate flavor and a slightly tangy taste due to the use of buttermilk and vinegar.
Chocolate cake has deeper and richer chocolate flavour and usually contains more cocoa powder or real chocolate. I also often add an instant coffee powder to enhance the chocolate flavour. My best chocolate cake recipes also use beer or cocoa cola as the liquid, which adds a slightly caramelised flavour to the chocolate and makes the cake super moist.
Red velvet cake is traditionally made with cream cheese frosting, while chocolate cake is often paired with buttercream or ganache chocolate frosting.
The biggest difference is the signature red color of red velvet cake, which comes from either natural ingredients like beets or, more commonly, red food coloring.
Is red velvet cake strawberry flavored or raspberry?
No, red velvet cake is neither strawberry nor raspberry flavored.
The red color of the cake comes from a reaction between the cocoa and an acidic liquid, such as vinegar or buttermilk, and is not derived from any berry flavoring. Most recipes will also have red colouring (or beat juice or powder) which gives the velvet cake it’s reddish colour.
The red cake crumbs you often see on the top of the cake as a decoration, are from the bottom of the cake or cut outs if the cake is being shaped.
What flavour is red velvet cake flavoured after?
Red velvet cake is not specifically flavored after any one thing. Red velvet cake has a mild chocolate flavor with a slightly tart or tangy edge, and the cream cheese frosting is also a prominent flavor in the cake.
The cocoa flavor is not as strong as in a traditional chocolate cake. The exact flavor profile of red velvet cake can vary depending on the recipe and the amount of cocoa used.
What gives red velvet cake it’s distinctive flavor?
Red velvet cake gets its distinctive flavor from the combination of cocoa powder, buttermilk, and vinegar.
The cocoa powder contains anthocyanin, a pH-sensitive antioxidant that reacts to acids like vinegar and buttermilk. This reaction affects the acidity of the cake, which leads to a fluffy texture and a slightly tangy flavor. The combination of vinegar and the baking powder in the recipe also means that the cake doesn’t doom much when it’s baked and you end up with a nicely level cake as it rises quite evenly in the oven.
The small amount of cocoa powder used in the cake gives it a mild chocolate flavor. When you pair it with cream cheese frosting you end up with the perfect combination of fresh cream cheese and slightly tarty and lightly chocolate flavoured cake.
Why is red velvet cake always paired with cream cheese?
Red velvet cake is usually paired with cream cheese frosting because the tangy flavor of the frosting complements the slightly tangy flavor of the cake.
The white contrast of the frosting also highlights the lush red color of the cake. Cream cheese frosting is made with cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract, and it has a smooth and creamy texture that pairs well with the fluffy texture of the cake.
You could also use other types of buttercream frostings, such as regular vanilla buttercream, but the flavour will be different. I find that cream cheese frosting is less sweet than vanilla buttercream. You could also use chocolate buttercream frosting or possibly coffee flavoured buttercream, which I think would also compliment the tangy flavour of the cake.
If you want to try some more different flavours, the tanginess of red velvet cake is comparable to lemon cakes, so you can try my suggestions for the type of frostings that go with lemon cakes if you fancy a change from cheese cream frosting.
Do you have to add red colour to red velvet cake?
Traditionally, red velvet cake is made with red food coloring to achieve its signature red color. You also need to make sure that you use bake stable red colouring otherwise the colour will fizzle out when it’s being baked.
If you don’t want to use red colour, there are also natural ways to add red to the cake, such as using beet juice or pomegranate juice. Depending on how much beet juice or beet powder you add to your cake, the flavour might change slightly.
The beet powder is the most concentrated way to add red colour to the cake and it’s less likely to change the flavour that much or change the consistency of the cake (if you are adding too much beet or pomegranate juice you will need to change the buttermilk quantity and this will definitely affect the flavour of your red velvet cake, so be careful how you do this).
Using natural ingredients to add color to the cake may result in a less vibrant red color than using red food coloring, but it will probably be healthier. The red colour doesn’t really change the flavour of the cake, so if you don’t want to add it in, you will still end up with a delicious cake, just looking more brown than red.
This blog post was originally written on 13 September 2023 and last updated on 13 September 2023