Beer Velvet Cake. No food dye, all win.
Let’s talk about red velvet for a second. It’s a cultural phenomenon with inspired spin offs that include vodka, candles, coffee, and a myriad of other head tilt inducing concoctions that lead me to wonder why exactly this dessert deserving of all this hype. Sure, I’ve had my share. I’ve made countless recipes passed on by friends as “The Best” variation. I’ve talked to devotees that swear it’s the best cake they’ve ever had, requesting it for every birthday. I’ve had cupcakes, doughnuts, and even pie, but I’m always left wondering.
When the recipe leads me to the step that calls for two (yes TWO) bottles of red food coloring, I pause. It’s not so much the potential toxic nature of the inclusion of such an ingredient, (for run down of why red food coloring is bad read this). As a recipe developer I wonder if there is a reason for the addition of this ingredient that I’m possibly overlooking. Why is it called for in such a massive quantity? Was there a reason I’m not aware of? Rumor has it that it just goes back to good ‘ole fashion American capitolism. I’ve been told this is food folklore, I’ve been told it’s true, but even Food & Wine Magazine reports that the inclusion of two bottles of red food dye has been linked to a man in Texas trying to sell more red food dye.
Fact or fiction one thing is undeniable: the red food coloring does not add anything to the taste or texture of the cake and could potentially distract from it. But what will add to the flavor and texture of your cake? Beer. Beer is a natural leavening agent that adds a fantastic, slightly lighter texture all while gifting your cake with the beautiful flavors of roasted grains.
For this cake I used the recipe that most variations lead back to: The Waldorf Asotria Red Cake, with the traditional white roux frosting. The only substitution I made was beer for red food dye, which, I have to say, gave me the best velvet cake I’ve made.
Beer always wins.