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Fay Jai

Red Velvet Cake

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I just finished watching an episode of Oprah where her friend Gale went around the country on a quest to find the best cake. They mentioned a bakery in LA called Doughboys that makes a fabulous Red Velvet Cake. Oprah didn't seem all too excited about it but I have to know, what's so special about Red Velvet cake? I've never tried it.

Something about the red food coloring part turns me off a bit but I am going to LA this Aug. so I must try a piece from this bakery.

Does anyone have a good recipe to post? Thanks!

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It's basically like a buttermilk type cake with a coupla tablespoons of cocoa in it and an obscene amount of red food coloring. Now my little Mom made a red devil's food cake back in the day that was to die for. Oh my yes it was a very Happy Birthday or any other happy day with a big ole' slice of that stuff. But red velvet is popular because of that movie with Julia Roberts, was it Steel Magnolia's?

It really seems to be a weany cake--not rich not particularly moist, just carbs loaded with enough red food color to hyperactivate schools full of children. Merely a platform for red food color to the point sometimes it weeps red. And generally slathered with cream cheese icing to give it some flavor. Maybe it needs the cream cheese tang to balance the red food color aftertaste.

Loads of recipes on the net though. In my opinion, it's an oxymoron to say good red velvet recipe. No offense to anyone.

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It really seems to be a weany cake--not rich not particularly moist, just carbs loaded with enough red food color to hyperactivate schools full of children. Merely a platform for red food color to the point sometimes it weeps red. And generally slathered with cream cheese icing to give it some flavor. Maybe it needs the cream cheese tang to balance the red food color aftertaste.

Loads of recipes on the net though. In my opinion, it's an oxymoron to say good red velvet recipe. No offense to anyone.

Yes, there are "loads of recipes on the net" and loads of recipes here on eGullet, since we've already talked about it many, many, many times.

Yes, there are versions that are "not rich not particularly moist....blah blah blah," just like every single other type of cake for which many recipes exist.

But there are also versions that are extremely rich and extremely moist and extremely flavorful. Several are posted on eGullet, including mine.

At its best, it is in fact one of the most rich, moist and flavorful of cakes, possessing the tang of buttermilk and vinegar, and a subtle underlay of chocolate.

And also in fact, it was very popular before "that movie with Julia Roberts," and many locales around the US even had Red Velvet Cake cookoffs, some of which, at state fairs, my recipe won, long before the movie.

In my personal opinion, different strokes for different folks.

But, hey, no offense taken.


Edited by Jaymes (log)

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But red velvet is popular because of that movie with Julia Roberts, was it Steel Magnolia's?

I don't know if the "bleedin' armadillo" cake was such a huge trend-starter. :laugh: That is one of my all-time favorite movie moments, when Shirley MacLaine hacks off the armadillo's butt and hands it to Tom Skeritt, who replies, "Thanks, Ouiser. Nothin' like a nice piece of ass."


Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

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I'm an au natural kind of girl myself when it comes to cooking and shy away from artificial colors and flavors in baking, but, had a request for red velvet cake and looked up numerous recipes on the net and came up with one that people love. It uses less oil than Jaymes' recipe and more cocoa. It is moist, tender, faintly cocoa with a buttermilk/vinegar mild tang and finished off with a creamy, delish cream cheese frosting. It's actually good! As far as the color, I only use 1 ounce food color, but I guess without it it would be a strange color for a cake. (Light tannish, pinkish, brownish, lol.) Anyway, it is a tasty cake but I only make it when requested as I don't care for using the food color.

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I grew up in New England and was not familiar with Red Velvet Cake until I saw Cake Man Raven making one on TV (either on Martha's show or Sara Moulton's... can't remember). I bought one last Thanksgiving and really liked it. It was very moist and very flavorful. Interestingly, it had enough of a chocolate taste to be liked by the chocoholics in the family, but not so much that those who resist chocolate didn't like it. Subsequently, I found they sell Red Velvet Cupcakes at Ruthy's in Chelsea Market which are also delicious.

