Marzipan, a sweet almond paste confection, is one of the most widely known confections in the world. We take a look at the marzipan from its origins to its many varieties.
Table of Content
- A little history?
- What is marzipan?
- Different types of marzipan
- Marzipan recipes
- Is marzipan different from fondant?
- How to cover a cake with marzipan and fondant?
- Working with marzipan or almond paste
- Uses of marzipan
- Frequently asked questions
- More Christmas recipes
- Join the conversation
Marzipan is very versatile and underused because most people don't know the many ways to use it. Made by blending blanched almonds and confectioners sugar with a little water or syrup. This delicious sweet paste is candy on its own but is also used as an ingredient in many different desserts. It has been made in the Middle East, Europe, and Mediterranean regions such as Italy, Spain for centuries
I really enjoy it because I've been around it since a kid. My mom and god-mom made it in buckets. She would make small cute fruits with them and sells them as candy during Christmas.
The candy fruits would be simple elegant little tasty bites. Apples, mango, pineapple, banana, grapes. In fact, she would make us kids, roll out small balls of almond paste for the grapes.
A little history?
Marzipan or 'march pane' is widely in use now in a number of languages. The invention of marzipan is usually attributed to Lubeck, Germany.
The Spanish claim that marzipan was invented in Toledo, while Italians say it was in Florence. The French claim that they invented the sweet treat in France. Cities like Venice, Florence, Konigsberg, claim they invented this confection.
It is said that during the 15th-century famine when flour for making bread was scarce, the senate of Lübeck ordered bakers to create a replacement using available ingredients such as eggs, sugar, and almonds. These wonderful bakers created marzipan.
What is marzipan?
Known as Marzipan in the US and Almond paste in the UK. Quite often the difference is the ratio of almonds to sugar used in the two. It can be added to a cake mixture before baking or be covered on a baked cake or fruitcake. There is so much you can do with it.
Marzipan is sweet and smooth. You can buy it or make it yourself. All you need is a large bowl and a food processor. It's made into a dough with finely ground almonds (or almond flour), sweeteners such as powdered sugar (aka confectioner's sugar), honey, maple syrup, or light corn syrup, and flavorings such as almond oil, extract, rose extract (rose water), or vanilla extract.
Marzipan and Almond past though have similar ingredients they are both different creatures.
- It is often eaten on its own. It can be dyed with edible food colors, put into molds and make great gifts.
- Almond paste has a much coarser texture and is used as fillings for baked goods such as croissants.
- Try it making Easter eggs.
- Use it in cake decorating to cover a cake or fruitcake. Or in baked cakes such as the stollen from Germany or the Yule log cake.
- Truffles such as pecan marzipan truffles, chocolate marzipan truffles, and chocolate coconut truffles.
- Marzipan cookies - Use it to frost cookies instead of fondant.
- Use it in confections and pastries such as marzipan croissant or in puff pastry bites.
Different types of marzipan
- The traditional is almond-based was made with almond meal.
- Cashew-based was for those that did not like almond flavor.
- Hazelnut-based was the most expensive cause hazelnuts were very expensive.
- Of course, there's chocolate.
- And then she'd flavor them differently too. Pineapple candy would have pineapple flavor, grape would have grape extract, etc.
I could go on and on about mom and her wonderful kitchen joys. Marzipan fruits sold like this is what I know as Christmas candy.
- Gluten-free - Both almond flour and powdered sugar are supossed to be gluten-free.
- Sugar-free - you can use powdered erythritol instead of powdered sugar to make a sugar free marzipan.
- Chocolate marzipan - add cocoa powder to the powdered sugar to make chocolate marzipan.
- Vegan marzipan - use all vegan ingredeints to make this vegan marzipan recipe. Not all white sugar is vegan, so you can also use vegan honey or maple syrup for sweetener.
Is marzipan different from fondant?
- While they are both similar in textures, marzipan is much denser than fondant.
- It doesn’t stretch like fondant. So, it can be crumbly and breaks up easily.
- Taste better than fondant but is sticky and not very smooth.
- It gets its color from the nuts so it is not white but pale ivory.
- You can color marzipan but the shades are not as bright as with fondant.
- Since it’s made with nuts – over-kneading when trying to color it, can cause the release of nut oils making it more difficult to work.
- Marzipan needs to be handled gently while fondant can endure some heavy kneading.
- Never use cornflour to roll or work with your marzipan. Cornflour can cause marzipan to develop molds. Always use powdered sugar only.
