Red velvet cake

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Red Velvet cake
Red Velvet Cake Waldorf Astoria.jpg
Four-layer slice of red velvet cake
Type Layer cake
Course Dessert
Place of origin United States
Region or state United States
Main ingredients Flour, buttermilk, butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and/or cream cheese icing, beetroot, or red food colouring
Cookbook: Red Velvet cake

Red velvet cake is traditionally a red, red-brown, or mahogany or maroon or crimson colored[1] chocolate layer cake, layered with white cream cheese or ermine icing.[2] The cake is commonly served on Christmas or Valentine's Day. Common modern red velvet cake is made with red dye,[3][4]; however, the red color was originally due to non-Dutched, anthocyanin-rich cocoa.[1]

Common ingredients include buttermilk, butter, cocoa, vinegar, and flour. Beetroot or red food coloring may be used for the color.


James Beard's reference, American Cookery (1972),[5] describes three red velvet cakes varying in the amounts of shortening, butter, and vegetable oil. All used red food coloring. The reaction of acidic vinegar and buttermilk tends to better reveal the red anthocyanin in cocoa and keeps the cake moist, light, and fluffy. 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.[6][7] Contemporarily, chocolate has often undergone Dutch processing, which prevents the color change of the anthocyanins.[8] A reconstruction of the original red velvet cake involves reducing or eliminating the vinegar and colorants, and using a non-Dutched cocoa to provide the needed acidity and color.[1]

When foods were rationed during World War II, bakers used boiled beet juices to enhance the color of their cakes. Beets are found in some red velvet cake recipes, where they also serve to retain moisture. Adams Extract, a Texas company, is credited with bringing the red velvet cake to kitchens across America during the Great Depression era, 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.[9][10] The cake and its original recipe are well known in the United States from New York City's famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, which has dubbed the confection Waldorf-Astoria cake. However, it is widely considered a Southern recipe.[7] Traditionally, red velvet 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.[11][12]

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 was the invention of the department store matriarch, Lady Eaton.[13]

In recent years, red velvet cake and red velvet cupcakes have become increasingly popular in the US and many European countries. A resurgence in the popularity of this cake is attributed by some to the film Steel Magnolias (1989), which included a red velvet groom's cake made in the shape of an armadillo.[7] Magnolia Bakery in Manhattan, has served it since its opening in 1996, as did restaurants known for their Southern cooking like Amy Ruth's in Harlem,[7] which opened in 1998.[14] In 2000,[15] Cake Man Raven opened one of the first bakeries devoted to the cake in Brooklyn.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c Ben Starr (2015-02-07). "Real Red Velvet Cake". 
  2. ^ Shane Wingerd (2009-01-12). "Ermine Wrapped Velvet". 
  3. ^ Crocker, Betty. "Red Velvet Cake". General Mills. Retrieved 21 February 2017. 
  4. ^ "The rediscovery of red velvet has gone way too far". Quartz. 2015. Retrieved December 4, 2016. 
  5. ^ Beard, James (1972). James Beard's American Cookery. Boston: Little, Brown. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ a b c d Fabricant, Florence (14 February 2007). "So Naughty, So Nice". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  8. ^ "Red Velvet Cake". The Big Bake Theory. Retrieved 2016-01-02. 
  9. ^ Parks, Stella (2011-10-02). "The Unknown History of Red Velvet Cake". 
  10. ^ "Red Velvet, the 'Lady Gaga' of cakes, wears well during the holidays". 2011-12-15. Retrieved 2012-11-08. 
  11. ^ Martha Stewart. "Cream Cheese Frosting for Red Velvet Cake". Retrieved 7 July 2016. 
  12. ^ Kim Severson. "Red Velvet Cake: A Classic, Not a Gimmick". Retrieved 7 July 2016. 
  13. ^ Anderson, Carol; Katharine Mallinson (2004). Lunch with Lady Eaton: Inside the Dining Rooms of a Nation. Toronto: ECW Press. ISBN 1-55022-650-9. 
  14. ^ "Amy Ruth's Home-Style Southern Cuisine". New York magazine. Retrieved March 27, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Cake Man Raven has flown the coop — no more red velvet cake in Fort Greene". NY Daily News. November 28, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Red velvet cakes at Wikimedia Commons