- Food and Cooking
What IS Red Velvet Flavor?
A Unique Flavor that's Hard to Put Your Finger On
I'd never even heard of red velvet flavor until my husband gave it a try at a self-serve frozen yogurt place last year.
"What's that? Cherry?" I asked, looking at his dish with a scowl. (I could feel my forehead wrinkle.) With all the interesting flavors, why would he get that?
"Nope, it's red velvet," he replied, lifting a big spoonful to his face. Then he scooped again and held the spoon up to me. "Try it."
Cautiously, I sampled about a third of what was offered. Hm....
It's not chocolate, but maybe it kinda-sorta is. It's not fruity ... but, well, maybe a little bit. And then there's something else, but I can't pin it down. A little vanilla-ish? Sweet but not overpowering. And why is it red, anyway?
Well, since that first "interesting" taste, which I repeated several more times from my husband's dish of yogurt that day, I've tried red velvet in a few different forms -- cakes, cookies, more frozen yogurt -- and I must say that, while I've about given up trying to figure out exactly what flavor red velvet really is, it's grown on me.
Red velvet -- loved by many, shunned by others, and still others aren't quite sure.
Here, I've collected some information about the flavor along with a variety of recipes with videos you can follow along with, red velvet mixes and even ready-made red velvet baked goods you can order and have delivered fresh for parties, pot-lucks, gifts or for just you and your family to enjoy.
Haven't experienced this somewhat un-U-sual flavor yet? Great, give it a try and let me know what you think.
What is the Flavor of Red Velvet?
Describing the Taste
My husband says it's kinda like cocoa mixed with vanilla bean mixed with a hint of coconut.
Coconut? No way.
I suggested there's a hint of cherry or some other kind of berry, but Jeremy added his own scowling "no way" to that.
We do agree, though, that red velvet tastes more like white cake than chocolate, although the red coloring always throws us off.
That red usually comes from food coloring, by the way, although some recipes call for grated beets or beet baby food, which not only makes the mix red but also helps retain moisture. (That's something bakers did during World War II when food was being rationed, the red enhancing the color and appeal of their cakes.) You can find one of these "all natural" red velvet recipes with beets in Seeing Red on the Bitter Sweet blog.
Others compare red velvet cake to Devil's Food cake ... which is just chocolate, isn't it? Sorry, I don't concur.
But most descriptions I've read generally tend to avoid the question, resorting to adjectives like "moist" and "reddish" or "reddish-brown" and the very creative attribute, "velvety."
From there, many jump right to talking about the common cream cheese or buttercream frostings and fillings, which are much easier to wrap their taste buds around.
Even some eloquent articles, like the New York Times' So Naughty, So Nice, use a lot of great descriptions to basically say they have no idea where red velvet came from or what exactly it tastes like that we can all relate to.
What it boils down to, I think, is that red velvet is just it's own unique, indistinguishable, rather mild yet sweet flavor that tastes like ... well, cake. And it sure looks pretty.
You can buy that flavor, too. Red velvet emulsion -- with color -- comes in a bottle like the one pictured above.
Do You Like the Red Velvet Flavor? - And how would you describe it?
For those who are just ho-hum about this amorphous flavor in red, sorry, this section only allows for two choices. I know a lot of people love red velvet, while others totally turn up their noses, but there are also those who just can't quite decide.
What do you think of red velvet?
Red Velvet Cakes
The Most Common Incarnation of Red Velvet: The Cake
Most red velvet cakes are light and airy layered cakes or are at least topped with some variation of cream cheese or buttercream frosting, like this scrum-dilicious recipe from Martha Stewart.
Or make one of these pretty cheesecakes from scratch with this recipe from The Food Network.
Make Red Velvet Layer Cake from Scratch
A simple recipe from Gretchen Price of Gretchen's Bakery, formerly known as the Crumb Boss
You'll find this and other delicious recipes on the Gretchen's Bakery blog.
Watch this cake being made in the video below ... in which Gretchen confidently tells you how red velvet cake came to be red in the first place. She sure sounds like she knows what she's talking about.
- 2 -1/2 cups All Purpose flour
- 1 -1/2 cups sugar
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
- 6 oz. vegetable oil
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 Tbso red food coloring
- 1 tsp. white vinegar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder.
- Mix together the vegetable oil, food coloring and vinegar.
- Add all liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Add eggs last.
- Do a whisking, folding action while turning the bowl.
- In two round greased baking pans, divide the cake mix and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
- For the cream cheese filling and icing:
- Combine 3 cups of cream cheese, 1 stick of butter at room temperature, 2-1/4 cup of confectioner's sugar, and 2 tsp. of clear vanilla extract. (The icing can be stored in the refrigerator for as long as a week or frozen up to a month, but thaw completely a re-stir before using.)
