Monday, January 25, 2010

Red Velvet

Red Velvet Cake cut into four layers with Swiss meringue buttercream on the inside and out. I wish I had a good picture of the inside of the cake--even I don't know how it turned out--as it was gifted to a lucky coworker in my husband's office. Then we could talk about the vibrant red and how the mild, light cocoa taste really doesn't stand up to such a bold color. 

There are a few theories on how the color came to be through the long history of this cake (recipes have been found from the 1890's). Cocoa powder contains vegetable pigments that are red only in the presence of acids. So some say that the red cake originally resulted from a reaction that occurred when the acidic buttermilk and vinegar were mixed with the cocoa. This theory works if you use a non-alkalized cocoa, such as Hershey’s (slightly acidic with a pH around 5), not a “Dutch Processed” cocoa (slightly alkaline with a pH around 8). In a contrary theory, others say the red color results from a reaction of the cocoa and the baking soda, which is slightly alkaline (pH around 8), not acidic. Devil's Food cake is also thought to have been named in reaction to the reddish hue from this cocoa chemical transformation. It is also supposed that during war times when items were rationed, red food coloring or beet juice was added to a mild chocolate cake to give a fancy appearance.

The Red Velvet Cake has become more popular in recent years, and one of the most copied recipes is of Cake Man Raven, which thanks to the oil produces a very velvety, moist cake with an eye-popping electric red color.  I personally prefer a Red Velvet that tastes a bit more chocolaty and with a traditional, but in my opinion underused, Roux Buttercream.  I chose to make this one with Swiss Meringue because I wanted to try out that recipe again, and not have it around the house because one of my little ones is very allergic to the eggs in it.  The Swiss buttercream is heavy on the butter so i like to add a cup of powered sugar at the end to sweeten it up a bit. It is the most luxurious frosting, but the silky and non-crusting finish means that it require a bit more finesse to decorate with. The commercial choice with Red Velvet is a cream cheese icing, which is nice but I still think can be too sweet if not mixed half with butter.  


  1. I'd love to see some recipes included in your posts. Or links to the books or sites they came from. :)

  2. Great idea Cristine. Sometimes I don't work from an exact recipe though (for frostings and fillings, cakes usually always have to be exact).

    This Red Velvet was kinda a cheat because I started with the DH boxed red velvet mix, but instead used 1/3 c oil, 4 eggs and 1 cup of buttermilk. It makes a firmer cake that is very moist (normally it is 1.25 cups water and 3 eggs).