My general experience has been that if someone makes good cakes they make good cakes. Period. If I like one type of cake from a bakery, I am likely to like their other cakes as well (assuming the flavor is something I like). This is has been my experience 90+% of the time. My assumption is that these bakeries are generally consistent in some overall points across all of their cakes, such as levels of sweetness, moisture, etc.

Also, Cake Man Raven puts his recipe on his web site if anyone is interested in yet another recipe.

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I'm an au natural kind of girl myself when it comes to cooking and shy away from artificial colors and flavors in baking, but, had a request for red velvet cake and looked up numerous recipes on the net and came up with one that people love.  It uses less oil than Jaymes' recipe and more cocoa.  It is moist, tender, faintly cocoa with a buttermilk/vinegar mild tang and finished off with a creamy, delish cream cheese frosting.  It's actually good!  As far as the color, I only use 1 ounce food color, but I guess without it it would be a strange color for a cake.  (Light tannish, pinkish, brownish, lol.)  Anyway, it is a tasty cake but I only make it when requested as I don't care for using the food color.

Yes, the food color thing bothers me as well, so I don't make it so much anymore either. Contrary to k8's opinion, this cake was very popular back when we didn't think that much about the health aspects of what we ate. Especially when it came to desserts. After all, we did always realize that sugars and fats were not so good for you as carrot sticks.

But that cake, well made, is delicious. And deserves its many fans.

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I support Jaymes' support of red velvet cake for all the same reasons. There's something about the flavor of a good red velvet cake that can't be beat. It's all in the buttermilk/vinegar thing, and as an oil-based cake, it's extremely moist. Ditto on the cream cheese icing, very tangy.

As far as the 2 ounces of red food coloring goes: I eat this cake once a year. on Valentine's Day. I make it myself, I'm not interested in someone else's version. My sweetie and I each take a fork and work at meeting in the middle. I've eaten this cake in the bathtub. By candlelight. I've made this cake in small heart shaped pans and arranged them in an outward-facing circle on a magenta plate. I have large heart-shaped layer pans for it. I love this cake.

The red color is very important. It does look like velvet. Deep, rich, sensual. Exquisite.

So what if it all comes down to a red poo.

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I have an old recipe that does not use food coloring, but pureed cherries and grenadine syrup. There is something about throwing in 1 1/2 bottles of red food coloring that is a little disturbing to me.

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So what if it all comes down to a red poo.

:laugh:

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There is something about throwing in 1 1/2 bottles of red food coloring that is a little disturbing to me.

But...but.... MY recipe only calls for 1 bottle of red food coloring. :raz:

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Ooh red velvet cake! :wub::wub: We Southern girls love our red velvet cake! It's my sister's favorite, and we use an old recipe of my great-grandmother's. I disagree that it is dry. Maybe if it's a bad recipe it is. Ours isn't. It's moist and rich and had just a slight tang that counteracts the cream cheese icing really well. It's to die for.

The Red Door Bakery in Arlington, TX, does an excellent version. They also have red velvet cupcakes so you can just get a little fix every now and then.

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There is something about throwing in 1 1/2 bottles of red food coloring that is a little disturbing to me.

But...but.... MY recipe only calls for 1 bottle of red food coloring. :raz:

I'm blind...I'm blind... :cool::laugh:

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Jaymes. It's good to know there's a good formula out there for red velvet, obviously I haven't tried your recipe. If I get an order for red velvet and I can't talk any sense into 'em (on the excessive food color issue) I'll surely use yours. And yes, the movie made that cake flavor very popular. Red velvet wasn't created for the movie, the movie popularized it. And popularized the armadillo cake as well.

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Jaymes. It's good to know there's a good formula out there for red velvet, obviously I haven't tried your recipe. If I get an order for red velvet and I can't talk any sense into 'em (on the excessive food color issue) I'll surely use yours.

Hey, I ain't saying mine is the best. But it surely ain't dry and it ain't so bland that it requires icing to give it some flavor.

:rolleyes:

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Thanks for all the responses everyone. I guess I'd have to try a piece myself to make my own assessment. Still, a bottle or two of red food coloring? :blink: Oy! I'd be interested in anyone's recipe that uses a natural source for the red color vs. using food coloring. Would concentrated beet juice work?


