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The Real Red Velvet Cake

Updated: Feb 5, 2022

The real red velvet cake isn't just chocolate cake with colouring in it. It's much more than that. This post will tell you how to make yours taste just like the real thing.

Let me take you back to the origins of the cake.

The original recipe used Buttermilk and vingar. Some of today's recipes still do. The acidity of the buttermilk and vinegar reacts with the cocoa powder in the mix, bringing out the red tones.

The use of these two ingredients also reacts by breaking down some of the gluten giving it a light and "Velvety" texture - hence the name.

Over the decades bakers have wanted a redder colour and added food colouring to achieve this.

Can Any Red Food Colouring Be Used?

The short answer is no!

Red food colouring falls into one of two categories : Heat Stable and Non-Heat Stable.

This just means that in high temperature environments like the oven, the red colour breaks down, leaving behind the reddy orange colour generated by the acidity of the other ingredients, that I mentioned earlier.

If this has ever happened to you, then this is why.

I have tried and tested lots of colours over the years. Some have been discontinued, others just weren't right. My personal favourite (and the one I get the most consistent results from) is Sugarflair Red Extra. This is actually a sugarpaste colouring gel but it's much stronger than the one you get on the shelf in the supermarket. You will have to get it from a cake supplies shop but Amazon is a good place too.

A word of warning!

Cochineal red food colouring is still sold. It is made from the Cochineal beetle.

On a label you may see E120 or Carmine.

The red colour I use is suitable for Vegans. Please check before you buy.

What Does Real Red Velvet Cake Taste Like?

The ingredients used in this cake give it a very unique taste. It's best described as slightly tangy with a hint of chocolate.

But it doesn't end there.

There's also a hint of vanilla, and the frosting is made from cream cheese, adding to the tanginess.

Then the colouring also reacts with the other ingredients to add another, unique flavour profile.

I know that hasn't really made you any the wiser, which is why you need to bake this recipe, to experience it for yourself.

What better excuse do you need to bake a red cake than it's ideal for Valentine's Day.

Easy Red Velvet Cake Recipe

When you read the recipe you will notice that I don't use either buttermilk or vinegar, this is because originally I didn't have any and couldn't be bothered to go and buy some! I let my customers be the judge.

I have been making this cake, using this recipe, for about 15 years. Sometimes, several times a week. It's always been one of my most popular sell outs at artisan markets. People just love it, and keep coming back for more!

This is a one bowl mix. I make the batter in my free standing mixer - it's easier and quicker than doing by hand.

The recipe is for one 8" round cake with 4 cake layers. It's just looks so much more special presented like this, as your party piece.

Can I Make Cupcakes Instead?


The batch size given will make you about 36 cupcakes (use an icecream scoop for accuracy) but you can halve it easily if you don't want that many.

Alternatively, make the whole batter, divide into cupcake cases and freeze the batter for another day.

The baked cupcakes will also keep well in the freezer.

If you would like to watch a previous Facebook live about baking then you can join my Facebook group here In this group you will find lots of other useful videos and recipes.

I hope you find this recipe as easy and tasty as I do. If you bake it, share your photos, I love to see what people make.

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