or Connect
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Cooking Discussions › Pastries & Baking › Can I Leave Out the Red Food Coloring In My Red Velvet Cake?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Can I Leave Out the Red Food Coloring In My Red Velvet Cake?

post #1 of 44
Thread Starter 

I have a favorite red velvet cake and frosting recipe. I'm curious if there's any purpose for the red food coloring other than the appearance. I'd like leave it but not sure if it plays a part in the baking process.

Gear mentioned in this thread:

post #2 of 44

I doubt the food coloring has any impact on the baking process. And bless you for taking out the food coloring, for some reason red velvet cake irritates me. It's like a waste of good chocolate cake.

"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
Reply
"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
Reply
post #3 of 44

Can't possibly have an effect on the cake.  I never understood why a chocolate cake should be red.  I want my chocolate brown!  Chocolate velvet cake. 

I never had or saw a red velvet cake - why is it red, what is the point?  Does it look tastier?  there must be a reason.

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
Reply
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
Reply
post #4 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by siduri View Post

Can't possibly have an effect on the cake.  I never understood why a chocolate cake should be red.  I want my chocolate brown!  Chocolate velvet cake. 

I never had or saw a red velvet cake - why is it red, what is the point?  Does it look tastier?  there must be a reason.


Because originally the cake was made with beets giving it a reddish color.

post #5 of 44


Originally Posted by Chefross View Post

Because originally the cake was made with beets giving it a reddish color.


Nope.  Not even close. 

 

In the old days, before "Dutch processed" cocoa and when clabbered milk and baking soda were used as the leavening agents, the leaveners would react with the cocoa making it (wait for it) red.

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 7/8/10 at 2:18pm
What were we talking about?
 
http://www.cookfoodgood.com
Reply
What were we talking about?
 
http://www.cookfoodgood.com
Reply
post #6 of 44

That's one possibility, BDL.

 

But colored cakes, as Stephanie Jolly notes in her article about the history of Red Velvet Cake (http://baking-decorating-cakes.suite101.com/article.cfm/origins_of_red_velvet_cake), go back at least to the 19th century, and there are several ways the red color can be produced.

 

The fact is, however, that red food coloring seems to be a relative Johnny come lately among them.

 

All that aside, Bumblebee, the addition of food coloring is strictly cosmetic, and has no effect on the ingredient proportions or baking time.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
post #7 of 44

It would not have any taste effect. However people eat with smell ,taste, and sight I am sure they would look at you like you are crazy because it is not what they are used to seeing. Would you want Chicken a la king in a red colored bechamel sauce?

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #8 of 44

KY,

 

Thanks for the reference.  I looked at Jolly's article and it appears her sources (Beard, McGee, et al) and I are pretty much in agreement about how cocoa, before the days of Dutch processing, would react with other ingredients to appear red.  

 

In fact, the one early reference she uses to support the hypothesis that food coloring may have been used, The Perry Home Cook Book (1920), contained a recipe for a red, chocolate, devils-food (Red Philadelphia) cake which did not call for food coloring, and a recipe for a different cake which did.  Jolly sees that as evidence that food coloring was used to tint cakes for purely aesthetic purposes.  The paragraph is ambiguous and it's unclear whether Jolly actually speculates that it may have been used in red-velvet cake or not. 

 

However, the obvious reading is that if food coloring went into red-velvet cake, the nice ladies of Perry, Kansas who wrote the darn book would have said so.  Furthermore, when all is said and done, Jolly's article strongly supports the explanation I gave.  It also discounts the possibility that beets may have been involved in the color.

 

But whatever. 

 

BDL

What were we talking about?
 
http://www.cookfoodgood.com
Reply
What were we talking about?
 
http://www.cookfoodgood.com
Reply
post #9 of 44
Thread Starter 

If I leave out the red coloring I'm guessing the cake will only be light brown as this recipe only calls for 2 tbsp. of dry unsweeteened cocoa. Might be an interesting experiment to see people's reaction......I'd have to then rename it I suppose.

