Why Does Red Velvet Taste Different Than Chocolate?

You tasted a dark red velvet cake thinking that it was a chocolate cake in red color. Yet, the reality left you wondering, “Why does red velvet cake taste different from chocolate?”

This blog post is for you.

I’ll tell you why, despite looking like a red-colored chocolate cake, red velvet doesn’t taste like a chocolate cake. BTW, it’s not a chocolate cake!

What Goes in Red Velvet Cake? Let’s Know First.

Red velvet cake typically contains the following ingredients:

  • All-Purpose flour or cake flour: Provides structure and texture to the cake.
  • Cocoa powder: A small amount of cocoa powder is used to give the cake a hint of chocolate flavor and contribute to its distinctive reddish color.
  • Butter or oil: Adds moisture and richness to the cake.
  • Granulated sugar: Provides sweetness and helps to tenderize the cake.
  • Eggs: Act as a binding agent and add moisture to the cake.
  • Buttermilk: Contributes to the cake’s tangy flavor and moist texture.
  • Vinegar: Reacts with the cocoa powder to enhance the red color and also helps to tenderize the cake.
  • Baking soda: Reacts with acidic ingredients, such as buttermilk and vinegar, to leaven the cake and create a light and fluffy texture.
  • Salt: Enhances the overall flavor of the cake.
  • Vanilla extract: Adds flavor and aroma to the cake.

Red velvet cake is often served with cream cheese frosting, which typically includes cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. 

Some variations may also include additional ingredients like sour cream or may use alternative frostings such as buttercream or whipped cream.

Why Does Red Velvet Taste Different than Chocolate?

The answer is,

“Red velvet cake tastes different from chocolate cake because it has organic cocoa powder in small quantities. Besides this, the added vanilla extract and cream cheese give its complex taste, which is defined as somewhere between devil cake, vanilla cake, and chocolate cake.”

The red velvet cake is as dark as your chocolate cake is, with a hue of red color. Yet, this dark color is by no means obtained using food color or large quantities of cocoa powder. Instead, the chemical reaction between the acid in vinegar or buttermilk and the antioxidant (anthocyanin found in raw, organic cocoa powder) gives the red velvet cake its dark and red color. 

Below I’ve listed a few factors that make red velvet cake different than chocolate cake.

Little quantity of cocoa powder

Chocolate cake possesses a stronger chocolate flavor due to a significant amount of cocoa powder in the batter. Some recipes may even include espresso powder for an intensified chocolate taste. 

On the other hand, red velvet has a subtle chocolate flavor with a small quantity of cocoa powder. Therefore, it would be unjust to label red velvet flavor as a chocolate cake.

The use of non-Dutch, organic cocoa powder

Red velvet typically incorporates non-Dutch cocoa (natural cocoa powder). It contains anthocyanin. This compound reacts with the acid in buttermilk or vinegar, resulting in the desired reddish or crimson color.

In contrast, chocolate cake does not aim for a red hue and usually uses Dutch-processed cocoa (alkalized cocoa).

It’s also worth mentioning that non-Dutch or non-alkalized, raw cocoa powder is pretty milder in taste than Dutch cocoa powder. In baking, Dutch cocoa powder is used for giving the food an intense chocolate flavor and color. And, to your surprise, the red velvet cake lacks it. And for this reason, it also doesn’t taste like chocolate cake.


The choice of frosting further distinguishes the appearance and taste of red velvet. The cake is traditionally paired with cream cheese frosting, which adds a complementary sweet and tangy flavor. 

In layered red velvet cakes, the cream cheese frosting plays a role in binding the layers together, while the red and white combination creates an appealing visual contrast.  

In contrast, chocolate cake is typically frosted with chocolate frosting, resulting in a sweet chocolate taste. However, alternative frosting options, such as cream cheese, can also be chosen for chocolate cake.

So What Flavor is Red Velvet Cake, in Fact?

Red velvet has a unique but complex flavor profile. It has a little chocolaty, more vanilla, and acidic taste, with a blend of sweetness, thanks to the addition of buttermilk or vinegar in the batter. In essence, it can be described as a combination of sweet, chocolate, and tart flavors.

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Cashmere Muhammad
Cashmere Muhammad

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