The Red Velvet Cake, a concept that’s had cake lovers the world over asking the same age-old questions; what is it exactly and how is it so red?!
Here at My Baker we’ve heard those universal cries of confusion, for this ever-elusive cake and want to help solve the mystery.
Delving into the cake’s history, we must initially cast our minds back to the Victorian era. Where it’s thought this cake originated. This was a time of political unrest and industrialisation; Britain was changing and so were its recipes.
The advancements of the industrial revolution saw steam ships and the railway network importing ingredients from far-flung and exotic places. With new foods to experiment with and advances in ranges and ovens, there was now more control than ever with cooking and of course baking. As culinary exploration became the norm for the wealthy.
It became apparent, throughout this time, that two distinct types of cake had begun to emerge; The Velvet Cake and the Devil’s Food Cake. Both were a decidedly decadent dessert of choice for societies elite, differing just slightly with their ingredients.
The Devil’s Food Cake incorporated chocolate whereas The Velvet Cake often used a cocoa-based mixture. This combing of cocoa and flour acted as a softening agent, creating a perfectly crumbed, soft and velvety cake texture.
Research showed that before the modern advances of food colouring, depicting all the vivid shades of the rainbow, the iconic sponge acquired its signature red look from a slightly different method.
Traditionally the recipe listed a buttermilk or vinegar aspect that activated with the cakes baking soda. Making the velvet-like texture and luxurious Victorian Velvet Cake delicacy. When combined with the non-alkalised cocoa powder it saw the cake mixture become a dark reddish-brown shade.
Though of course, this would have been a slightly less vibrant red than its 21st Century successor, it would be safe to assume that, with that reddish-brown sponge, our Victorian ancestors are the ‘OG’ Red Velvet creators. With their radical cooking ideas and velvet cakes paving the way for the birth of The Red Velvet cake.
Having only ever been referenced as a Velvet Cake prior to this, it’s first national debut was listed within the pages of Irma S Rombauer’s ‘The Joy of Cooking’. A piece of culinary literature printed in 1943. This was a cookbook that inspired Julia Child and depicted The Red Velvet Cake’s defining characteristics; it’s velvety texture, chocolatey flavour and iconic red sponge.
Although Irma’s description left little to be desired, claiming she didn’t much care for it!
Of course, this initial criticism has in no way hindered the global love of this unusual cake. In fact, it’s had our American cousins fighting over who first introduced The Red Velvet Cake stateside.
Both the Adams Extract Company and Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City claim to be the cakes birthplace. Popularising it for an American palate and creating that signature red sponge with food colouring throughout the 1920s and 1950s.
One mystery that still remains unsolved however is the originator of The Red Velvet’s iconic cream cheese frosting. Red Velvet recipes originally called for an ermine icing, a roux or boiled milk base, before being replaced with the easier alternative; the beloved cream cheese frosting.
The cream cheese added a juxtaposing colour, texture and undeniable tang that’s become the cake topping of choice. The stark contrast of red sponge to white icing is a sight recognised the world over and is an undeniable Red Velvet-ism.
Unusually, the cakes sales in the US and UK have been known to peak at varying times. The US’s Red Velvet Cake peaks in December. Perhaps its festive red coloured sponge makes it the perfect addition to a holiday spread? Whereas the UK’s Red Velvet Cake peaks in February. No doubt again in part to its red interior, depicting the colour of love.
So, while we can’t say for certain The US birthplace of the humble Red Velvet or if the Victorians really were the cakes creators, we can conclude it’s one extraordinary concoction! One that’s become the flavour of choice for all manner of treats. From lattes to candles, the worlds gone crazy for Red Velvet and so has My Baker.
Both incorporate an undeniably rich and velvety sponge cake, layered with that signature cream cheese and mascarpone frosting. Topped with even more cream cheese (because you can never have too much!) and finished with fresh fruit or the crumbed red velvet sponge.
However, these are far from the only red velvet cakes we have on the shop. For almost all of our shop cakes, you can select red velvet as your desired flavour. Some customer favourites are the Watercolour to Canvas Cake and the Peachy Keen Drip Cake.
Whether you’ve been a lifelong lover of all things Red Velvet or unsure it’s the cake for you we hope that knowing a little more about its history you’ll be a fellow Red Velvet advocate and enjoy a slice (or two) courtesy of My Baker!