Friday, April 25, 2014

Red Velvet Debate

So I finally broke down and made a red velvet cake for Easter. Why did I hold of so long? I've never really been a fan of red velvet cake. Actually, I've never had red velvet cake before, but I've never really liked the idea of it. 

Red velvet cake is basically a chocolate flavor, only with just a touch of chocolate flavoring. So it's really like a plain cake with a subtle chocolate taste. But instead of looking like a chocolate or white cake, it is dyed red. I know sometimes people dye cake batter different colors and tint frostings (but that's different, it's for decorating purposes), but why a "flavor" would be created based on a perfectly good cake recipe with some food dye added to the batter is beyond me. And these cakes sometimes do embark a flavor, because a lot of red food dye leaves an off-putting flavor on the palate. I can understand the implications of the word "red velvet", it certainly does sound delicious, implying a velvety smooth texture, but doesn't "chocolate velvet" sound even better? I guess I just don't really understand the point of adding red food coloring to a cake batter unless you are trying to make a "Clifford the Big Red Dog" cake or something. Red isn't the worst color, but how would you like to eat a hot pink cake? No thanks.

In order to color a significant amount of cake batter, especially chocolate cake batter, this takes quite a bit of red food coloring - usually an entire bottle or so. I don't really see the point in adding this much extra food coloring to a cake when it won't enhance, and may worsen, the flavor. If a red velvet cake is really desired, using a natural alternative is a good option. Puréed beets is the most common, and is what I used in my red velvet cake. Not only does this make the cake red, it adds some nutrients and moisture, without a strong beet flavor. I'll bet raspberries and strawberries are good options too, and could create a whole new flavor dimension. 

Bottom line is, I just don't like to add artificial colorings to food unnecessarily. I usually only use food coloring for frostings for my decorated cakes, and usually use mostly pastel colorings and only for borders trims and piping, and not flat icing. Otherwise, there are other options and natural colorings could be used. I'll probably stick to my typical chocolate cake recipe, instead of red velvet. 

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