Historically, Red Velvet Cake was not intentionally colored red. It has a red tinge because of natural cocoa. Yes, cocoa at its natural state is actually reddish. On the other hand, the term Velvet originated from the practice of using cocoa, along with almond flour and cornstarch, to produce a softer and smoother cake, which is understandably referred to as Velvet. So the term Velvet is an umbrella term and is not exclusive to Red Velvet. It goes as far back as the 1800s according to Kim Severson of the New York Times. Check out her detailed tribute to the Red Velvet here. She also discusses there how the artificial red coloring entered the picture. Simply, it was a business opportunity. Good thinking for the entrepreneur because it sure made the cake so appealing. I, for one, love the color red!
Many claim that Red Velvet is a classic from the South of United States and is originally made with oil rather than butter, splashed with buttermilk, vinegar and even coffee. Also, Cream Cheese Frosting was not its original pair (the frosting appeared only in the 1940s). It was then commonly iced with a Whipped Roux or Ermine Frosting, which is made by thickening milk with flour over heat and then creaming the mixture into butter and sugar.
CHECK OUT MY RED VELVET CAKE RECIPE