What Flavor Is Red Velvet, Actually?

Cupcakes are fine, sure, but they hardly seem worth paying a premium. Perhaps my anti-cupcake bias comes from the fact that I lived in New York at the height of the fancy cupcake boom. Friends would wait in line for hours to spend a small fortune purchasing a half dozen teensy cake morsels, and I simply could not abide it.

The one exception, I must admit, is red velvet cupcakes. I don’t know why, but somehow, they are, to my mind, the most gorgeous and delicious of all cupcakes. I admit I have special ordered a box of them from a bougie Brooklyn bakery. No regrets! They were delicious. 

And yet, I am pretty ignorant of what the flavor of these cakes actually is. What is red velvet cake made of? What is red velvet flavor? Is red velvet a flavor or is it just chocolate with red food coloring? Let’s find out. 

What flavor is red velvet?

All right, let’s cut the suspense. Red velvet’s distinctive flavor is not merely a trick of the senses that comes from dying chocolate red. No, in fact, red velvet batter contains a mixture of vanilla and a dash of cocoa, plus more vinegary tartness than you might find in a typical cake. Red velvet cake is usually topped with a cream cheese frosting as well, which is quite strong and might be the most distinctive part of the whole cake. 

When prepared correctly, the “velvet” in the red velvet should be particularly meaningful—the texture of red velvet is smooth, fine, and soft. 

How to make red velvet cake:

Let’s get more specific here. How can you make a red velvet cake to impress all your friends, or just eat by yourself in one sitting in an orgy of deliciousness? The good food folks at Allrecipes have a solid, simple recipe you can get started on right now! 

For the cake, you will need white sugar, shortening, eggs, cocoa, buttermilk (to help with some of that signature tanginess), salt, vanilla extract, flour, vinegar (more tang), baking soda, and of course, red food coloring. The icing in this case is made from milk, flour, sugar, butter, and vanilla extract. 

Grease the pan, mix the wet and dry cake ingredients, pour them in, throw the pan in the preheated oven for about half an hour. Make the frosting, wait for the cake to cool, and slather it on. Voila, you’ve got red velvet! 

If you’re looking for a way to avoid artificial ingredients, red velvet cake is perfectly delicious without the dye, though of course it will have a brownish hue instead of the traditional red. You can also use natural dyes such as beets, but keep in mind this might alter the taste of the cake slightly, so plan and experiment accordingly! 

What do you think? Now that you have unraveled the secrets of red velvet, is it more enticing than ever, or is the mystery gone? 

About the Author

Matt Crowley

Matt Crowley is a comedy writer living in Los Angeles. He likes maple-flavored snacks, loves every kind of cheese, and is slowly learning to accept mushrooms.

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  • Sour Cream frosting is NOT the usual Red Velvet cake frosting. CREAM CHEESE frosting is.

    • It says cream cheese….