Red Velvet Cake

November 27, 2012

Spiros, for years I have been asking red velvet cake enthusiasts the question “What’s the point?”

I just didn’t get it.  Why muck up perfectly good chocolate cake with a bunch of red food coloring that adds chemicals but doesn’t improve the flavor in any way?

Until recently, no one could give me a reasonable answer.   A few weeks ago, someone came up with “It’s a lighter chocolate, and the red just makes it prettier.”  At least it was straightforward.

Then the November/December 2012 issue of the Mensa Bulletin arrived in the mail the other day.  Lo and behold, there is an entire 6-page article on the history and raison d’etre of red velvet cake! Turns out, before the invention of red food coloring, the red in the cake came from the reaction of buttermilk with cocoa. And the point of using buttermilk was to tenderize and leaven the cake — in other words, to make it light and fluffy.

Here’s the article, complete with a recipe that I can’t wait to try — including ermine frosting that uses 2 entire pounds of butter.

Red Wine Velvet Cake

Reason enough to host a holiday party, I say.


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