What is marzipan?      
  Marzipan is a confection of ground almonds and sugar mixed together with a binding ingredient to create a versatile, soft, sweet and pliable paste. The simplest marzipan recipe uses water as a binding agent however egg whites and sugar syrup are often used too. Aromatic scents may sometimes be added to the marzipan to slightly modify the taste.      
  Origins of marzipan.      
  The origin of marzipan is a matter of infinite debate. The most plausible theory suggests that marzipan was created as a necessity to store almonds rather than as the marzipan paste we know today. When an almond is ripe the nut can dry fairly quickly through its porous shell. If however the nut is crushed and mixed with sugar the almond can hold its freshness for much longer due to the natural preserving properties of sugar. In early Medieval Europe mixing sugar with almonds ensured that almonds would be available from one harvest to the next. This confection of almonds and sugar was easy to store and rich in nourishment, making it a favourite amongst travellers of the time only gradually did marzipan start to be colored and moulded, turning it from a convenient traveller's necessity to an expensive luxury.      
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  Almond branch       Almonds with shell       Almonds without shell      
  Almond branch       Almonds with shell       Almonds without shell        
  Types of marzipan.        
  Marzipan is available in three main types: white, yellow and raw sugar marzipan. The most suitable paste to use for modelling is white marzipan. Due to its fine, pliable consistency white marzipan can be easily tinted with edible food colorings, it is not too sticky and can subsequently be moulded into different designs such as fruits, vegetables and animals or used for covering cakes. Yellow marzipan is colored yellow from its manufacturers and is more commonly used to cover cakes, it is not suitable for modelling and coloring as the yellow dye makes it awkward to color and the almonds are coarser making it difficult to shape. Raw sugar marzipan is too sticky to use for modelling.        
  Today marzipan is produced all over the world and there are therefore many different qualities and recipes to choose from. Although almonds and sugar remain the main ingredients, some marzipan manufacturers decide to add apricot or peach kernels to ground almonds. To find good quality marzipan one needs to look for a high almond to sugar ratio. A minimum of 22% almond content is essential.        
  Marzipan modelling.        
  Marzipan should be kneaded gently before shaping in order to release the almond oils and make it easier to work with. Care needs to be taken not to over work the marzipan paste otherwise when one starts to shape the marzipan it will fall apart. Should this happen or if the marzipan becomes too sticky a little bit of icing sugar (confectioners sugar) can be added and gently kneaded into the marzipan to solve the problem. To color marzipan the best types of edible food colorings to use are paste colors which do not alter the consistency of marzipan as opposed to liquid food colorings. (If paste colors are not available liquid colors can be used sparingly otherwise they will make the marzipan too sticky. Edible dust colors may also be used to add final detailing to shapes. To best preserve marzipan it should be stored in plastic wrap or in an airtight container, in a cool dry place away from sunlight.        
  Marzipan pear example:        
  This marzipan pear started off as plain white marzipan, a light green tint of paste food coloring was added to the paste which was than kneaded to distribute the color evenly and than modelled from a sphere to a cone into a pear shape. A chestnut brown color was sprayed onto the marzipan pear through an airbrush to give the shape a more natural look. To make the marzipan pear appear more realistic another layer of the same color brown was sprayed again, this time to create a droplet texture effect and to emphasize the contours. The marzipan pear was then hand painted with confectioners varnish to give it a high gloss finish. To add a final touch a clove was placed on top of the pear as a stem.   marzipan pear        

When creating marzipan cakes or shapes the almond to sugar ratio plays an important role. In principle sugar can be colored and moulded into practically any shape whilst ground almonds can not. Therefore the more sugar contained in the marzipan the more sophisticated the final shape will turn out. The secret to making marzipan cakes and shapes is to find a suitable almond to sugar ratio so as to create a pleasing design without compromising the taste of marzipan.



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