- You can top with red velvet cake crumbles with excess you can trim off the cakes to even them out.
Video Recipe: Red Velvet Cake - Watch Gretchen at Gretchen's Bakery make this delicious recipe....
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Send the Gift of Cupcakes to a Sweetheart
Red velvet cupcakes are great for serving at parties and potlucks and giving out as sweet gifts for the holidays, whether you make them yourself or buy them freshly baked.
Combine them with a cute teddy bear, a piece of jewelry and a sweet homemade card, and you'll have that special someone smiling ... as she or he digs into the cupcakes.
Make Red Velvet Cupcakes from Scratch
A recipe from Laura in the Kitchen
Laura in the Kitchen is an interactive cooking show hosted by Laura Vitale. You can watch Laura make this recipe in the video below.
Serves: Makes 11 - 12 cupcakes
- 1 -1/4 cup of all Purpose Flour
- 2 Tbsp of Cocoa Powder
- 1/2 tsp of Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp of Baking Soda
- 1/4 tsp of Salt
- 1/4 cup of Unsalted Butter softened at room temperature
- 3/4 cup of Granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup of Buttermilk
- 1 Egg
- 1 tsp of Vanilla Extract
- Red food Coloring
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F,
- Line muffin tins with cupcake liners.
- In a small bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In a mixer or separate mixing bowl, combine the sugar and butter, then add the egg and vanilla and mix until well until creamy.
- With your mixer on low (or if you're mixing by hand) add half of the dry ingredients and half of the buttermilk. Once that's combined, add the rest of the dry ingredients and buttermilk and mix again.
- Using a spatula, scrape the batter from the bottom of the mixing bowl to make sure no dry ingredients are left stuck to the side or bottom.
- Add the desired amount of food coloring to get the red color you want for your cupcakes.
- Fill your cupcake cups evenly -- you can use a spoon or an ice cream scoop -- and bake 18 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the middle of the cupcakes comes out clean.
- Let the cupcakes cool completely before adding the frosting.
- To make the frosting you'll need:
- 2 Cups of Powdered Sugar
- 4 oz of Cream Cheese, softened at room temperature
- 2 Tbsp of Unsalted Butter, softened at room temperature
- 1 Tbsp of Milk
- 1 tsp of Vanilla Extract
- Simply mix all these ingredients until well combined and it has the consistency of a thick frosting.
Video: How to Make Red Velvet Cupcakes
A Red Velvet Cupcake Mix
Preheat your oven to 350F, then line ar 12-muffin pan with baking cups. Empty contents of the large pouch into a bowl, and stir in eggs, water and oil into the cake mix until moistened. Spoon the batter evenly into the liners, then bake in the center of the oven for 20-25 minutes. The cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
For the frosting, mix softened butter with an electric mixer on high for 1 minute (or use a lot of elbow grease and stir energetically) until the butter is light and fluffy. Slowly add the frosting mix to the butter while mixing on low speed. Then add water while continuing to mix. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and mix on high for 2 more minutes. Fill the pastry bag that's included with the frosting. Cut about half an inch off the tip of the pastry bag and insert it into the top of cupcake and fill with approximately 1 tablespoon of frosting. Slowly remove the pastry bag and swirl another tablespoon of frosting on top.
Go Red Velvet, Gluten-Free
This Gluten Free Red Velvet Cupcake Mix from Heartland Gourmet contains....
- Granulated sugar
- Gluten free flour mix (rice flour, brown rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, corn starch, xanthan gum)
- Cocoa powder (10 - 12% fat)
- Nonfat dry milk
- Non-aluminum baking powder
- Baking soda
- Red food coloring (FD&C #40)
This mix makes approximately a dozen large or two dozen mini cupcakes and comes with a cream cheese icing recipe.
Make Red Velvet Brownies from Scratch
A recipe from "CookedbyJulia"
See the video of Julia preparing this recipe below.
- 4 oz bittersweet chocolate
- 1 stick of unsalted butter
- 1 -3/4 cups sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 -1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 -1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp red food coloring
- Boil a pot of water to melt the chocolate and butter in a heat-proof bowl, making sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl so you don't burn the chocolate.
- Remove from heat and add sugar, then stir.
- Crack eggs into a separate bowl to prevent getting shell in the chocolate. You can add one egg at a time to the chocolate mix if you want to make mixing easier or mix them in all at once.
- Add vanilla extract and mix well.
- Add food coloring, as much or as little as you want.
- In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt and whisk together.
- Fold dry ingredients into wet mix. Don't over mix, so the brownies won't be cakey.
- Line a baking dish with buttered parchment paper and pour in your brownie mix, then even it out with a spatula.
- To Make the Cream Cheese Frosting you'll need:
- 1 stick of unsalted butter
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 3 cups of powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Mix the ingredients. You can add a little milk if the frosting seems too thick for you. If it's too sweet, add a little lemon juice.
