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Red Velvet Cake

Tender, and not too sweet, Red Velvet cake is a superstar, appearing on restaurant dessert lists, at dinner parties and in foodie trend guides worldwide. 


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With its rosy-red complexion and traditional snow-white frosting, Red Velvet Cake is downright stunning. Like many celebrities, however, Red Velvet cake is the subject of numerous rumors. Here we decided to clear up a few of these mysteries.

Where Did It Come From? 

Conventional wisdom says Red Velvet cake is a Southern invention. While it’s true that it has always been enjoyed in the South (and some say that it was “perfected” there), this is an all-American cake with roots across the country and beyond. Red Velvet was the “signature cake” of New York City’s Waldorf Astoria in the 1920s, and it was very popular north of the border, in Canada, during the ‘40s and ‘50s. The cake’s “cameo”—as an armadillo-shaped groom’s cake (with gray frosting!)—in the 1989 film, “Steel Magnolias” brought it even more fame. Its popularity has only grown since then. 

What's That Flavor?

One of the most rampant rumors is that Red Velvet cake is full of chocolate. The truth is that chocolate—in the form of cocoa—is just one ingredient. According to Marsha and Todd of New Haven, Connecticut’s The Cupcake Truck (who prefer not to use their last names to keep the focus on their product), the subtle flavor cocoa delivers is part of the cake’s magic. “Todd calls Red Velvet Cake the ‘cousin of chocolate cake,’” explains Marsha, who does the baking. They’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Red Velvet cake because it is so popular with their customers. “That’s what makes the cake so great,” says Todd. “That hint of chocolate! There’s something smooth about it, there’s a mystique.” “And there’s that color,” says Marsha. “When it comes down to it, cake should just make you happy.” 

Why Is It So Red? 

There are a number of rumors swirling around about where Red Velvet cake gets its singular hue. One is that beets are involved. Though some pastry chefs swear by the root vegetable as the primary coloring agent (and beets were a popular ingredient during WWII, when sugar rationing was the rule), not everyone adds beets to their batter. We couldn’t convince The Cupcake Truck folks to share their secret Red Velvet cake recipe, but Marsha did tell us the real reason for the cake’s signature crimson color. “It’s a chemical reaction between the cocoa and the buttermilk [in our recipe],” she explains. 

Why Serve It On Valentine's Day? 

That’s an easy one to clear up: Red Velvet Cake is red (like a Valentine should be), it’s versatile (think cupcakes, mini cupcakes, layer cakes) and it’s so good! Here are some great ideas for creating homemade Red Velvet Valentines for everyone on your Valentine’s Day list. We suggest using Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® German Chocolate cake mix to make it easy. Just add red food coloring and a little cocoa for a more authentic flavor—our Red Velvet Torte with White Truffle Frosting recipe has all the details. 

Sweets for Your Sweetie 

Nothing says “Be Mine” like a little extra sweetness. Some ideas: 

  • Make it hot! Add even more charm to your Red Velvet Cupcakes by using red-hot cinnamon heart candies as decoration. For cupcakes, just sprinkle a few on top of the frosting. 
  • Design a terrific topper If you prefer the lusciousness of a layer cake, why not mark each slice with its own Valentine using a cookie cutter (heart-shaped, of course) as a stencil to decorate the top of the cake? The steps: 1) Place the cookie cutter on the frosting. 2) Spoon candies into the cutter to make the design. 3) Repeat all around the top of the cake. 
  • Pour your heart into it Bake Red Velvet cake in miniature heart-shaped pans (available at cake supply stores and online). Top each miniature cake with your choice of frosting (we like Betty Crocker’s Cream Cheese or Whipped Cream flavor)—or leave them plain, perhaps with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar. Place each “heart” on a plate. For the finishing touch, top with a drizzle of melted chocolate.

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