 

Tan Velvet Cake....no

Khaki Velvet Cake...no

Beige Velvet Cake...no

 

hummmmmmmmmmmmm....

post #10 of 44

With only two tbsp of cocoa, Bumblebee, I would be concerned about the taste! 

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
Reply
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
Reply
post #11 of 44

would react with other ingredients to appear red.  

 

Maybe my response was ambiguous, BDL. I wasn't disagreeing with you, just the opposite.

 

What I meant was that baking soda was one of the agents that reacted, but there are others as well. Beets are an unlikely explanation at best---but its more nostolgic; you know, the romance of deprivation during the big war.

 

Food coloring really came into its own, in Red Velvet, after WWII, and, I believe, can be pretty much discounted as an original coloring agent.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
post #12 of 44



Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer View Post

 

Maybe my response was ambiguous, BDL. I wasn't disagreeing with you, just the opposite.

 

Probably me. 

 

BDL

What were we talking about?
 
http://www.cookfoodgood.com
Reply
What were we talking about?
 
http://www.cookfoodgood.com
Reply
post #13 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post


Originally Posted by Chefross View Post


Nope.  Not even close. 

 

In the old days, before "Dutch processed" cocoa and when clabbered milk and baking soda were used as the leavening agents, the leaveners would react with the cocoa making it (wait for it) red.

 

BDL


Here's some history on the cake from Wikipedia:

 

 

Red velvet cake is a cake with a dark red, bright red or red-brown color. It is usually prepared as a layer cake somewhere between chocolate and vanilla in flavor, topped with a creamy white icing. Common ingredients are buttermilk, butter, flour, cocoa, and red food coloring or beetroot; although beetroot is traditionally used, many prefer food coloring since it is seen as more appealing.

 

 

James Beard's 1972 reference American Cookery[2] describes three red velvet cakes varying in the amounts of shortening and butter. All use red food coloring, but the reaction of acidic vinegar and buttermilk tends to better reveal the red anthocyanin in the cocoa. Before more alkaline "Dutch Processed" cocoa was widely available, the red color would have been more pronounced. This natural tinting may have been the source for the name "Red Velvet" as well as "Devil's Food" and similar names for chocolate cakes.[3][1]

While foods were rationed during World War II, bakers used boiled beets to enhance the color of their cakes. Boiled grated beets or beet baby food are found in some red velvet cake recipes, where they also serve to retain moisture.

 

post #14 of 44

Chef Ross,

 

Please do not take offense.  Your argument with my post is not well taken,   My post was very clearly pointed to your claim that beets were the original source for the red color of red velvet cake. 

 

As I quoted the relevant portion of your one sentence post which unambiguously referred to how the cake was "originally" made, a fair reader will conclude it was not likely I was confused or misread you in any way.  

 

Please note I neither said not implied that beets were not ever used to to make red velvet cake red; also that my response was limited to discussing the origins of the dessert.  Furthermore, the Beard article you extensively cited not only supports my contention and contraverts yours, but also implies that, whatever their current popularity, beets were not commonly used until the sugar rationing days of WWII.

 

I sincerely hope our discussion here, which has become more about us than the subject itself, is not off-putting to those who might otherwise be interested in the topic. 

 

Again, nothing personal here.  All references are to the ideas only.

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 7/9/10 at 1:16pm
What were we talking about?
 
http://www.cookfoodgood.com
Reply
What were we talking about?
 
http://www.cookfoodgood.com
Reply
post #15 of 44

A side question- would beets actually make the cake red?  Beets react with substances that turn them blue, for instance, and anyway, the color of beets is more of a purple rather than what red food coloring would look like. 

 

Also once i tried a making a beet chocolate cake (looked interesting - wasn't) and i don't remember any particular redness - though it was a long time ago so i may be wrong.  I imagine it was put there for its moisture rather than color (other than darkening the batter somewhat).

