top of page

What is Red Velvet Cake, Really?

Red Velvet Cake looks so luxurious - like a sweet, creamy, expensive version of a regular cake, but so much better. Despite the popularity of red velvet cake in recent years, most people have no idea what the dessert really is, assuming it's a chocolate cake with lots of red food colouring. Although a traditional red velvet cake has elements of a chocolate cake, there are a few key ingredients that set it apart from other cakes.

Red Velvet Cake

Where Does the Red Velvet Cake Come From?

Before the 1920s, Red Velvet Cake was more of a rusty colour than the lighter scarlet you typically see today. A chemical reaction between some key ingredients took place (more on that in a moment) to naturally create that deeper reddish tone. Naturally, in the 1920s, the Adams Extract food colouring company wanted to sell more food colouring and released a recipe using red food colouring that really brought the colour up to what we typically see today.

What Makes Red Velvet Cake Red?

Today, the red hue in red velvet cake usually comes from red food colouring. However, as noted above, the colour initially appeared when the sour cake ingredients reacted with non-Dutch cocoa powder.

What Can I Substitute For Red Food Coloring In Red Velvet Cake?

Instead of artificial red colouring, use natural red colourings such as beet juice, beet powder (dried ground beets), pomegranate powder or cranberry powder. Keep in mind that some of these ingredients may affect the flavour of Red Velvet Cake.

What Does Red Velvet Cake Taste Like?

The Red Velvet Cake has a very mild cocoa flavour with a slightly tart note. Cream cheese frosting is the most advanced flavour. The texture is perhaps even more important than taste: smooth, soft, delicate and light with a creamy glaze.

Is the Red Velvet Cake Just Red?

As the name suggests, the red velvet cake should be red in colour. Red Velvet Cakes also uses cocoa powder. But the important thing is to give it the red colour and make the cake more tender, without turning it into a chocolate cake.

Red Velvet Cake

The Evolution of the Red Velvet Cake:

World War II and Beets

Since World War II, many baking products were rationed, forcing some chefs to use beet juice to make the Red Velvet Cake. Not only did this add a red tinge to the cake, but it also made it very moist. Recipes for beetroot velvet cake can still be found today.

Adams Extract Company

The red velvet cake is very popular with most food colouring manufacturers. The bright colour of the red velvet cake was very eye-catching and the recipes eventually encouraged the use of red food colouring. A Texas company called the Adams Extract Company has started selling bottled red food colouring with torn recipe cards for red velvet cakes. And since their goal was to sell more food colours, the recipe took a long time to bring the cake from its auburn roots to the striking red we know today.

Waldorf Astoria Hotel

Around the same time, New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel began selling its famous red velvet cake, the Waldorf Astoria Cake, and the hotel still claims to be the birthplace of the cake today. At the same time, Toronto's Eaton department store began selling Red Velvet Cake, and the creator was credited with Lady Eaton. But historians generally agree that these two establishments only benefited from a cake that was already very popular across the country.


In recent history, the red velvet cake has become synonymous with the Juneteenth party. The colour red not only symbolizes the bloodshed of slaves who have never known freedom, but it is also a symbol of spiritual strength and transformation in West African cultures. That's why you'll find tables filled with red soda (like Texas's Big Red Soda), watermelon, grill, and red velvet cake.

Who We Are?

At Pearls and Crumbs, we specialize in creating bespoke cakes for weddings, celebrations and special events. We have created and delivered wedding cakes to prestigious venues across London and the surrounding areas. For any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on 07985689931


15 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page