Extreme Cuisine – Marzipan

By / Food / December 22nd, 2009 / 1

Marzipan is a sweet made with blanched almonds that have been ground into a fine paste, sugar syrup and sometimes egg whites. Popular all over the world, almost every culture has its own marzipan recipe. Once the ingredients have been blended, it’s very easy to work — a lot like clay actually. Marzipan is usually used to cover cakes in lieu of icing or fondant, or formed into three dimensional animals and fruit shapes. Sometimes, rose water is added to give the marzipan a perfume-like scent and flavour. Sweetness levels vary, too. I find Italian marzipan is considerably less sweet than the German-style varieties most commonly sold. Try a few different types, and see for yourself which is your favourite. The texture is very much like cookie dough. It’s soft and creamy, but with enough of a bite to it.

When rolling it out, dust a clean surface with icing sugar or lay the marzipan between sheets of plastic wrap. The latter method usually produces a very smooth surface. It’s exactly the thing if you’re looking for a perfectly unblemished surface to cover a cake. Marzipan is naturally ivory-coloured, but adding a few drops of food colouring to each batch will give you a very pretty array of coloured confection to use. You can even paint designs on it by hand instead of mixing the colour into the dough.

Marzipan is very easy to make. But, if you’re more interested in some time-saving shortcuts, search out packages of prepared marzipan in the baking goods section of most supermarkets. Feeling adventurous? Try out this very festive cake.


1 to 2 cups granulated sugar

2/3 cup water

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

4 cups ground almonds

2 egg whites

Icing sugar for dusting

1. Fill a bowl with cold water. It should be large enough to hold the saucepan.

2. Place sugar and water into a large saucepan. Heat to medium-low, stirring until dissolved.

3. Add cream of tartar. Boil, covered, 2 minutes.

4. Uncover; boil until the temperature reaches soft-ball stage, 240 degrees on a candy thermometer.

5. Remove from the heat and dip the bottom of the saucepan into the cold water. Stir constantly until thick.

6. Stir in the ground almonds and the egg whites. Put the pan back on low heat; stir, 2 minutes, until thick.

7. Dust work surface with icing sugar. Pour marzipan out, and fold it over itself using a metal spatula until cool enough to handle.

8. Dust dough with icing sugar; knead until smooth and pliant, about 5 minutes. It’s now ready to use.

Royal Cake

Makes 1 cake

Sponge cake (recipe follows)

Orange syrup (recipe follows)

Cream filling (recipe follows)

14 oz marzipan

1. Slice cake in half horizontally with with a serrated knife. Place bottom half, cut side up, on a wide plate. Moisten evenly with 2/3 of the orange syrup.

2. Spoon all the cream filling onto bottom cake half; if it flows over the sides, set cake in the refrigerator for a few minutes until filling is firm enough to stay in place, then scrape it back on top.

3. Set remaining cake half, cut side down, on filling, aligning neatly with bottom half. Smooth filling into crevices between the layers. Cover and chill a least 1 hour.

4. Pierce the top of the cake (but not the filling) with a thin skewer at 1/2 inch intervals, then slowly spoon remaining orange syrup over cake, letting it soak in. Cover cake and chill while you roll out the marzipan.

5. With your hands, knead marzipan into a single lump, then pat into a 1/4 inch round, pressing edges to keep them smooth. With a rolling pin, roll marzipan between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to make a neat round, 14 inches wide. Lift plastic occasionally to press cracking edges together.

6. Pull off top piece of plastic wrap. Supporting marzipan with bottom piece of plastic wrap, invert it over cake, centre it, lay it on cake and peel off wrap. Gently press marzipan neatly against sides of cake. Use a knife or fluted ravioli cutter to trip the marzipan flush with the base of the cake. Serve, or keep chilled.

Sponge Cake

Serves 8

2 Tbsp butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup milk

2 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1. Lightly butter a 9 inch round cake pan with removable rim.

2. In a bowl, mix flour and baking powder.

3. Warm milk with 2 tablespoons butter until butter is melted, 2 minutes.

4. In another bowl with a mixer on high speed, whip eggs, sugar and vanilla until foamy. Add flour and milk mixtures. Stir to mix, hen beat until well blended. Scrape batter into buttered pan.

5. Bake in a 350°F oven until cake edge just begins to pull from pan sides and top springs back when lightly pressed in the centre, 20 to 25 minutes. Invert cake onto a rack and turn rounded side up. Let cool 20 minutes. Let cool.

Orange Syrup

Makes 1 cup

1-1/4 cups orange juice

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp coriander seed

1 tsp grated orange peel

1/4 cup Cointreau

1. In a large pan set over high heat, bring all ingredients to a boil. Boil until reduced to 3/4 cup, 10-15 minutes. Pour through a fine strainer into a bowl; discard residue. Add Cointreau, rum or more orange juice.

Cream Filling

Makes about 4 cups

1/4 cup sugar

1-1/2 tsp cornstarch

1 envelope unflavoured gelatin

1-1/2 cups milk

1 tsp grated orange peel

1 egg

2 Tbsp Cointreau

1 cup 35% cream

1. In a large pan, combine sugar, cornstarch, gelatine, milk and orange peel.

2. In a small bowl, beat egg to blend; stir into milk mixture. Whisk over high heat until mixture boils, 3 minutes.

3. Immediately immerse pan in ice water. Add Cointreau, rum or orange juice and stir often until mixture is cool and holds soft mounds when spooned, but is not firm, 6 minutes.

4. In a deep bowl with a mixer on high speed, beat 35% cream until thick. Fold cooked mixture into cream. Immerse bowl into ice water and stir occasionally until mixture holds soft mounds, 3 minutes.


Rosemary Mantini has always loved words. When she isn't working as the Associate Editor at Tidings Magazine, she's helping others achieve their writing dreams, and sometimes she even relaxes with a good book and a glass of wine.

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