 

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
Reply
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
Reply
post #16 of 44


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by siduri View Post

A side question- would beets actually make the cake red?  Beets react with substances that turn them blue, for instance, and anyway, the color of beets is more of a purple rather than what red food coloring would look like. 

 

Also once i tried a making a beet chocolate cake (looked interesting - wasn't) and i don't remember any particular redness - though it was a long time ago so i may be wrong.  I imagine it was put there for its moisture rather than color (other than darkening the batter somewhat).

 

 

Very good question.

 

This should tell you at least part of what you want to know: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betanin

 

And this is handy too: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119662962/abstract

 

At the center of the cake you'd probably be looking at 100C for 30 minutes no problem. Even twice or three times over though, it's just not going to be enough to kill all of the red. pH wouldn't kill it either; as KYH's link points out, the red in red velvet may have come from the pH sitting around 4.5-5.5 (for toying with anthocyanin and color change: http://www.chemie.uni-regensburg.de/Organische_Chemie/Didaktik/Keusch/p26_anth-e.htm).

 

Now what I'd like to know is the thermal degradation rate of anthocyanin phrased in a similar way as the betanin. There's lots of sources, but they express things quite differently.

post #17 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

Chef Ross,

 

Please do not take offense.  Your argument with my post is not well taken,   My post was very clearly pointed to your claim that beets were the original source for the red color of red velvet cake. 

 

As I quoted the relevant portion of your one sentence post which unambiguously referred to how the cake was "originally" made, a fair reader will conclude it was not likely I was confused or misread you in any way.  

 

Please note I neither said not implied that beets were not ever used to to make red velvet cake red; also that my response was limited to discussing the origins of the dessert.  Furthermore, the Beard article you extensively cited not only supports my contention and contraverts yours, but also implies that, whatever their current popularity, beets were not commonly used until the sugar rationing days of WWII.

 

I sincerely hope our discussion here, which has become more about us than the subject itself, is not off-putting to those who might otherwise be interested in the topic. 

 

Again, nothing personal here.  All references are to the ideas only.

 

BDL


You are right that this is more about getting the right information than anything else. I am not offended in the least but will admit that I too have learned something about this.

I have no formal documented proof to back up my statement other than the notes I took in culinary school back in the 70's.

My instructor was a no nonsense German pastry Chef who gave us this information.

Perhaps, at the time, he too, was looking at it from the perspective that since sugar was scarce and a sweetening was needed, sugar beets came into use.

This use fell out of favor as sugar became more available.

So it is, in a sense, both true about the use of beets and also true about the chemical reaction between the buttermilk, vinegar, and baking soda.

Is it possible that the use of red food coloring came as a result of dislike for beets, in any form....?

Thanks for you wisdom and professional manner.

post #18 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefross View Post




You are right that this is more about getting the right information than anything else. I am not offended in the least but will admit that I too have learned something about this.

I have no formal documented proof to back up my statement other than the notes I took in culinary school back in the 70's.

My instructor was a no nonsense German pastry Chef who gave us this information.

Perhaps, at the time, he too, was looking at it from the perspective that since sugar was scarce and a sweetening was needed, sugar beets came into use.

This use fell out of favor as sugar became more available.

So it is, in a sense, both true about the use of beets and also true about the chemical reaction between the buttermilk, vinegar, and baking soda.

Is it possible that the use of red food coloring came as a result of dislike for beets, in any form....?

Thanks for you wisdom and professional manner.


I don't know - sugar beets are white not red.  So that doesn't seem like an explanation. 

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
Reply
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
Reply
post #19 of 44

All I can say, is..... as a foreigner, the idea of eating a 'red' cake which purports to be CHOCOLATE.

 

Blech!

post #20 of 44

Arguing about the origins of a lousy practice is silly.  Food coloring is not an valuable ingredient, as it only disguises what you are actually doing, or fixes an error in preparation.  Either way, it's dishonest.

If no one will follow you, you can't be the leader.
Reply
If no one will follow you, you can't be the leader.
Reply
post #21 of 44

I don't reckon you'd want to say that too loudly in the South, Dan. Red Velvet is one of the iconic cakes down here, the redder the better.

