During the Great Depression, US food manufacturers scrambled to find ways to entice the increasingly frugal public to buy their goods in an unstable economy. Anything considered extravagant or frivolous understandably had a hard time selling (via Mental Floss).
Enter John A. Adams, chief marketing officer at the Texas-based Adams Extract Company. Adams produced cakes with the red-dyed vanilla and artificial butter flavoring that the extract company distributed. The red dye transformed red velvet cake’s original shade of red, which could be described as oxblood, to the sparkling crimson that we see in modern cakes (via Oola.com).
The truth is that at its core, red velvet cake is a buttermilk cake with a smidge of cocoa powder and a healthy glug of red food coloring in it to provide the dessert its lush color (via Baking Bites).