What is Red Velvet Cake? A Cake Legend Explained

Everybody loves Red Velvet Cake! It is not only our bestselling Celebration Cake here at Jack & Beyond but lots of bakeries nowadays offer a version of this deliciously fluffy cake due to its immense popularity. It is a true crowd pleaser which makes it the perfect dessert or cake choice to celebrate a special occasion. But what exactly is Red Velvet Cake and what makes it so irresistible?

Red Velvet Cake Characteristics

A typical Red Velvet Cake is usually comprised of at least two layers of light and fluffy sponge cake with an eye-catching red colour and a subtle chocolate flavour. The secret behind the extra fluffy texture of the Red Velvet Sponge lies in adding cocoa powder, buttermilk and vinegar or vegetable oil to the classic cake mix. The stunning red colour is created by using food colouring which makes it easy to play with different shades of red depending on how much you add to the batter.

The sponges are then sandwiched and lathered in a white or cream coloured Vanilla Frosting which really makes the red hue pop when you cut the cake. The frosting is typically cream cheese based and brings out the flavour of the sponge nicely. The photo below shows the bright red sponges revealed:


Red Velvet Cake Cut                          

Getting hungry just reading this? You are not alone, Red Velvet is so popular amongst cake enthusiasts that you can now find it in many different forms apart from the classic cake such as Cupcakes, Cookies or Brownies. But where did its success story actually begin?

Red Velvet Brownies
Red Velvet Brownies

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcakes


Where does Red Velvet Cake Originate from?

Whilst the Red Velvet Cake’s popularity has seen a peak specifically in recent years, it has been around for quite some time. Recipes for “velvety” cakes were first developed in America in the 1800’s when cake makers started to experiment with adding cocoa, almond flour or cornstarch to the batter. They discovered that these ingredients cause the protein in flour to break down which then resulted in a very fine and fluffy cake texture - hence the term “velvet cake”. These recipes were perfected over the years and cake legend has it that the first modern Red Velvet Cake was served at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in the 1920’s.

Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake
The famous Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake

The origin of the reddish colour in the sponge of these early Red Velvet Cakes is a little controversial as some cake experts claim that it resulted from a chemical reaction triggered by mixing cocoa and acid whilst others say it came from the brown sugar first used in these recipes which was also called “red sugar”. The bright red hue we see today was introduced by a food-dye and extract salesman called John A. Adams who tried the Red Velvet Cake and had the brilliant idea to boost his sales by publishing a recipe for it that contained red food dye.

How to Store and Serve Red Velvet Cake

A freshly baked Red Velvet Cake can last between 5-7 days if stored correctly in the refrigerator.

This cake really shines on its own and does not need additions such as whipped cream or sauces but it goes really well with tea or coffee.

Pro Tip: When cutting a Red Velvet Cake use a long knife dipped in hot water and wipe the knife clean between each slice to avoid getting red cake crumbs all over that lovely white icing!




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