What Is Red Velvet Cake?

red-velvet-cake Credit: Sara AlMutawa/CC-BY-2.0

Red velvet is a red-colored, cocoa-flavored cake with cream cheese frosting. The cake gets its red color from the addition of red food coloring or beetroot.

Velvet cakes, named for their fine texture, have been around since the 1800s. Red velvet cake first appeared during the 1930s at luxury businesses, such as the Waldorf-Astoria and Eaton's. In the 1940s, the Adams Extract Company printed a recipe for red velvet cake using their food dyes and began to sell it alongside their products. Since butter was being rationed during this time due to World War II, the products and cake became popular. Red velvet cake saw a new popularity in 1996 with the opening of Magnolia Bakery in New York City.