Need help: I missed the Red Velvet moment.

I missed it. Yes, I have entirely missed the Red Velvet phenomena.: the red velvet cake, cupcake, cookies, ice cream, cannoli … the Korean girl band (which I just found out 5 seconds ago).

So, can someone be kind enough to recap what actually happened? How or why red velvet got popular? And is it still popular? Am I too late (uncool) to try to ride with it? Thanks.

It’s still popular, though lots of people don’t care for it. The red is optional - Duncan Hines had an “Autumn Velvets” mix last fall - one layer orange, the other brown. I bought it because I cook for one. This allowed me to make two separated cakes, months apart, without the hassle of halving the contents myself. (Before folks comment about the ease of scratch cake, cake mix additives ensure a moist cake that doesn’t stale and since it takes me a week or more to finish even a single layer cake, it’s an instance when I set aside my aversion to additives/preservatives.) Last week I snapped up a “Spring Velvets” mix - one pink layer, one yellow, at 50% off.

All it is is typical layer cake with a slight chocolate flavor - imagine what a white chocolate cake would taste like. This, in combination with cream cheese frosting, has appeal for many people. I once attempted a “violet velvet” cake for someone whose favorite color is purple, but the color was a disappointment. The candied violets on the cream cheese frosting were pretty, though.

I like the Duff/Ace of Cakes-created RV flavor of Blue Bunny ice cream. I don’t know if it is still being sold, since my supermarket no longer carries Blue Bunny.


This is very helpful. Thanks for spending your time.

De rien. I forgot to mention that several years ago, I think in a Chowhound thread on RVC, someone said that upon asking the baker of a delicious RVC wedding cake for the recipe, s/he was told it’s the Duncan Hines mix. The box of mix probably costs less than the bottle of food coloring you’d need if you baked one from scratch.

I also short-cut the cream cheese frosting. The storebought canister is too sweet and not cheesy enough, so I either mix in some whipped cream cheese, to taste, or stir together whipped cream cheese, marshmallow fluff, and vanilla.


I think it’s something you had to grow up with. Nostalgia and cream cheese icing are the only reasons I see to eat it.


So Velvet is not new?

Not at all - it’s an old recipe that somehow became trendy recently. I don’t understand the appeal AT ALL. Every single version I’ve tried tastes like food coloring and sugar, nothing more. If I want cream cheese icing, I’ll make a carrot cake.


My absolute favorite icing . Thanks for the reminder . I am going to make a bucket of it and forget the cake .

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Exactly. I think it’s mostly a southern US thing.

Chalk it up another thing that I don’t know about red velvet.
(funny thing is that I didn’t notice it when I lived in Georgia, and only starting to notice all these red velvet cake, cookies, even cannoli…"


A couple of years ago, I bought a Duncan Hines Red Velvet Cake Mix. My wife unpacked the groceries, and after seeing the box asked: “What in the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks, is this?” “Red Velvet cake,” I said, “real popular!”

I remember the cake baked up okay. The white icing suggested, was gawd awful!

No nostalgia here - I have lived only in NY and MA, didn’t have RVC until I was nearly middle-aged. It’s one of my favorites. Though the chocolate flavor is subtle, if I were blindfolded, I would not confuse the flavor of the cake with that of plain yellow or white cake.


Two articles on the history of Red Velvet Cake.

Both articles point out that the red color of the cake was originally the result of anthocyanins in natural (acidic) cocoa powder that react with buttermilk or vinegar to give a subtly reddish color. You can still get natural cocoa powder but more commonly today we use dutched (alkalized) cocoa powder that doesn’t react the same way.

From the second article:

“Red Velvet Cake, despite all the free recipe cards on food coloring boxes and the catchy “Cake of a Wife Time” slogan, never was very popular in the US. Then a little film called Steel Magnolias was released in 1989, featuring an armadillo-shaped Red Velvet Cake with grey frosting, and the cake took off. Now it was at every Southern bride’s wedding reception, and a famed bakery in New York (coincidentally called Magnolia Bakery) began selling a legendary version of it. And no one ever looked back.”

I’d never heard THAT explanation before but it kind of feels like that might be right, especially since the play opened in New York a couple of years before the movie came out. Ah, New York City, the epicenter of good old Southern tradition!

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Interesting theory (about Steel Magnolias) - a popular movie could definitely pique national curiosity. I think the recent recession and wars may also have something to do with it. There has been a resurgence of rustic comfort food and Americana, moving away from fancy, foreign, and conspicuous consumption. Particularly in wedding catering - big elaborate cakes have (somewhat) fallen out of favor and been replaced by cupcake towers and buffets of minis. Mac & cheese, burgers, and fried chicken have taken over mid-range restaurant menus and pastry chefs - if they weren’t eliminated in the slow economy - have to match the mood. In my last pastry chef job that meant offering more smaller, simpler desserts to match the lower price point and small plates direction that restaurant went. Layer cakes have that not too fancy, comfort food feel.

I think the first time anyone asked me to make red velvet cake was around 2010. Maybe because I hadn’t been doing any catering in the few jobs before that, or maybe that’s how long it takes for a NYC trend to reach Seattle. Either way, it is still not common in bakeries or restaurants here. I think a couple of the cupcake shops make it, and every now and then a catered party wants it, but I wouldn’t say it is particularly popular or trendy here.

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It is good to know. Sometime a movie/play can dig up small item from our history and make it famous. This is really cool to know.

I am not a huge cake lover, so I did not noticed the popularity growth of Red Velvet cake. I really started noticing the Red Velvet when (1) people start to talk about it, and (2) “Red Velvet” starts to show up in “non-cake” items like Red Velvet whoopie pies, Red Velvet cannolis, Red Velvet milkshake…etc. I was like… what is this “Red Velvet” thing?

My Mom would make it for my birthday when I was little (mid70s,) and did so because I do not like things too sweet. Her recipe has a nice buttermilk twang to balance the sugar and a very light cooked icing. Very different than the overly sugared blech you see today as red velvet cake. BTW, I grew up in the desert Southwest., its not a Southern thing for us.


I am almost certain that this phenomena (overly sugared) is not just limited to red velvet cake.

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I never saw the mystique in the red velvet movement . To me it was just a red tinted chocolate cake . The icing I loved though .

“Her recipe has a nice buttermilk twang to balance the sugar and a very light cooked icing.”

That’s the recipe I grew up with, not the one with cream cheese frosting.