Red velvet cake is one of the most popular desserts in America. It’s loved for its moist, tender crumb and tangy cream cheese frosting. It is the perfect treat for any occasion and makes a festive centerpiece on holidays like Valentine’s Day or Christmas. It’s also a holiday favorite for patriotic occasions like Memorial Day or Fourth of July. This recipe is for a classic 2-layer cake that is easy to make and turns out beautifully every time.
It’s important to use a high quality cocoa powder in this recipe. Look for natural cocoa powder that hasn’t been Dutch-processed. This gives the cake a more authentic flavor and a subtle red tint that doesn’t overwhelm the other flavors of the cake. Using buttermilk in this recipe is also very important. It adds a tangy flavor to the cake and helps it rise. The acidic nature of the buttermilk also reacts with the natural cocoa to create its signature reddish color.
Many people believe that the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel is responsible for the creation of this iconic American dessert. However, it is more likely that it was a combination of factors including the 1989 chick flick Steel Magnolias that helped propel this luscious confection into its current status. Regardless of who invented it, few cakes can boast such a wide and varied following.
This is a very simple recipe that can be made from scratch. It is important to measure your ingredients carefully. Always use a scale to ensure the accuracy of your measurements. This is especially important when making this cake and other recipes that call for precise measurements. This will help you get the best results and avoid any over or under cooking. It is also essential to use unsalted butter. This will help you control the amount of salt that is added to the cake.
It is also important to use a high-quality food coloring. This will give the cake a vivid, true red and won’t interfere with the texture of the cake. If you are unable to find red food coloring, red gel can be used.
Before the 1920s, red velvet cakes were more of a rust color than the vibrant scarlet that we see in modern recipes. The difference is that in the 1920s, a food color company called Adams Extract decided to sell more of their red food coloring (affiliate link). The cake was popularized as a result and became the cake we know and love today.
Although some recipes still call for beets or beet juice to create the red hue, most experts now agree that it is a result of the natural chemical reactions between the buttermilk, cocoa powder and baking soda. The acidic nature of the buttermilk activates the baking soda and the anthocyanin in the natural cocoa powder reacts with it to produce the distinctive reddish-brown color that we associate with this beloved dessert.