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What is Red Velvet Flavor?

Updated on November 27, 2012

Have you ever gone to a bakery and drooled over the goodies behind the glass? Yes, me too. But despite my expert "sweet tooth" tastebuds, the red-tinted goods labeled Red Velvet, always alluded me. What is red velvet flavor?

Turns out, it isn't a flavor at all. It is a name of a type of cake, but what type you ask? That answer isn't so simple.

Is it just red food coloring?

According to Wikipedia, yes. Bakers simply add a dash of the red coloring to give the chocolate cake (which is the normal type of cake that is used) a dark reddish color. So what's the big deal then? Is red velvet just some weird marketing scam?

Now come on, is that really just one slice for one person?
Now come on, is that really just one slice for one person? | Source

A chemistry lesson

Apparently, it isn't really just about food coloring. Adding buttermilk or vinegar (an acidic component) to the recipe helps reveal the reddish tint naturally found in the cocoa powder. But even Wise Geek says the history of red velvet is murky.

There was only one thing left to do; ask a local baker myself.

In my sister's hometown, there is a cupcake shop called Crumbs. I went in one afternoon and did my standard "drool at the counter" routine.

I saw the red velvet cupcake and for a moment thought, Well this is ridiculous. You are so pretty sitting there are red and tantalizing, and I don't even understand how you are made or why you are so popular. I'm not going to buy you, because I don't want to feed the frenzy...although, you do look good. Maybe I'll try...."

I pulled the manager aside, sat her down, gave her serious look, and asked the question I couldn't seem to find the answer to. "What is red velvet?" I asked exasperated.

"It's a mix between a chocolate and vanilla cake with red food coloring." She was so matter-of-fact, as if the red velvet mystery never once bothered her.

Red velvet. A blend of chocolate cake, vanilla cake, and a dash of red food coloring. Well that was easy. I bought 4 of them that day.

Cheesecake lovers beware!
Cheesecake lovers beware! | Source

Red velvet everything

Since I came to grips with the definition, I've ordered red velvet whenever I could. After all, who doesn't like a blend of vanilla and chocolate cake? It is like the best of both worlds! Here are some of my favorites:

Do not confuse red velvet with strawberry or raspberry flavored chocolate cakes! They are not the same. Traditionally red velvet is paired with a cream cheese based frosting. Not exactly low calorie, but delicious.

I think people are attracted to the rich red color simply because red is the color of decadence and love. There is something sexy about eating a dark red piece of cake, rather than boring chocolate or vanilla. Because let's be real, red velvet is simply blending the two traditional cakes together with a bit of food coloring. It's not really that sexy.

These cupcake masters are using red velvet to market their entire business!

But wait- according to some, red velvet isn't a blend of chocolate and vanilla

(oh for the love of....)

Red velvet has southern origins

Ask a baker from the south about red velvet cakes and you'll get an earful. They hold the corner on the market, so if you are looking to replicate an authentic red velvet recipe, make sure you ask a southerner.

This blogger gives us "what for" about the real version of red velvet cake.

She insists that it isn't chocolate cake. Okay, okay! We'll believe you!

How do you feel about red velvet?

See results

Who cares?

The Internet will never you give you a definitive answer on red velvet, so you might as well give up now. All you need to know about the flavor is:

  • It's awesome
  • It isn't truly chocolate
  • It isn't truly vanilla
  • It isn't a fruit cake


The more you eat it, the less you care about what it actually is.


About the author

Julie DeNeen is a freelance writer and "foodie" who found herself mildly resentful of the red velvet cake that snootily paraded itself in bakery displays without any real solid explanation. Her investigation didn't result in too many answers, but she did eat a lot of cake. Oh well.


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    • genna088 profile image


      6 years ago from Tampa, FL

      This is so interesting! My boyfriend is a HUGE red velvet fan and I always wondered what "set it apart." Thanks for this! :)

    • HoneyBB profile image

      H Lax 

      6 years ago

      My neighbor baked me a Red Velvet Cake for my birthday the other day. Before that I was a Red Velvet virgin. I had never even heard of it until then. Now, I can't get enough of it. It's so yummy! She's originally from the south. Her 82nd birthday was the week before mine. Anyhow, now I have to ask her how she makes it.

    • lemonkerdz profile image


      6 years ago from LIMA, PERU

      i must say, it may look scary, a red cake but it is something that is really taking me fancy at the moment. thanks for the research and the explanation as to what red velvet is. it is something i have asked myself as to what is special about Red Velvet. voted up by me. thanks for the hub.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      6 years ago from California

      One of my best friends makes Red Velvet cakes regularly and they are very tasty. Nice hub.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      Vespa Woolf 

      6 years ago from Peru, South America

      This is a fun hub! I velvet is in a mysterious category all its own. I especially love red velvet cupcakes. I didn't even realize Cheesecake Factory makes red velvet cheesecake. Will definitely have to try that! Thanks so much.

