I learned some interesting things about Red Velvet during the preparatory research for the making of this cake. I had never made one or even tasted one before and I wanted to know what all the hype was about. When I started to read through recipes I was unimpressed with the list of ingredients. None of them seemed like they would provide any spectacular flavours or unusual elements that couldn't be found in a standard chocolate or vanilla cake (except buttermilk.. that makes things taste pretty good sometimes). So I did a little more investigating.
What I learned is that back in the day, the reddish colour was the result of a reaction between cocoa powder and an acidic ingredient like vinegar or buttermilk. Nowadays we usually use a more processed form of cocoa powder and the reaction isn't enough to produce the same red it used to... hence the red food colouring in many recipes. Apparently many people used to use beets to boost the colour as well.
All in all I was expecting more. I feel like the red food colouring is cheating... and may also be a mind trick that makes people think they're eating something more remarkable than it really is.
Or perhaps my cake just didn't cut it and I still don't know what I'm missing!