Edited by 2010 (log)

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Also, Cake Man Raven puts his recipe on his web site if anyone is interested in yet another recipe.

My southern family agrees that Cake Man's red velvet isn't chocolatey enough, but it is a hit here in Brooklyn. I suspect that Cake Man's personality and good deeds for the community have at least as much to do with his success as his recipe does.

My stepfather has a great red velvet cake recipe but keeps "forgetting" to give it to me :biggrin:

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And yes, the movie made that cake flavor very popular. Red velvet wasn't created for the movie, the movie popularized it. And popularized the armadillo cake as well.

Just FWIW...Red Velvet Cake was THE single most chic and popular cake throughout the 50's, 60's, and into the 70's. You couldn't go to any party or covered dish supper or bake sale without running into at least one, and usually more. And, as I said above, there were many "Red Velvet Cake bakeoffs," and most state fairs had a separate category just for them.

They began to fade in popularity sometime during the 1970's when it was discovered that red dye #2 in large doses caused cancer.

Steel Magnolias wasn't released until 1989. Long after the heyday of Red Velvet Cake.

Although I suppose it's possible that the movie "popularized it" to a new generation that previously had not been familiar with it.


Edited by Jaymes (log)

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Just FWIW...Red Velvet Cake was THE single most chic and popular cake throughout the 50's, 60's, and into the 70's.  You couldn't go to any party or covered dish supper or bake sale without running into at least one, and usually more.  And, as I said above, there were many "Red Velvet Cake bakeoffs," and most state fairs had a separate category just for them. 

They began to fade in popularity sometime during the 1970's when it was discovered that red dye #2 in large doses caused cancer.

Maybe in some parts of the country. I'd never even heard of Red Velvet cake until I started reading internet food message boards, and I never once saw one at a bake sale, potluck or dinner in the 60's or 70's. I still have never seen one in person.

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I still have never seen one in person.

Come to think of it, neither have I. Is this like some weird sci-fi channel thing?

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Dunno. Guess, like so many things, it depended entirely upon where in the country you were and what you were interested in. It appears that, sadly, I've always been interested in cake.

In some locales, though, it was called "Waldorf Astoria cake" and there was one of those urban myths about how the ladies at lunch asked for the recipe, $100 got put on their bill, they asked a lawyer if they could do that, the lawyer said yes and charged them another $100, now they're spreading around the recipe....yada yada yada....you know the rest of that story.

Waldorf Astoria Cake and $100 Dollar Cake....

Do either of those names ring any more bells?


Edited by Jaymes (log)

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Maybe in some parts of the country. I'd never even heard of Red Velvet cake until I started reading internet food message boards, and I never once saw one at a bake sale, potluck or dinner in the 60's or 70's. I still have never seen one in person.

Red velvet cupcakes were part of the big cupcake trend here about five years ago, and are still big sellers at the American-style bakeries (Buttercup Bakeshop, Magnolia, etc.).

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My recipe calls for two ounces of red food coloring -- that's two bottles, depending on which size you buy . . .

I'm perplexed by everyone's fear of large amounts of food coloring. Red dye number two was taken off the market some time ago. Most flavors and perfumes are now made in a factory in Elizabeth, New Jersey. I'd be a lot more afraid of most packaged food than a bottle of food coloring.

We ingest all sorts of chemicals thoughtlessly -- hairspray, Windex, air freshener, Cool Whip, etc. but food coloring has people really running.

Maybe I missed something on the six o'clock news, though.

I got my recipe from one of those employee recipe books that a vendor mailed to us one year -- I work in publishing, so they made a little cookbook slash type catalogue. It was like, the six o'clock shift proofreader's recipe. It's basically the same as everyone else's.

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I'm perplexed by everyone's fear of large amounts of food coloring.  Red dye number two was taken off the market some time ago.  Most flavors and perfumes are now made in a factory in Elizabeth, New Jersey.  I'd be a lot more afraid of most packaged food than a bottle of food coloring.

Yes, I think that the slightly discomfited feeling is really more of a holdover about the red dye #2 than any real, current threat.


Edited by Jaymes (log)

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