    • Nettlemere profile image


      6 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Intrigued by this cake as I've never come across it in the UK ever and I think it sounds weird. Who on earth would want to eat a red cake? But clearly people do and this proved to be an entertaining hub on the subject.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      I can second Stephanie Henkel's comment: never heard of it before moving south, never understood what it was (until about 6 months ago!), and don't think I'll eat a lot of it due to the red food dye addition.

      Cute hub and informative.

    • NativeMichigander profile image


      6 years ago

      Red Velvet is delicious! Always eat it when you have the chance.

    • rcrumple profile image


      6 years ago from Kentucky

      Sorry Julie, Red velvet cake and Key Lime pies are commonplace around the horse racing tracks in Ky. I decided to buy a couple of pieces of it for my wife and I one night at a local Krogers grocery store. As I'm sitting there eating it, I notice something moving on the bottom of the saucer. Yep, tiny little bugs, some say flour bugs of sort, were crawling around. You are now having the same reaction I did when I saw them. Have never had another piece, nor bought anything else from the bakery at Krogers. I know protein is protein, but even I have my limits. Good hub though! : )

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, I can safely say that is everything I will ever need to know about red velvet. I think you have given us all we will ever need to learn about it. :) Nice job, Julie! I do articles like this for a customer of mine, like the origins of brulee....but never anything as well done as this one!

    • Ruchira profile image


      6 years ago from United States

      Well said, Julie. It is a chemical reaction that is so attractive and delicious. I love these cakes cause they give a festive moment to an occasion.

    • jenbeach21 profile image


      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Very interesting hub! I love red velvet cake and I thought the ingredients would be a little more than chocolate and vanilla cake combined. Voted up and shared!

    • hotwebideas profile image

      Bruce Chamoff 

      6 years ago from New York

      That's amazing and a great article. I like the taste of red velvet, but never knew it was just chocolate and vanilla cake combined. I guess we can make blue velvet too. My daughter loves red velvet ice cream. I heard a year ago that red velvet has dead mosquito parts in it, but I never believed it.

    • Gypsy48 profile image


      6 years ago

      Very interesting hub! I could eat a whole red velvet cake by myself. I think the name "red velvet" just makes you want to try it:) Voted up and awesome

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      What about $12.00? I couldn't believe it either. That was what Jardinere was selling a serving of my daughter;s "Red Velvet Fantasy" for. It is just cake and vanilla ice cream. "it's the price that moves it," she said to me.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Red Velvet Cake to me is the most addictive dessert I've ever tasted. Even though I'm a lifelong North Carolinian- no one in our family made it or brought to any events so I didn't try it until college. And as soon as I tried it, I yelled out "This is my wedding cake." While I've yet to work the other details of my nuptials- say a groom- I still stand by that!

      But the history has always eluded me. I heard once that vinegar is included in the recipe for the red coloring but beyond that I wasn't certain of what else was involved.

      I've had that Red Velvet Cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory and nearly fainted. It was so delicious.

      Great hub- now I want some Red Velvet!

    • daisydayz profile image

      Chantele Cross-Jones 

      6 years ago from Cardiff

      You know what? I always wondered too! I'm in the UK so its not actually very popular here, but I watch a lot of US TV cookery and Baking shows so always see it.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      6 years ago from USA

      I do find it strange that people can offer this cake without truly explaining what red velvet is, but it is so delicious, that I can forgive them easily. I followed the link, and I think that everyone is going to have their favorite version. Sure they say you have to have pecans, but I haven't had one yet that did. Thanks for the trying to get to the heart of the matter, and eating so much cake for us!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      6 years ago from USA

      I never heard of red velvet cake until I came to the South. Loved your article and the story of your research, but I have to admit that the cake, while it looks delicious, scares me a little with the amount of red food dye that goes into it. I've never had a homemade red velvet cake - just the box mix version - but I do love the butter cream icing and I'll bet the homemade cake is luscious! Fun hub, voted up! :)

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      6 years ago from New York, New York

      Wow, Julie we have a Crumbs around here too and love that place. The cupcakes are just to die for! I loved your explanation on Red Velvet Cake and loved even more how you asked the manager of Crumbs this question. Great job and have voted/shared all over too!!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Funny and interesting! My mom has made red velvet cake for years (as did her mother). I've always thought it strange that this red velvet craze only started up recently. Mom's recipe calls for cocoa powder, buttermilk and red food color, among other things. We especially love the buttercream frosting.

      So glad you did your "research" here - I do think its a bit of a marketing ploy.... but a tasty one at that. ;)


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