Red velvet cake
Three-layer slice of red velvet cake
|Place of origin||United States|
|Main ingredient(s)||Flour, butter, sugar, buttermilk, cocoa powder, vanilla or cream cheese icing, beetroot or red food coloring|
Red velvet cake is a cake with either a dark red, bright red or red-brown color. It's traditionally prepared as a layer cake topped with cream cheese or cooked roux icing. The reddish color is achieved by adding beetroot or red food coloring.
Common ingredients include buttermilk, butter, and flour for the cake and cocoa, beetroot or red food coloring for the colour. The amount of cocoa used varies in different recipes. Cream cheese frosting and buttercream frosting are most commonly used.
James Beard's 1972 reference, American Cookery, describes three red velvet cakes varying in the amounts of shortening and butter, also vegetable oil. All used red food coloring, but the reaction of acidic vinegar and buttermilk tends to better reveal the red anthocyanin in cocoa and keeps the cake moist, light and fluffy. Before more alkaline "Dutch processed" cocoa was widely available, the red color would have been more pronounced. This natural tinting may have been the source for the name "red velvet" as well as "Devil's food" and similar names for chocolate cakes.
When foods were rationed during World War II, bakers used boiled beetroots juices to enhance the color of their cakes. Boiled beetroot or beets as they are known in America, are found in some red velvet cake recipes, where they also serve to retain moisture. Adams Extract, a Texas company, is credited for bringing the red velvet cake to kitchens across America during the time of the Great Depression by being one of the first to sell red food coloring and other flavor extracts with the use of point-of-sale posters and tear-off recipe cards. The cake and its original recipe, however, are well known in the United States from New York City's famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. However, it is widely considered a Southern recipe. Traditionally, the cake is iced with a French-style butter roux icing (also called ermine icing), which is very light and fluffy but time-consuming to prepare. Cream cheese frosting and buttercream frosting are variations which have increased in popularity.
In Canada, the cake was a well-known dessert in the restaurants and bakeries of the Eaton's department store chain in the 1940s and 1950s. Promoted as an exclusive Eaton's recipe, with employees who knew the recipe sworn to silence, many mistakenly believed the cake to be the invention of the department store matriarch, Lady Eaton.
A resurgence in the popularity of this cake is partly attributed to the 1989 film Steel Magnolias in which the groom's cake (a southern tradition) is a red velvet cake made in the shape of an armadillo. In recent years, red velvet cake and red velvet cupcakes have become increasingly popular and can be found in many bakeries. They have also recently seen a revival in many European countries, one being the UK. You can now find the cake stocked in many bakeries around the UK.
- Beard, James (1972). James Beard's American Cookery. Boston: Little, Brown.
- Scott, Suzanne (June 7, 2003). "It's All Mixed Up! The History and True Facts About Baking Devil's Food Cake". New Jersey Baker's Board of Trade. Archived from the original on 2004-08-05. Retrieved 2004-10-10.
- Fabricant, Florence (14 February 2007). "So Naughty, So Nice". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
- Parks, Stella (2011-10-02). "The Unknown History of Red Velvet Cake". Gilttaste.com. Retrieved 2012-11-08.
- "Red Velvet, the 'Lady Gaga' of cakes, wears well during the holidays". Post-gazette.com. 2011-12-15. Retrieved 2012-11-08.
- Anderson, Carol; Katharine Mallinson (2004). Lunch with Lady Eaton: Inside the Dining Rooms of a Nation. Toronto: ECW Press. ISBN 1-55022-650-9.
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