Despite its rich color, red velvet cake possesses a very mild chocolate flavor. Traditionally red velvet cakes use a small amount of cocoa powder, and some call for buttermilk and vanilla or other extracts, which can vary the flavor.
The exact flavors of the cake can change by recipe, depending on the use of extracts, such as vanilla or citrus, the type and amount of cocoa powder and the use of buttermilk in the cake.
Modern recipes for red velvet cake often call for large amounts of red food coloring, and this may affect the flavor. These recipes often use smaller amounts of Dutch-processed cocoa as it can cause the cake to turn brown instead of red.
Some recipes use a small amount of natural cocoa powder combined with an acidic ingredient, such as buttermilk or vinegar, to produce a natural red color.