Is There Really a Difference Between Chocolate and Red Velvet Cake?

Both are delicious, but they are pretty different.

Chocolate and red velvet cake

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Let’s get this out of the way. Chocolate and red velvet cakes are not the same thing. And red velvet cake is not simply just a chocolate cake with red food dye in it. These two cakes may have a long history of being mistaken for one another because they share a similar reddish-brown color, but the flavor, ingredients, and texture are fundamentally different from one another. 

What is red velvet cake?

Red velvet cake got its name in the 1800s, when bakers added cocoa to cakes to make them taste and feel luxurious. The cocoa gave the cakes a velvety texture and feel. When bakers added vinegar, baking soda, or buttermilk to their recipes to tenderize the cakes, the acid in those ingredients reacted with the cocoa, which was not Dutch-processed, to give the cakes a red tint. That color became a signature of velvet cakes. During World War II, ingredient rationing led some bakers and cooks to use beet juice to mimic that effect, and the color became more prominent. 

Today, red velvet cake is made by combining cocoa powder, butter, sugar, eggs, and flour as well as buttermilk, vinegar, and red food coloring that gives the cake its iconic red tint. In a classic red velvet cake, cream cheese frosting is paired but the cake can be really be frosted with anything. Although red velvet does contain a bit of cocoa powder in it, it is not considered to be a chocolate cake in the same way a German or Belgian cake would be.

What is the difference between chocolate and red velvet? 

Flavor is one of the main differences between chocolate and red velvet. Chocolate cake is flavored with cocoa powder, chocolate chips, or melted chocolate. On the other hand, though red velvet cake has cocoa powder that gives it a slightly chocolatey flavor, the buttermilk and vinegar add a tart edge making it different between the two.

Aside from flavor, chocolate and red velvet also have pretty different textures. Chocolate cake is often pretty moist and dense, while red velvet cake is typically has a much lighter biter. The difference in texture between the two is because of the vinegar and buttermilk used in red velvet cakes that help to lend a softer and much more tender texture. 

Although both cakes contain cocoa, their differences make them each an iconic dessert in their own right. Try some for yourself with this Red Velvet Cake recipe or one of our many chocolate cake recipes.

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