Drape yourself in velvet (cake)

illustration by mark stivers

A few weeks ago, I was the lucky recipient of a giant red velvet cake from Sandra Dee’s Bar-B-Que & Seafood. It was a towering bright red cake with fluffy white frosting and pecan halves on top. Long considered a Southern treat, it’s easier to find in Sac than you might expect. Most people use a generous dash of dye to get the color, but it also occurs when cocoa meets acidic ingredients in the batter. You can buy Sandra Dee’s cake at $4 a slice for a dense, almost banana-flavored version. Rick’s Dessert Diner also has it by the slice ($5.95) and whole cake. The counter man Eric reports: “It’s one of our more popular cakes by the slice. People come in and ask specifically for it. Ours is a yellow cake dyed red and has a bit of cocoa in it.” Babycakes Bakery has them as cupcakes ($2.50), with a light chocolate flavor and a cream-cheese icing topped with a Boston baked bean just at the tip. The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op sells a vegan red velvet cupcake made by Sugar Plum Vegan. It’s naturally colored with beet juice and has a vegan cream-cheese frosting that’s also colored pink ($2.95).