What Flavor is Red Velvet? Chocolate Or Vanila? None!

Neither chocolate nor vanilla, but red velvet is the fusion of both these with an addition of a little acidic flavor. Of all the scrummy flavors, including chocolate, cheesecake, ice cream, vanilla, and red velvet, which one is your darling? 

Oops, haven’t you tried the last one, i.e., red velvet? How can someone miss the most luscious flavored cake? Do you now want to know ‘what flavor is red velvet?’ and want to try it? 

From the flavor to the color and ingredients to techniques, all make it different from other cakes, and you’ll get everything covered in this content. So let’s go to explore all about the red velvet.

What Flavor is Red Velvet? A Detailed Note

Red velvet taste is a big confusion. Some peeps believe that red velvet is a chocolate-flavored cake with the addition of red food color. At the same time, some consider it a vanilla cake with red food color. But what’s true? 

Let us spill the beans by saying that red velvet is neither a chocolate cake nor a vanilla one. But to be honest, it’s much richer in taste than both of these flavors. 

In simple words, red velvet is a fusion of vanilla, chocolate, and a little acidic flavor. It gives the taste of mild cocoa with a bit of tart flavor addition. 

The chocolate flavor is due to the addition of cocoa powder. But this chocolate flavor is so small that you can’t say red velvet is a chocolate-flavored cake. 

Evolution of Red Velvet Cake Flavor

The history of red velvet doesn’t move around a single era. So here’s a detailed note about it. 

Victorian Era and the Addition of Cocoa Powder

Red velvet originated back in the 1800s in the Victorian era. Before this, cakes were dry and with a crumbly texture. But in the 1800s, the addition of cocoa powder in the cakes brought innovation in cake history. 

This addition made cakes super soft, fluffy, and light. Thus, the cake with cocoa in it was named velvet cake. Hold on; the history of red velvet is still incomplete. 

Buttermilk- A Magical Ingredient in the 1900s

In the 1900s, bakers added another ingredient to the cake recipes, which worked magic in making the velvet cake smooth and soft. It was buttermilk or vinegar. Not just the smoothness, but it also worked in making the velvet cake red velvet. Didn’t get it?

Okay, let us tell you that adding buttermilk to cocoa started a chemical reaction. As a result of this reaction between acid and cocoa, both the ingredients leave a red hue behind. 

Entry of Devil’s Food Cake

After the velvet cake, another yummy cake with cocoa powder as the main ingredient came into the market, and it was named devil’s food cake. It was a deep dark chocolate cake. 

That’s because the recipe contained a lot of cocoa powder, chocolate, egg yolks, and other ingredients giving a fudgy, dense look with a sweet flavor. 

According to Stella Parks in ‘The Splendid Table,’ red velvet is a cross between velvet cake and the devil’s food cake. In simple words, red velvet is the variation of devil’s food cake. 

What Makes Red Velvet Red? 

Most of you will think red velvet is red due to the red food color. No! You’ll be amazed to know that the actual red velvet cake is free from any red food color. The red color is mainly due to the reaction between the cocoa powder and acid. 

The anthocyanin (antioxidant) in cocoa powder is reactive to acids. And red velvet contains both the ingredients cocoa powder and vinegar or buttermilk. When these two ingredients come in contact with each other, both react, turning the mixture red. Not the perfect fresh red, but red velvet is a mixture of brown and red color. 

But the color is totally dependent on the quality of the cocoa powder. If you’re using a processed cocoa powder that is now common, you can’t get the same results. In fact, these results are just restricted to the raw cocoa powder that is free from any alkalizing agent. 

Can We Get Red Color Hue with Processed Cocoa Powder?

Although getting raw cocoa powder is like a tough row to hoe at present. Still, try to get the unprocessed or raw cocoa powder to get the real red hue. 

But if you don’t find it you can also go with alternates to get the red hue in your velvet cake. For this, you can consider using red food color or beet juice. Both will work perfectly fine. 

How to Make Red Velvet Cake? Easiest Way

Here’s the easiest red velvet cake recipe that even beginners can quickly make. But before going toward the detailed recipe, let’s head toward the list of ingredients. 

Listing of Ingredients

The listing of ingredients is so simple that you’ll get most of the things in your kitchen cabinet and some in your refrigerator. These include,

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk  
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons liquid red food coloring

For Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 2 8-ounce cream cheese blocks
  • 5 ½ cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 ½ cups butter (unsalted)

Detailed Recipe

  • For making red velvet, take a medium-sized bowl and add flour, baking soda, and salt.
  • Mix these ingredients and place them aside. 
  • Take the bowl of a stand mixer, add butter and cream it. 
  • Now pour some sugar and turn the mixer on until butter and sugar are fluffy. 
  • Add the eggs one by one and beat them, followed by adding a few drops of vanilla. 
  • Sift cocoa powder into the same bowl and beat the whole mixture now. 
  • Take a small or measuring cup, pour some buttermilk, vinegar, and gel red food color, and stir. 
  • Now add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture to the mixing bowl gradually and beat until the batter becomes soft. 
  • Pour this batter into the buttered pans and bake for almost 30 minutes. 
  • For cream cheese frosting, take cream cheese, vanilla, butter, and salt and beat them together in the bowl. 
  • Afterward, sift the powdered sugar and set the whole frosting mixture aside. 
  • Spread this frosting in between the cake layers and also for decorating purposes. 
  • After frosting, keep your red velvet refrigerated for an hour, and it’s ready to be served. 

