The Rise and Fall of the Red Velvet Cake

Personally, Red Velvet isn't for me. Whenever I have mentioned this, I get shock horror, "OMGOSH how dare you, Red Velvet is the BEST!". Best what though? I still don't get it. Red isn't a flavour last time I checked, neither is velvet. Red is a colour, a great colour at that but colours taste of nothing discernible (well, sometimes they do as food colourings do have a certain odd bitter taste to them but generally such small quantities are used that it goes undetected). Velvet could describe texture - soft and furry? I'll roll with the soft, not so much the furry.

Red Velvet Cake

Anyway, odd name aside, the concept of Red Velvet has befuddled me - it's essentially a deep red vanilla flavoured sponge, with a bit of chocolate. We use a classic recipe, one that uses buttermilk (as we also do with our chocolate sponge), which a lot of bakers do to add extra moisture and a soft twang to the flavour, so yes it does taste good, as any other sponge of ours, but whyyyy RED?!

Delving into the history for answers I learnt that the Red Velvet sponge came into existence not in the 80s as an armadillo shaped cake in the movie Steel Magnolias (it's a scary cake!), but wayyy back during World War 2. Faced with strict food rationing, bakers would try to enhance the appearance of their cakes by using beet extracts, and the natural reactions between the acids in vinegar/buttermilk and unprocessed cocoa powder also gave a red tint while making the sponge more tender.

When Adams Extracts, a Southern American company created and marketed a red food dye during the Great Depression it took off by storm, and sponges got redder and more popular. It got noticed by the bakers at posh gaff Waldorf Astoria in NYC who served it to their posh patrons and word travelled all the way up to Canada, where Lady Eaton of the famous upscale department store Eatons was an alleged fan and the store served up their own version. 

THEN Steel Magnolias happened and boom, Red Velvet everywhere apparently. Sex & the City happened, and they loved their cupcakes, so we saw Red Velvet cupcakes. Red Velvet jazz was pouring out of everywhere - Starbucks Red Velvet lattes, Ben & Jerry's Red Velvet ice cream, Red Velvet Oreos, red velvet abso-frikken-everywhere. RED VELVET PERFUME!! WHAT?! 

Red Velvet Cake Trends

All this Red Velvet hysteria is probably what turned me off it. You know that feeling of latent rebellion, when everyone keeps shouting the same old at you repeatedly and making you feel like a weirdo for questioning its relevance, so you just kind of wanna rise against the establishment?? Go against the grain? I was having my own kind of REDXIT and refused to entertain the obvious demand. And just like the famous Paul Giamatti rant against Merlot in the 90s hit movie Sideways, which according to my local wine shop caused a hefty crash in the Merlot market that decade, there's been an uprising against Red Velvet in recent years, and millenials are not as swept up by it. This is probably down to it being so saturated and over-exposed, and like most trends demand goes up and down, but perhaps also by THIS epic rant in the hit Netflix series, Orange is the New Black.


Whatever my personal views, or some fictional characters from a fictitious show, I can't deny it's STILL popular. Case in point - we had a competition for our latest Red Velvet cake and had over 200 entries on Instagram to win it, and since launching it on our website it's shot to the top in most popular ranks. Go figure. Red Freakin Velvet.

Lots of Red Velvet love,

Reshmi xoxo

View the new Red Velvet Cake


Leave a comment (all fields required)

Comments will be approved before showing up.