February 13, 2013

Soup to Nuts: Seeking chic? Go velvet

Red velvet cake has long been a Valentine's Day tradition. Lately, it's a theme that food and drink makers think bears repeating.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Above, a red velvet cocktail and red velvet cake with beets from The Salt Exchange in Portland; below, a traditional red velvet cake. You can get the red color in the cake two ways. Cocoa contains a natural pigment called anthocyanin that is brought out by the addition of acids like buttermilk or vinegar, which are key ingredients in traditional red velvet cake recipes.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Today we seem to be experiencing red velvet creep. There are red velvet cupcakes, whoopie pies and ice cream out there, but also red velvet coffee and red velvet vodka. Desiree and Zing make red velvet-flavored vodkas, and Nuvo has come out with a sparkling red velvet cake liqueur made with vodka, but none of these, as far as I can tell, are being sold in Maine.

The Republic of Tea makes a Red Velvet Chocolate Tea that tastes like devil's food cake and gets its red tint from beets, and Rooibos, a South Africa tea also known as red bush.

Pastry shops around town, including The Cookie Jar in Cape Elizabeth and Tony's Donuts in Portland and South Portland, are selling red velvet doughnuts. Donna Piscopo, owner of The Cookie Jar, says she also makes red velvet cupcakes, birthday cakes and wedding cakes.

Piscopo recently surveyed some of her customers who were buying her red velvet honey-glazed doughnuts; most of them were male -- and many of them said they thought of red velvet as an old-fashioned flavor that brought them back to their childhoods.

"I believe the red velvet is popular because most people think of it as a comfort food," Piscopo said.

So comfort yourself, or the one you love, this Valentine's Day with a slice of cake, or cup of tea, that's the color of your heart and a taste of childhood.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: mgoad@pressherald.com

Twitter: MeredithGoad


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Additional Photos

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Red velvet doughnuts have joined more traditional varieties on the menu at Tony's Donuts in Portland and South Portland.

Wendy Almeida photo

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Red Velvet Chocolate Tea from the Republic of Tea.

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