Why learn how to make marzipan? Because it’s delicious and much easier to make at home than you might have thought. It does not even require baking or cooking.
If you don’t even know what marzipan is, don’t feel left out – join the club. I didn’t know anything about it until I needed to use it in a recipe.
Have you ever seen adorable edible fruits, vegetables, animals or other items sitting on top of a cake or candy or in a bakery store case. Did you ever wonder what they are made of?
It’s marzipan, a combination of blanched and finely ground almonds, sugar, and something to bind those ingredients together. The confection is also used in lots of baked goods, especially Danish pastry, and those beautiful almond crescents I lust after in bakery cases.
Grocery stores sell marzipan (typically near chips and other baking supplies), but it’s frightfully expensive. Now that I know how to make this delight, I’ll never have to pay those high prices again. Plus, when I mentioned this adventure to several friends, their eyes lit up, so I’ll revisit this homemade goodie at holiday time. It would make an easy and delicious homemade gift, like candied ginger and chocolate bark.
Marzipan came on my radar when I made my friend Marguerite’s gluten-free berry cake. The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of gluten-free marzipan. The only brand I could find, Odense, claims to be gluten-free, but uses wheat starch. (The company website says that the amount of wheat contained in their marzipan is below the FDA standard so they can call their product gluten-free.) That fact, plus the $6 price tag (for more than I needed) convinced me to make my own marzipan.
Down the rabbit hole I went.
I learned a lot about commercially prepared marzipan and how to make marzipan at home:
- You can make it by cooking the ingredients, or you can make it without heating them at all.
- The ratio of ground almonds to sugar in marzipan varies tremendously depending on the recipe. I found ratios of almonds to sugar from just over 1-to-4 (in the Odense brand) to a 3-to-2 ratio in one homemade recipe.
- Marzipan need a binding agent to hold the dry ingredients together. That binding agent can be egg white, lemon juice, corn syrup or other liquid sugar, water, liqueur (especially Kirsch, which is cherry-flavored) or some combination. For food safety reasons, it is not advisable to use an egg white if you are doing the uncooked version (unless the marzipan will be baked into a pastry.)
- Some recipes give the marzipan a flavor boost with almond extract, while others do not.
- If the almond flavor is more intense, the sweet is called almond paste, rather than marzipan. However, in practice the name is not always a good guide to what percentage of the sweet is actually almonds. For example, Odense brand marzipan is 28% almonds and Odense almond paste is 45% almonds. Another brand, Love ‘n Bake, uses 40% almonds in its marzipan, making it almost like the Odense almond paste. The Love ‘n Bake almond paste is made with 66% almonds.
To see how easy it is to make marzipan, watch the video:
Luckily, I promised a neighbor some of my marzipan or I might have eaten the whole log myself.
Homemade marzipan is much tastier than store-bought, and a lot less expensive.
- 3 5/8 ounces blanched ground almonds Approximately 1 cup
- 5 2/5 ounces confectioners (powdered) sugar Approximately 2 cups
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Sift the almond flour and confectioners sugar together into a large bowl and mix them until they are well combined. The mixture looks like a pillowy, off-white powder.
Mix the almond extract and corn syrup together, then add them to dry ingredients.
Add water very slowly, by no more than half tablespoons at a time, working the mixture until it becomes dough-like. I usually begin with a fork or spatula, then switch to using my hands. Try to use no more than 1-2 tablespoons of water total - use the minimum amount that will, with the heat of your hands mixing the ingredients, allow you to roll it into a log.
Put the log into a gallon-size freezer bag, gently roll the log a bit more to smooth it out, and refrigerate the log for at least one hour before serving or using in baked goods.
The recipe uses only 4 ingredients, 5 if you count water.
Use well-blanched almond flour that is light tan in color, not almond flour that contains the dark skins of the almonds.
I used store brand almond extract. Although I was tempted to buy the expensive stuff, it turns out that when my son, Liam, and his friends did an almond extract taste test, the store brand was actually preferred by several of my taste testers.
To serve the marzipan on its own, slice the log into pieces 1/4-1/2 inch thick.
If you want to really go to town, cut each piece in half and dip it in melted chocolate.
Here is the Gluten-Free Berry Cake that started this marzipan adventure.