 

The food coloring is an integral part of many recipes, and is used neither to cover up errors nor disguise what is being done. It's added to achieve a goal.

 

It may not be the best way of achieving that goal, and it may not be a "valuable ingredient." But it is certainly used with intent.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
post #22 of 44

I don't like to use artifical ingredients so I have made Red Velvet cake without the red food coloring and called it 'Velvet Cake'. The color was a sort of medium beige and it tasted the same as the cake I made with food coloring.  I have also replaced the huge amount of red food coloring called for with beet juice.  It was a darker color but not red.  You could also taste the beets if you knew they were there. 

I don't get red velvet cake - it is not a chocolate cake as there is not enough chocolate to add enough flavor.  There is no big flavor - just sweet.  One and a half cups of sugar for two and a half cups of flour!  I must be missing something because I know people who love it and we make it because it is requested.  I guess I am just not a cake person.

post #23 of 44

Cochineal, the original red food colouring, is regarded as a natural dye and apparently the industry is having a rebirth because of the market's dislike of artificial additives....support NAFTA! Make more red velvet cake!

"Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans."
Allen Saunders, 1957.
Reply
"Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans."
Allen Saunders, 1957.
Reply
post #24 of 44

The origins of and popularity of this cake have always puzzled me. It does seem to be a Southern thing, and there seems to be more speculation and guessing than difinitive answers. We may never know. People claim it is a chocolate cake, but as pointed out earlier, there's not enough cocoa to in the recipe to affect the flavor. So, my guess is the cocoa was originally added to turn the batter red for the sake of turning it red, (why, I can't imagine) and not to give the cake a chocolate flavor. Once the Dutch process was used for the production of cocoa, it wouldn't make the batter red any more so they had to come up with an alternate coloring agent. That's my guess based on the information I've found on the subject.


Edited by greyeaglem - 7/13/10 at 1:07am
post #25 of 44

To me it seems like someone was making a cake and ran out of cocoa and added only the amount on hand. Therefore had to add some color to fix it.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #26 of 44

The acidity of the vinegar on the basic buttermilk is what reacts with each other then upon the cocoa making it red. make a cake with these three ingredients and it will stil be reddish.

post #27 of 44

KBakes,

 

You wrote,

The acidity of the vinegar on the basic buttermilk is what reacts with each other then upon the cocoa making it red. make a cake with these three ingredients and it will stil be reddish.


You're misinformed.  In the old days, before "swiss processing," acid would turn cocoa red.  But with modern cocoa, alas, it is will more.

 

BDL

What were we talking about?
 
http://www.cookfoodgood.com
Reply
What were we talking about?
 
http://www.cookfoodgood.com
Reply
post #28 of 44

from my experience and in reading somewhere, red velvet cake is not meant to taste like chocolate, or be called a "chocolate cake". i came to the understanding that it was a buttermilk cake with minimal amounts of cocoa to help with getting the red color (with reaction to acid and such).

was i misinformed?

post #29 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer View Post

I don't reckon you'd want to say that too loudly in the South, Dan. Red Velvet is one of the iconic cakes down here, the redder the better.

 

Indeed true. You want a cake that leaves your mouth looking like you just went Dracula on someone.

 

And DanBrown, are you saying you never add any ingredients that change the look of a dish without noticably changing the flavor?

 

Indeed, you eat with your eyes as much as your taste buds. It can be interesting to take a common dish, and create it in a new form, including its color. Food coloring, which is typically made mostly from natural ingredients anyway, is the perfect way to achieve this goal.

"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
Reply
"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
Reply
post #30 of 44

At the end of the day, I love red velvet cake (in all it's false red color glory) with cream cheese frosting.  DELICIOUS!  smile.gif

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Pastries & Baking

Gear mentioned in this thread:

ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Cooking Discussions › Pastries & Baking › Can I Leave Out the Red Food Coloring In My Red Velvet Cake?