Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"They Actually Eat That:" Red Velvet Cake.

It seems like red velvet is everywhere these days. Baskin Robbins even had red velvet ice cream, at one point. Pink velvet has also become a thing; it's like red velvet, only oddly muted. It's hard to walk down a candy or ice cream aisle without seeing red velvet somewhere.'s a thing.

But just what the hell is it? The name seems to be everywhere. Does it really have a meaning?

First off, let's get to what it's not. Red velvet cake is not generic red-colored cake. You don't just put some red food dye into cake batter and call it red velvet. No, you call it bad red velvet with likely really cheap buttercream frosting. Unfortunately, we have tasted red velvet that was indeed that bad - cafeteria stuff, go figure.

The real secret to red velvet is not some super-ultra-chemical made by Starbucks. Beets (i.e, vegetables) and cocoa are the keys to making red velvet anything. How much of each you use depends on the particular recipe. Food coloring is also present in most recipes. There is no best one - just avoid any that look neon red. Point is, although red food coloring is always in there, red cake is not always red velvet.

This IS red velvet.

It's also nothing new. Red velvet cake has been around since at least the Great Depression, when Adams Extracts, a Texan company, propagated red velvet via recipe cards and easy access to food coloring. The most popular recipe actually originates from New York, although some companies still pay homage to the cake's southern origins.  It also usually has "ermine" or whipped cream cheese frosting, making it taste like a cheesecake with less cheese and more cake. Mm.

Is red velvet a fad? Only in that everybody and their mother seems to be copying it. The cake has been around for a while and will likely continue to be popular. We'd like to see someone try and market blue cake as something special- there's a lot of potential, there. 

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