- Cool brownies completely before adding the frosting, so the frosting doesn't melt.
Video Recipe: Red Velvet Brownies Made by Julia
Make Red Velvet Whoopie Pies from Scratch - Whoopie Pies with Cream Cheese Filling
You can watch this recipe from Cookies, Cupcakes and Cardio (their blog) in their video below, but first here's the recipe written out for you, so you can print it if you'd like.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
- Â½ tsp. baking powder
- Â¼ tsp. salt
- 8 tbsp. unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
- 2 tsp red gel paste or liquid food color
- Preheat over to 375 degrees F.
- Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa until incorporated together and set to the side.
- Cream the butter with a mixer or hand-held beater.
- Add brown sugar to butter. Mix well.
- Add the egg and vanilla extract.
- Add red gel paste (1 tsp) or food coloring (1 oz) or more if you want the cake to be redder. Mix.
- Add dry ingredients in one-third intervals, mixing slowly.
- Add half of the buttermilk while continuing to mix.
- Add another third of the flour mixture.
- Add the rest of the buttermilk.
- Add the rest of the flour, mix and scrape the bowl to make sure the flour is all mixed in.
- Optional: use a heart-shaped fondant cutter or cookie cutter to trace shapes onto wax paper where you want to pipe the batter. Flip the wax paper over, pencil on the bottom.
- Place batter in a piping bag with a 1-A tip and squeeze it out into the shapes you drew. Or squeeze into circles.
- Bake 7 - 9 minutes.
- Prepare buttercream filling.
- Pipe buttercream with a 2-A tip onto half of one whoopie pie (or you can use a spoon).
Ingredients and Instructions for the Simple Cream Cheese Filling
- 1/2 Cup Butter
- 9 Ounces Cream Cheese
- 2 Teaspoons Vanilla
- 2 1/2 Cups Icing Sugar or confectioner's sugar
- You'll also need a frosting knife and spatula
- Mix cream cheese, butter and vanilla slowly with an electric mixer or mix by hand.
- Turn speed to medium and continue to mix for two minutes.
- Scrape bowl to get the remaining dry ingredients mixed in.
- Add half the sugar and mix in, about 30 seconds on medium.
- Stop and scrape bowl, then add the rest of the sugar, mix again. Scrape bowl and then mix for two more minutes to get all the lumps out.
- Frosting should be fluffy and light.
See the Betty Crocker recipe for
including pudding, marshmallow cream and berries
Watch This Recipe Being Made by Jen with Instructions for you to Follow
You can also watch the video for making the cream cheese filling.
Yep, Red Velvet for Breakfast Too
Red velvet pancakes can range from a very mild taste to sweet, so you might need to do some trial and error with the batter to get it just right for your palate by varying the amount of sugar. You can always substitute sugar with Splenda, Stevia or another sweetener that you prefer.
Red velvet pancakes can be served with syrup, whipped cream or berries, just like regular pancakes. They're also delicious with a cream cheese glaze.
Make Red Velvet Heart-Shaped Pancakes
From scratch or with a mix
This mix has 180 calories per serving, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 25mg cholesterol, and 10% of your recommended daily value of Iron. A serving is two 5-inch pancakes, and each package of mix makes 5 servings.
Make Your Own Red Pancakes
A Recipe from Baking Bites
See this and lots more recipes, cookbook and kitchen gear and gadget reviews, food news and more on the Baking Bites blog.
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tbsp melted butter or vegetable oil
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3/4 tsp red food coloring
- Preheat a lightly greased or nonstick skillet.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar with a whisk.
- Add the egg, melted butter, buttermilk, vanilla and food coloring.
- Mix well until the batter is smooth with few remaining lumps.
- Drop the batter onto the skillet and cook until the edges just begin to set and the bottom is lightly browned.
- Flip once and cook again until bottom is lightly browned.
- For thinner pancakes, add an additional 2 tbsp buttermilk to the batter.
More Red Velvet Recipes, Reading and Resources
- Heart-Shaped Heritage Red Velvet Cake
This is a pretty bright red, dense red velvet cake that makes a great gift for Valentine's day or any day you want to show someone you love them with something sweet.
- Decadent Red Velvet Dessert Recipes
From classic layer cakes to souffles, here are 10 recipes from Southern Living.
- A Recipe for Red Velvet Ice Cream
With cream cheese frosting swirl ... by Annie's Eats
- Red Velvet Shortbread Cookies
A treat from Better Homes and Gardens
- The Unknown History of Red Velvet Cake
No beets, no sugar shortages: How America's most nostalgic cake really came to be -- by Stella Parks from GiltTaste.com
- Little Known Facts About Red Velvet Cake
An interesting read by Kassidy Emmerson, Yahoo! Contributor Network
© 2013 Deb Kingsbury