Is Red Velvet Chocolate Flavored?

Do you also have this question, “is red velvet chocolate flavored?” popping into your mind? Adding cocoa powder to a cake doesn’t always mean it’s chocolate-flavored. That’s where most people get confused. 

Red velvet isn’t chocolate flavored at all. It has far less cocoa powder than chocolate cake. In fact, red velvet is something in between chocolate cake and vanilla cake. 

Red Velvet Vs Chocolate Cake: What’s the Difference?

It’s so heart-rending for all the red velvet lovers to hear that red velvet is just a chocolate-flavored cake with a pinch of red color. Let us clear the air by presenting an absolute difference between these two. 

When comparing red velvet and chocolate cake, there are usually three main differences that create a clear barrier between the two. These are,

Quantity of Cocoa Powder

The first thing that creates a major difference is the amount of cocoa powder. Chocolate cake has a more intense chocolate flavor with a good amount of cocoa powder in the batter. 

Some recipes also have espresso powder to get a more enhanced chocolate flavor. In comparison, red velvet has a hint of chocolate flavor with a small amount of cocoa powder. So considering red velvet a chocolate cake on the basis of this unnoticeable amount of cocoa powder would be an injustice. 

Type of Cocoa Powder

The amount and the type of cocoa powder are also different in both cakes. The actual red velvet has non-Dutched cocoa (natural cocoa powder). This natural cocoa is rich in anthocyanin, which reacts with the acid and gives the perfect reddish or crimson color.  

While in chocolate cake, getting the red hue isn’t the main goal. So chocolate cakes usually have Dutch-processed cocoa (alkalized cocoa).


It won’t go wrong if we say that the red velvet has a unique texture that no other cake has. 

The main thing that gives this smooth texture to the cake is the acidic elements. On reacting with the baking soda, they give off an extraordinarily soft and moist texture along with tightly packed crumbs. These crumbs have very small or minute air pockets. 

If we talk about chocolate cake, it has the same level of moisture. But the thing that creates the difference is the size of the air pockets. 

These pockets are bigger than red velvet, which results in a rough and abrasive texture. In short, chocolate cake doesn’t have that smooth texture, but still, it depends on the recipe. 


Here comes the most significant part. Surely when the ingredients are different, the texture is somewhat different, then why not expect a difference in the flavor? 

No doubt both flavors are yummy, but the flavor of red velvet has urged us to consider it super yummy. Red velvet is more towards an acidic flavor with a fusion of sweetness. This acidic flavor is due to buttermilk or vinegar added to the batter. 

Along with this, red velvet also has a slight chocolaty flavor. So it’s better to say that red velvet is a combo of sweet, chocolate, and tart flavors. 

On the other hand, chocolate cake is fully chocolate flavored. As its frosting is purely chocolate, you won’t get any other flavor. 


Lastly, it’s the frosting that makes both cakes look different. Red velvet is paired with a cream cheese frosting that gives a complementary sweet and tangy flavor. 

If you’re making a layered red velvet cake, this frosting also plays a role in tying the layers together. Above all, the red and white combo looks so attractive. 

On the other hand, the chocolate cake has chocolate frosting and gives a sweet, chocolaty taste unless you go for cream cheese frosting or any other for your chocolate cake. 


Is red velvet chocolate flavored with the addition of red food color? 

You and many other folks think red velvet is simply a chocolate cake with red food color. But it’s not the case. Red velvet has no link with the chocolate flavor. It has a mild cocoa powder taste and a little tangy flavor due to buttermilk and vinegar. 

Above all, red velvet has a velvety texture that the chocolate cake has nothing to do with it. 

What makes red velvet taste different from chocolate cake?

Red velvet tastes different as it has different ingredients. For making red velvet, you need to have a little cocoa powder, buttermilk, and vinegar as the main ingredients. 

In contrast, chocolate cake has a good amount of chocolate, espresso powder, sour cream, or even coffee. So why should both cakes taste different when the listing of ingredients is not similar? 

What is in real red velvet cake?

Real or traditional red velvet doesn’t use any food coloring. Instead, it includes non-Dutched cocoa (natural cocoa powder) that is rich in anthocyanin. It reacts with the acid and gives the perfect red-brown or crimson color.  

What makes red velvet distinctive from other cake flavors?

The sweet and tangy flavor, along with the soft velvety crumb, make red velvet distinctive among a variety of other cake flavors. Not just this, but the combo of red cake with white frosting also looks so appealing.

Is red velvet vanilla flavored?  

Red velvet is neither vanilla cake nor chocolate flavored. But it has a unique taste due to mild cocoa, buttermilk, and vinegar that makes it stay different from plain vanilla and plain chocolate cakes.  

Final Thoughts

We’ve discussed all of “what flavor is red velvet?” Undoubtedly, red velvet’s stunning red hue and velvety texture have made it in a class of itself. The unique flavor is due to the combo of cocoa powder and buttermilk. 

Once you try it, you’ll consider all your events incomplete without this yummy dessert. 

If you aren’t a chocolate lover or don’t have much liking for fully sweet vanilla cake, this is what you’ll surely love. The combo of sweet and tangy flavors is completely irreplaceable; your taste buds won’t find anything better than that. 

Happy eating!


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