woman asking baker 'what is your controversial take on cakes' with caption 'Red velvet isn't what you think it is!!' (l) red velvet cake (c) baker with caption 'then it's not red velvet' (r)

harexape/Shutterstock @elfscakery/TikTok (Licensed)

‘This shouldn’t be controversial’: Baker shares truth about red velvet cake

‘It’s just factual.’


Melody Heald


Despite what many people think, red velvet cake and chocolate cake are not the same thing. Bakers on TikTok are hoping to educate the masses by dispelling that common misconception.

ELF’s Cakery, a Georgia-based bakery, posted a video on Friday. In it, an interviewer asks a baker, “What is your controversial take on cakes?”

“So, red velvet is not just another chocolate cake,” the baker responds. “Most people say, ‘Oh, yeah. Red velvet is just a chocolate-flavored cake.’ But it’s really not. If you can taste the chocolate in red velvet, then, it’s not red velvet.”

The video was viewed over 2.2 million times. Some viewers who dislike chocolate cake but like red velvet cake, or vice-versa, feel seen.

“Thank you! red velvet does NOT taste like chocolate cake! if it did… i’d just get chocolate cake!” one said.

“THANK YOU … i hate chocolate cake but love red velvet,” another said.

“This shouldn’t be controversial. it’s just factual,” the top comment reads.

The Daily Dot reached out to @elfscakery via Instagram direct message and TikTok comment.

@elfscakery What are your thoughts?? #elfscakery #cakes #cakedecorating #customcake #fypage ♬ Yacht Club – MusicBox

So why do some people think red velvet and chocolate cake are the same?

tasty piece of chocolate cake closeup
Olinchuk/Shutterstock (Licensed)

OK, so the red velvet cake and chocolate cake are different. But why do some people think they are the same and that red velvet cake is just chocolate cake with red dye in it? Well, both cakes have a red-brown color, though different shades. And both contain cocoa.

However, there are more than a few key differences. They don’t just look different but contain different ingredients and have different textures. And, no, it’s not just your imagination—these two even taste different.

What makes it different from chocolate cake?

Red Velvet cake
Olinchuk/Shutterstock (Licensed)

Red velvet cake contains two ingredients that chocolate cake usually doesn’t have: vinegar and buttermilk. As fellow baker Ashley Cunningham (@sobadash_) explained in February, red velvet cake is more of a “buttermilk cake” than a chocolate one. The ratios of cocoa to flour in the two cakes are also very different. At the time, Cunningham showed just how little cocoa powder goes in the red velvet cake. “This is the ratio of flour to cocoa powder,” Cunningham said during her demonstration. “It’s literally just a little bit of flavor.”

On the flipside, chocolate cake’s primary ingredient is chocolate, and most recipes call for a whole lot of cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and/or melted chocolate.

Other key differences

glass bottles of vinegar on table with apples
Ground Picture/Shutterstock (Licensed)

All of these difference means that the two cakes, after being baked, come out with a different texture. Chocolate cake has a rich, moist, and soft texture. Red velvet’s texture is also soft and moist but has a buttery and tart taste.

And not only do they have a different texture, but they also taste different. Because of the vinegar and buttermilk, red velvet cakes are tangy and tart. In addition, they also have a subtle taste of chocolate due to the cocoa powder, unlike their chocolate cake counterpart, which can be overwhelmed with chocolate notes.

Red velvet cake also gets frosted with cream cheese frosting, whereas chocolate cake is most commonly frosted with a chocolate frosting of some sort.

When did red velvet cake originate?

Statue of Queen Victoria, Grand Avenue, Hove, England
Philip Reeve/Shutterstock (Licensed)

The cake originated in the Victorian era. American and English bakers both began experimenting with adding cocoa powder to their cakes, according to Food & Wine. In an effort to tenderize the somewhat chocolatey cakes, bakers also began experimenting with adding ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and buttermilk. It was this concoction—the acid from those ingredients mixed with the cocoa powder—that created a naturally red-tinted cake.

In 1943, Irma Rombauer, in her cookbook, The Joy of Cooking, officially named the type of cake “red velvet” and further popularized the cake. However, the version that we know today was developed years later, according to Cheryl’s Cookies.

What makes it red?

Glass bowl with red food coloring isolated on white
New Africa/Shutterstock (Licensed)

To this day, most red velvet cakes call for the use of vinegar, buttermilk, and a little bit of cocoa powder. The acid from the vinegar and buttermilk when combined with the cocoa powder naturally creates a subtle red tint. However, during World War II, many people had to ration their ingredients. So when making red velvet cake, to give the cake that same famous red color, bakers started using a natural food coloring: beet juice. Now, many people will add artificial food coloring to their cakes to make the red even more bright.

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