Is the Red Velvet red because of food coloring or red beets?

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Small red velvet cake recipe

In the 1920s and 1930s, Red Devil Cakes used cocoa powder and vinegar or buttermilk.

Cocoa powder contains anthocyanins, naturally occurring plant pigments which turns red when exposed to acid, so the cake was naturally red.

Heres a photo of anthocyanin colors at different acidities (most acid on the left, most basic on the right); its a useful chemical to test how acidic something is:n,(image source: wikipedia)nDuring World War II, when chocolate was hard to come by in America, some recipes calling for beet juice to get the color for Red Devil Cakes were created.

,In the 1960s, people apparently decided that the small amount of anthocyanins in cocoa powder wasnt red enough.

Starting in the 1960s, red food coloring was added in addition to the vinegar-cocoa mix, and the result was called red velvet cake.

,Now you can find Red Velvet Cake recipes with artificial food coloring, and beet juice.

The artificial food color produce a much brighter red, so its a lot more common, but there are people who think artificial food coloring is bad for you, or like the extra moisture that beets provide to the cake and use beets in their cakes instead.