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What Exactly is Red Velvet?

Some of you may already know this, but I've always wondered what makes red velvet cake red and what makes it different from any other cake? I did a little wiki-research and came up with this interesting information:
  • A red velvet cake is a type of rich and sweet cake, with a distinctive dark red to bright red or red-brown color. Common ingredients include buttermilk, butter, flour, cocoa powder, and often either beets, or red food coloring.
  • James Beard's 1972 reference American Cookery describes three kinds of red velvet cake varying in the amounts of shortening and butter used. All of them use red food coloring for the color, but it is mentioned that the reaction of acidic vinegar and buttermilk tends to turn the cocoa a reddish brown color
  • The use of red dye to make "Red Velvet" cake was probably started after the introduction of the darker cocoa in order to reproduce the earlier color. It is also notable that while foods were rationed during World War II, some bakers used boiled beets to enhance the color of their cakes.
  • Red velvet cakes seemed to find a home in the U.S. South and reached peak popularity in the 1950s
  • A resurgence in the popularity of this cake is partly attributed to the 1989 film Steel Magnolias in which the groom's cake (another southern tradition) is a red velvet cake made in the shape of an armadillo.

I think I'm going to try this recipe from Paul Dean this weekend, it's got to be wonderful!

*all images from flickr


  1. did you enter my giveaway? sprinkles red cupcake mix may be involved...YUMMY

  2. Yum! Good luck...let us know how it turns out!

  3. Red velvet is my favorite! I would have never guessed beats were used.

  4. All I know is that red velvet may be one of the best things about living in the South now.

    ...that and Chick fil As every 2.2 feet.

  5. red velvet is my favorite type of cake, i sometimes just made a light chocolate cake and add red food coloring.

  6. it's my favorite. it was in our wedding cake and i make red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing every chance i get. yummy! your photos are making my drool.

  7. I looove that part of steel magnilias when they say they'll be hacking into that cake and it'll look like it's bleedin to death! Oh how I looove sally field!

  8. Red velvet cakes ARES the South. We lived in CO now and a little cupcake bakery just velvet cupcakes...try explaining that to a population of 100K people.

  9. Mom my always made a red velvet cake for me for my birthday on December 24th. I love them!


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