Valentine's Day Red Velvet Cake with Marzipan and Ermine Frosting

yield: 1 four-layer cake
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Ingredients

For the Red Velvet Cake

    (makes four 6-inch cakes, enough for one 4-layer cake)

    • 2 cups granulated sugar
    • fresh zest from 1 medium orange
    • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 cup 2 sticks unsalted butter,, melted and cooled
    • 3/4 cup buttermilk
    • 2 large eggs
    • 2 large egg yolks
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon pure orange extract
    • 1 tablespoon red food coloring gel
    • 3/4 cup boiling coffee

    For the Ermine Frosting and Marzipan Filling and Topping

      (makes around 3 cups, enough for one 4-layer cake)

      • 1 cup granulated sugar
      • fresh zest from 1 medium orange
      • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
      • 1 cup milk
      • 1 teaspoon pure orange extract
      • pinch of salt
      • 1 cup 2 sticks unsalted butter,, at room temperature
      • 4 ounces marzipan, divided into two 2-ounce portions
      • red food coloring

      Instructions

      For the Red Velvet Cake

      • Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 (F). Prepare four 6-inch round cake pans by spraying generously with cooking spray and lining the bottoms with parchment paper circles; spray the parchment paper with cooking spray.
      • In a small bowl, combine 2 cups granulated sugar with fresh zest from 1 medium orange. Use your fingers to incorporate the zest throughout the sugar, rubbing the zest into the sugar. This will help release oils from the zest that will infuse your sugar with more flavor. Set aside.
      • In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine sugar (from the 2nd step), 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Beat on low speed for around 30 seconds to blend the ingredients together until fully combined.
      • In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup melted unsalted butter, 3/4 cup buttermilk, 2 large eggs, 2 large egg yolks, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon pure orange extract and 1 tablespoon red food coloring gel until just blended.
      • Add the liquid mixture (from the 4th step) to the flour mixture in 2 batches, beating on low speed until blended. Once the liquid mixture has been added, increase the mixer speed to high and beat until smooth, no more than 30 seconds. Reduce the mixer speed back to its lowest setting and slowly pour in 3/4 cup boiling coffee. Be careful not to overmix! Beat until the coffee has just been blended, and the mixture turns into a dark maroon, almost brown color. The batter will be thin.
      • Divide the batter equally among the prepared pans and bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean and the tops of each cake bounce back when gently touched. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, before turning them out to cool completely. Remove the parchment paper and prepare the frosting only when the cakes have completely cooled and you're ready to start frosting the cake.

      For the Ermine Frosting and Marzipan Filling and Topping

      • In a small bowl, combine 1 cup granulated sugar and the fresh zest from 1 medium orange.¬†Use your fingers to incorporate the zest throughout the sugar, rubbing the zest into the sugar. Set aside.
      • Combine 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole milk in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Continue heating until the mixture simmers, whisking frequently until the mixture thickens and becomes almost pudding-like. The end result should be a thick, white paste.
      • Once the mixture achieves this texture, remove from heat and whisk in 1 teaspoon pure orange extract and a pinch of salt. Use a rubber spatula to transfer the mixture to a bowl to allow it to cool completely. Put plastic wrap on the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming.
      • Once the mixture has cooled completely, combine 1 cup unsalted butter and 1 cup orange-scented granulated sugar (from the 1st step) in the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, creaming for at least 5 minutes.
      • Once the mixture is light and fluffy, keep the mixer on medium and add the cooled flour mixture one tablespoon at a time. Continue to beat until the mixture becomes light and fluffy and resembles whipped cream. Use immediately.
      • To assemble and frost the cakes, level each cake with a serrated knife. Place 1 cake layer, bottom-side down, on a cake plate. Use an offset spatula to spread 1/3 cup of ermine frosting on top. Take one 2-ounce portion of marzipan and grate over the ermine frosting until evenly distributed. Add the second cake layer, top-side down, and repeat the process until all layers have been used up. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.
      • Use your hands to knead a couple drops of red food coloring gel into the remaining 2 ounces of marzipan until fully incorporated. Roll out the marzipan to a 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick rectangle in between 2 sheets of wax paper. Use cookie cutters to stamp out shapes, and gently press each shape onto the cake.