Is Red Velvet Chocolate? Explained by a Chef.

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Is Red Velvet Chocolate? Explained by a Chef.

When it comes to cake flavors, a few come to our minds immediately, as if they are regular flavors. These are pineapple or fruit cake, Black forest cake, chocolate cake, and red velvet cake. Pineapple and Black forest cakes are more subtle in flavor; hence they are loved by almost everyone, especially older people. In contrast, chocolate and red velvet cakes have more defined flavors which are primarily famous amongst young generations.

In this article, I will discuss some significant differences between a chocolate and a red velvet cake.

Both cakes have a unique flavor and have their own audiences who specifically like each cake. The texture of the sponge, the frosting used, and the overall look is completely different. So, considering these topics, let me take you through a detailed post about these cakes. 

What makes a cake “Red Velvet Flavoured”? 

Red velvet cake has gone through various changes since the 1800s when it was first invented. The first time a cake was called ‘velvet ‘was during the Victorian Era when bakers used cocoa powder in cakes to place them into a luxury category. Since cocoa was light in texture, it helped bakers break the gluten in cakes from flour, making the cake softer and lighter; hence the name ‘velvet’ was given. 

The reaction of cocoa with an acid gave a natural red color to the cake. 

That’s what made it different from any other cake. Years passed, and people started adding beet juice to the chocolate cake to color it red. 

Cocoa powder was a luxury ingredient; hence they used more staple and cheap ingredient beetroot for the color. By now, it’s clear that the red color has nothing to do with the flavor of the cake. It’s only the look that people get attracted to and feels special while eating one. 

Of course, the cake’s texture, flavor, and look were improvised with the invention of baking powder and soda(a game changer for bakers). 

So what exactly does a red velvet cake taste like? 

The sponge in itself does not have much independent flavor. It’s the texture and color of the sponge that matters. The authentic taste comes from the frosting that it’s paired with- the cream cheese frosting! 

Taste differences between red velvet and chocolate cake

Unlike chocolate cake with multiple frosting options such as truffle ganache, mousse, and light or dark chocolate flavor, red velvet is only paired with classic cream cheese frosting made with cream cheese, unsalted butter, icing sugar, and vanilla essence. 

The most common chocolate cake eaten is truffle cake which has a rich chocolate sponge paired with dense, decadent, and smooth truffle ganache. Truffle ganache is where chocolate and cream are 2:1 ratio. It makes the ganache thicker, more stable, and more pipeable. The overall taste of the cake is dark chocolatey and less sweet. So, people who love to eat chocolate especially love eating truffle cake. 

The sponge of the red velvet cake is more buttery, soft, and velvety. It’s very creamy/buttery, as cream cheese and butter are used in high quantities. The overall taste of the cake is also less sweet, subtle, and a tad bit sour (because of the cream cheese). 

In contrast, the frosting is smooth but less stable than the ganache. Of course, Indians are not very used to having such heavy buttery frosting, so bakeries also use whipped cream in a red velvet cake for selling purposes. 

Texture differences between red velvet and chocolate cake

Currently, below ingredients mentioned are a must to make a red velvet cake. These are:

  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Vanilla essence 
  • Cocoa powder(light and natural) 
  • Buttermilk
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Red food color

Compared to the ingredients used in chocolate cake, it’s almost the same, except cocoa powder can be natural or Dutch-processed, and no red color is used. The ratio in which these ingredients are used is different, giving a difference in texture for both sponges. 

The use of apple cider vinegar ( in buttermilk and separately) and its reaction to baking soda gives an excellent rise to the cake as more carbon dioxide is trapped in the batter. 

The amount of cocoa powder used in red velvet cake is very little compared to chocolate cake, where the quantity is as the dominant flavor is that of chocolate. 

The amount of butter and eggs used in a red velvet cake is also high compared to a chocolate cake, making it more buttery and moist. 

Overall, the red velvet cake sponge is softer and lighter in texture than mostly muddy or fudgy chocolate cake sponges. 

Is red velvet cake a chocolate cake dyed red? 

Well, many times you must have heard that a red velvet cake is nothing but a chocolate cake with the addition of red food color. But this isn’t the case. Both cakes have cocoa powder, but the quantity going in each cake is very different. Chocolate cake has a darker, more intense chocolate flavor, which comes from using a high amount of either natural or Dutch-processed cocoa powder. Whereas the red velvet cake has only a bit of cocoa, just to hint at it. 

Why is a red velvet cake red?

As discussed earlier in the article, the red color was basically a result of cocoa powder mixed with buttermilk, vinegar, and baking soda. It was the chemical reaction between these ingredients that gave a hue of reddish brown. Still, it wasn’t really the red which you can see nowadays. The raw cocoa powder used earlier had an antioxidant named anthocyanin, which created a red hue in reaction to acids.

It is impossible to get this done naturally today as the cocoa powder is now processed and made less acidic. You may have to use raw cacao powder which is quite challenging to source.

Years went by, and the word war 2 period began. During this time, certain ingredients were rationed. People did not have many ingredients with them. Naturally, cocoa powder became a luxury product. Because of this, bakers added beetroot juice to chocolate cake to give the red hue and called it red velvet cake. 

There are still some recipes available that use beet juice for red color. The color of the sponge, again with beet juice, is not very vibrant. 

With the invention of food color, bakers started using red instead of these natural ingredients. Thus, giving it a more bright red color.

People today love red velvet cake for its color and taste and for making them feel special. The taste of the cake majorly comes from its frosting, which is the cream cheese buttercream. Not everyone may like its flavor, so bakers add whipped cream to the frosting, which is more acceptable to the Indian palette. Cream cheese is a bit sour; adding unsalted butter and icing sugar makes it less tangy and more buttery. 

Chocolate cake, on the other end, is very rich and dense. The sponge itself has Dutch-processed cocoa powder, which makes it intensely chocolatey. The ganache also has dark chocolate present, thus making it quite decadent. 

Various recipes where you can use red velvet flavor

There is undoubtedly more to red velvet than being just a cake. Red velvet is not a cake flavor anymore but one of the most demanded flavors in various desserts. With innovative bakers out there, the red velvet flavor has been incorporated into many different desserts. Here’s a list of some of the most popular ones:

  • Red velvet cupcakes – tiny soft red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting
  • Red velvet swirl brownies– red velvet as a base brownie with cream cheese batter for swirls and white chocolate chips on top. 
  • Red velvet muffins with white chocolate and cream cheese glaze 
  • Red velvet jar cake-make cute cake jars with red velvet sponge and cream cheese frosting. Use red velvet cookie crumbs to garnish the top. 
  • Red velvet cookies-they can be center-filled with cream cheese filling or simple cookies with white chocolate chips. 
  • Red velvet waffles-these are red-colored waffles served with vanilla ice cream, white chocolate ganache, and nuts of your choice. 
  • Red velvet fudge-a delicious fudge bar made with a combination of white chocolate. 
  • Red velvet cheesecakes– make a base with red velvet cookies and the cream cheese batter for the cheesecake. 
  • Red velvet ice cream– incorporating red velvet flavor and color into an ice cream is innovative. One can make cream cheese flavored ice cream with cake crumbs mixed in the ice cream.
  • Red velvet truffles or cake pops-use the leftover red velvet cake to make delicious truffles and cake pops. Bind the cake crumbs using cream cheese frosting, then coat the balls with white chocolate. 

These desserts go above and beyond a simple red velvet cake. They are delectable and popular. They should definitely be on your menu! So which one are you going to try making first?! 

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