Sweet, Seductive & Oh-So-Scarlet: Fall in Love with Red Velvet Cake
How is it that a single cake can seem at once old-fashioned but yet still strangely seductive, possessed of a kind of old-time glamor like those black-and-white pinups of silver-screen Hollywood queens? The red may get all the attention in red velvet cake — that arresting, vampish scarlet, which might seem a bit too brash were it not traditionally tempered by the angelic white, innocent fluff of piles of cream cheese frosting. But it’s the quality stuff of the cake itself (that devilish hint of cocoa) that really gives it a kind of sexy confidence. It’s earned its red and wears it well, sort of like the difference between red lipstick on Catherine Deneuve and whoever is the pop starlet of the month.
Long believed to hail from the South, it’s not entirely clear where red velvet cake originated. One myth has it appearing at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria in the 1920s, and though we like the thought of bejeweled flappers sipping Champagne and brushing scarlet crumbs from their sequined laps, alas, that myth has been debunked. Whatever the case, red velvet cake was probably not always quite so red: it’s believed that in traditional recipes, a more modest brownish-red hue resulted from a chemical reaction between the acidic buttermilk and the cocoa powder. Somewhere along the line, someone decided to amp up the effect with food coloring, and red velvet, like Hollywood, went Technicolor.
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