Someone's favorite cake flavor says a lot about them. Those who favor vanilla might be a bit classier, and chocolate fiends are a good time. Lemon lovers keep it clean, and misunderstood folks go for the red velvet. Red velvet is somewhat of a mystery to most people whether they love or hate it, and people usually fall under one extreme. If you find yourself asking 'what is red velvet?' here is what you need to know. 

Where Did Red Velvet Come From?

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Casey Irwin

First appearing in some variation in the 1800s, the cake had a mahogany look to it that was similar to devil's food cake. 

The cake got a second wind with The Great Depression. A more subtle red velvet cake was a good way to make use of the dye that people could not afford during the tough financial times. No one was asking what is red velvet, but more so just comparing the softer texture to that of velvet due to the dye and butter recipe used at the time.

How Is Red Velvet Made?

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Casey Irwin

Thanks to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in 1938, the cake was traditionally nothing more than buttermilk, vinegar, cocoa powder, and coffee, with plenty of red dye. This is very similar to any chocolate cake made from scratch, and similar recipes are used to this day.

Comparing several original recipes online, what makes red velvet different is really just the red dye and some added vinegar. The vinegar, buttermilk, cocoa, and dye all react to create the flavor and color that we are familiar with

Is it Healthier Than Chocolate Cake?

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Casey Irwin

Chocolate cake and red velvet are no different health-wise, due to their similar ingredients. The only concern is the red dye itself, considering most boxed cake mixes use Red 40. The Center for Science in the Public Interest says too much consumption of this dye can be a concern. While rare, hypersensitivity can be a side effect of too much red dye consumption. 

The thing to remember here is that while red velvet contains a few tablespoons of red dye on average, you shouldn't be concerned unless you're eating it a lot and very often. 

What Does Red Velvet Taste Like?

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Casey Irwin

Anyone who has wondered what red velvet cake is probably thinks it's very similar to chocolate cake. Even boxed red velvet cake mix could be mistaken for chocolate cake until you add the dye and suddenly the bowl is pink and red.

The slight difference in ingredients between the two seems to tone down the richness of the cocoa, making it perfect for people who enjoy chocolate but don't need as much of it as is in a traditional chocolate cake.

One essential pairing with red velvet is cream cheese frosting. The unlikely couple is just wrong enough to make it so right. Red velvet has become a cultural staple as of late, with red velvet cupcakes and red velvet cheesecake brownies popping up on menus everywhere. Whether red velvet it your favorite or not, you have to give it credit for its rich color and versatility.