How to cover a cake with marzipan and fondant?
Here you can see I have covered a fruitcake with marzipan, then fondant. I made this marzipan cake for a customer's mom's 85th Birthday celebration.
- I brushed the fruitcake with apricot jam.
- Then, I cut a disc of almond paste for the top of the cake.
- Next, I rolled a long strip of for the sides of the cake - cut off excess at the top.
- Then, I brushed the cake with a light smear of apricot jam again.
- Rolled my orange fondant and draped it over the cake.
- Continued the rest of the design as I have with roses and swags etc.
Working with marzipan or almond paste
- I said this above but I'm going to say it again - Marzipan hates cornstarch!! So any contact with cornstarch will cause it to develop mold. In fact, you have to be very careful when covering a fruit cake - any cornstarch on the rolling pin can prove fatal to your fruitcake.
- Just like sugar paste or fondant, you must keep it well-wrapped with a plastic wrap at all times. It dries out easily. And because it's made with nuts it's dried version becomes quite brittle.
- It should be stored in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight. You can also store it in the fridge.
- If you ever have dried marzipan don't throw it away. Save it in the freezer - the next time you make the streusel add it to the streusel.
Uses of marzipan
There are many different ways to use marzipan from simply covering a fruitcake to making fruits and truffles.
- Easter eggs - my favorite treat of all times - the classic or chocolate Easter eggs.
- Fruit Cakes - Traditionally fruitcakes are covered in almond paste and Royal Icing.
As explained above - Brush a fruit cake with Apricot jam, roll some and cover the cake. Then cover the cake with sugar paste or royal Icing. I've shared the detailed process above.
- Top a Carrot cake. The nutty marzipan and carrots make a great combination.
- Marzipan Layered cake – Roll and cut out a disc the same size as your cake. Layer it between two cake layers. Decorate the cake with whipped cream & strawberries or cherries.
- Make tasty cake decorations such as flowers and fruits for cakes. Just color it, roll and cut out the shapes. Cup the center of the flowers and place them on a cake. You can make roses similar to how we make chocolate roses but using almond paste.
- Make simple figures and models for your cakes. Human figures that don’t need support, such as a sitting boy, animal shapes. You would rather eat a delicious marzipan figure than a sugar paste figure.
- You can use it as a filing in puff pastry and croissants. Place a dollop as the filling, bake at 200 C/400 F for 15 to 20 minutes, or golden brown.
- Make truffles – Marzipan and chocolate are a great combination. I have a few marzipan truffle recipes (linked below).
Roll it balls, dip them in melted chocolate.
- Don’t’ Like Almond? – Substitute the almonds in the recipe with your favorite nuts such as cashews, macadamia, or pecans marzipan.
- Chocolate Marzipan -substitute some powder sugar with cocoa powder making chocolate marzipan.
- The German traditional cake Stollen uses marzipan baked inside the cake.
Frequently asked questions
If stored properly it has a long shelflife of six months. Because the sugar content in marzipan is so high it can be kept at room temperature without refrigeration.
The traditional recipe does include raw egg whites, not yolks so there is no risk of salmonella. So unless you are allergic to eggs you can eat raw marzipan. Having said that all my recipes substitute the raw egg with sugar syrup or water so you can eat all my marzipan recipes raw.
When kept for long in very dry conditions sometimes it can get hard. Similar to fondant just place it in the microwave for 10 seconds. Gently knead it to soften it.
Yes, if you want a marzipan-flavored fondant. However, if you are using homemade marzipan, make sure it is smooth, not coarse consistency.
Traditional fruitcake is covered with marzipan a week before you ice it with royal icing so that it dries out. Cover the cake with a clean cloth like cheesecloth and place it in an airtight container.
Almond extract and vanilla are the most commonly used. Rose extract or orange blossom is also very widely used. Having said that, cinnamon, nutmeg, and other spices like allspice and ginger are also often wonderful.
More Christmas recipes
- Christmas MM Cookies or Candy Christmas Cookies
- Christmas Tree Cookies Gingerbread
- and Christmas Star Cookies or Christmas snowflake cookies
- Christmas Wreath Cake or Christmas Pavlova
- Christmas Spritz Cookies or Stenciled Christmas Sugar Cookies
- Cranberry Cake Christmas, Yule log cake, or Maripan cake
- See all holiday cookies or see all Christmas recipes
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