Originally Posted by artscallion
I thought it was interesting that on a recent episode of "Cupcake Wars", one of the judges, renowned french pastry chef, Florian Bellanger said this when judging the contestants' efforts at red velvet, "I can't taste the chocolate. Red velvet is supposed to be chocolate cake with a little red coloring, not red cake with a little chocolate."
Seems that whenever this discussion comes up here, people say the opposite...that it is NOT a chocolate cake and should only have the vaguest hint of cocoa flavor. That seems to be the predominant feeling. So I wonder where he's coming from. He really is one of the world's most honored chefs, trained at Paris' most prestigious school, etc. I'd love to have his recipe because I also see RV as an uninteresting delivery system for cream cheese frosting. And it's not because I can't make a successful one.
Frankly that he is a French trained pastry chef is telling in itself. Why would this would make him an expert on a decidedly American pastry? In fact it would not be surprising if it was dismissed in french pastry training. Not trying to sound nationalistic or bash the French (just ate at Le Cirque and was one of the best meals I have ever had) but national origins of food do matter in culinary/pastry training. That he is a top class french trained pastry chef could easily influence his understanding of what red velvet cake is supposed to be.
In addition looking at the history of red velvet cake one finds versions that are basically a devil's food cake dyed red. Not surprising as the phrase "red cake" was often used to describe devil's food cake which because of the type of cocoa powder can have a reddish hue. Thus if this is the history of "red cakes" he is familiar with then it is not surprising that he would emphasize red velvet as more of a chocolate cake.
There is however also the "southern" approach to red velvet. A number of recipes will highlight "southern" red velvet cake--although they tend be characterized simply as red velvet cake. Thus while there are instances where red velvet is more like a chocolate cake, "southern" red velvet cakes seem to emphasize the cake as buttermilk cake with a slight chocolate flavor --- not a chocolate cake dyed red.
Compounding the uncertainty is the origins of the cake are unclear. Although there is the legend of the infamous Waldorf Astoria cakes it certainly was not the first instance of a red velvet cake recipe. Frankly you will find those that say red velvet is chocolate cake dyed red and those that say it is not.
At this point is seems like it is a matter of preference. But there are a host of examples within food of people preferring different approaches to a particular food item, calling it by the same name, claiming they have the right approach to the food item, each with contested histories to support their approach.