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Red velvet cake is traditionally a red, red-brown, crimson, or scarlet-colored chocolate layer cake, layered with ermine icing. Traditional recipes do not use food coloring, with the red color due to non-Dutched, anthocyanin-rich cocoa. Common ingredients include buttermilk, butter, cocoa, vinegar, and flour. Beetroot or red food coloring may be used for the color. Velvet cake is thought to have originated in Maryland in the early 20th century. In the 19th century, 'velvet' cake, a soft and velvety crumb cake, came to be served as a fancy dessert, in contrast to what had been the more common, coarser-crumbed cake. Around the turn of the 20th century, devil's food cake was introduced, which is how some believe that red velvet cake came about. The key difference between the two cakes is that devil's food cake uses chocolate and red velvet cake uses cocoa. When foods were rationed in the US during World War II, bakers used boiled beetroot juices to enhance the color of their cakes. Beetroot is found in some red velvet cake recipes. Beetroot was and is used in some recipes as a filler or to retain moisture. Adams Extract, a Texan company, is credited with bringing the red velvet cake to kitchens across America during the Great Depression era, by being one of the first to sell red food coloring and other flavor extracts with the use of point-of-sale posters and tear-off recipe cards.
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