Sunday, April 15, 2012
Is Red Velvet Problematic?
The sign in Robicellis shop in Dekalb Market
Six months ago, I organized an event called,"The Red Velvet Cake Debate". It was not really a debate but more of a discussion about what makes a classic red velvet cupcake/cake and about baking in general. Allison Robicelli was the lone panelist who was against "red velvet", but since then I have met many other people who don't like red velvet because of the unnatural color, the cream cheese frosting and whole host of reasons. Taste is one's personal opinion, so it's OK to like, love or hate red velvet. . I have asked several bakery owners about red velvet cupcakes, and for those who bake them, the red velvet is one of their top three selling cupcakes.
How is Red Velvet problematic? It's either the beetles or the beets! The red in red velvet is often created by using food coloring. This red dye is often made from cochineal extract derived from beetles. The old school way to create the red is to make a red food coloring using beets. You can do that, but that is kinda labor intensive. Honestly, I have had red cupcakes made with beets, and they can be good, but that intense red color doesn't appear like it does with red dye food coloring.
I personally love a red velvet when the cupcake is moist, the presence of cocoa is more than a hint, the buttermilk and vinegar are in balance so that the cake doesn't taste metallic and the cream cheese frosting has a bit of mascarpone in it. Recently, I have created a "Google Alert" on red velvet, as I have become fascinated with the emergence of red velvet brownies, cheesecake, ice cream, waffles and whoopie pies. Now I am curating red velvet board on Pinterest to catalog the infiltration of red velvet across both desserts and breakfast items. Red velvet is very popular and with many things that are popular, there may be a backlash, but for now, it is so cool how far red velvet will go. A friend of mine wants to make red velvet fried chicken. I can't wait to try!