Have you been wondering how to use marzipan or how to make marzipan fruits? Wonder no more, as this handy guide covers all of the marzipan basics from how to store marzipan, to colouring marzipan and making marzipan models!
How to use marzipan: the basics
By Carol Deacon (adapted from the November 2013 issue of Cake Decoration & Sugarcraft).
We often associate marzipan with the festive season. We use it to cover our Christmas cakes and some of us gift our loved ones with sweet marzipan fruits – but marzipan isn’t just for Christmas! If you love that nutty almond taste, why not use marzipan all year-round? We're here to get you started with the basics to using marzipan, along with some handy top tips and guides.
Working with marzipan (almond paste) is similar to working with sugarpaste. They can both be used as icing, moulded into decorations and dyed to create colourful designs. You can substitute marzipan for sugarpaste on many designs if you prefer the taste. Marzipan is usually available in golden or natural colours – there's no discernible difference in taste, although different brands may vary slightly.
Confused over what type of icing you should use for your next decorating project? Read our handy guide to the different types of icing, from marzipan and buttercream to ganache and royal icing.
Like sugarpaste, marzipan will start to harden when it's exposed to the air so keep any unused marzipan tightly wrapped in plastic food bags and stored in a cool cupboard until required – marzipan doesn't need to be kept in the fridge.
Marzipan models and marzipan covered cakes should be stored in cardboard cake boxes until needed – they don't need to be refrigerated.
Top tip! If your marzipan is cold and hard, you can soften it in the microwave for a few seconds. Repeat this step if necessary, but take care not to overdo it as the oil in the marzipan can get very hot and could burn you. If your marzipan has dried out, cut off the dried-out sections of your marzipan and discard. Do not microwave dried-out marzipan or try to knead it back into fresh marzipan, as it will result in hard little lumps in your fresh marzipan.
If you're covering a fruit cake with marzipan, use boiled, sieved apricot jam to stick the marzipan to the cake – apricot has a mild taste so it won't affect the flavour of the cake.
Heat the apricot jam to boiling point in a heatproof bowl in the microwave or with a couple of tablespoons of water in a saucepan on the stove.
It's recommended that you sieve the jam after heating it as chemicals in apricot skin can occasionally cause the marzipan to ‘blow’ away from the side of the cake, causing a huge air bubble to form beneath the marzipan.
Always cover a fruit cake with marzipan before covering it with sugarpaste or royal icing to keep moisture in the cake and to stop oils from seeping into the outside covering and causing discolouration.
You can also put a layer of marzipan over a sponge cake before covering it with sugarpaste. This is called ‘double covering’ and it's worth considering doing this on an important cake such as a wedding cake as it'll make achieving a smooth finish much easier.
Top tip! Keep a small bowl of icing sugar handy. Not only will you use it to knead and roll out your marzipan on, but it will stop your fingers from getting sticky when making models (don't use cornflour as the two can react together to create mould and cracking in the marzipan).
Marzipan can easily be coloured using food pastes in the same way as you would sugarpaste. Apply the food paste with a cocktail stick and knead it into the marzipan. Try to avoid liquid colours as these will make the marzipan soggy and unusable.
Because marzipan is made from almonds and even ‘natural’ marzipan has a greyish tinge to it, you can't achieve a pure white colour, so you may want to avoid trying to make a marzipan snow scene, for example.
Use natural marzipan rather than golden marzipan if you plan to add colour, as the paler hue of the natural marzipan won't distort the colour as much as golden marzipan will.
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Marzipan models are made in exactly the same way as sugarpaste models. Make up the colours before you start and store the coloured marzipan in small plastic food bags until you’re ready to use them. Make and stick the model sections in place as you go along with light dabs of cooled boiled water.
Top tip! You can also use cooled boiled water to ‘paint’ marzipan to create a sticky surface if you plan to cover your cake with sugarpaste. If you're covering the marzipan with royal icing you won't need to do this.
Marzipan fruits are a traditional sweet Christmas treat, but they can also make great cake decorations or a charming homemade gift all year-round. They're also surprisingly easy to make!
- Roll 30g (1oz) of orange coloured marzipan into a ball.
- Roll the orange gently over a fine grater to add a bit of texture.
- Press a dried clove into the top to finish.
- Roll a little green coloured marzipan into a ball shape.
- Make a tiny brown marzipan sausage shape for the stalk and press it into the top of the apple or press a clove into the base of the apple.
- Dust a little red edible dusting powder onto one side to finish.
Top tip! Cloves are not poisonous but they can be a little sharp so it’s advisable to remove them before eating. If you’re at all worried, use little bits of brown or black coloured marzipan to make little stalks and orange centres.
- Roll green coloured marzipan into a longer oval shape and squeeze the middle slightly.
- Make a tiny brown marzipan sausage shape for the stalk and press it into the top of the apple.
- Brush a little red edible dusting powder on one side.
- Roll out green coloured marzipan, fairly thinly, and cut out a simple leaf shape using the tip of your knife or a leaf cutter.
- Press a couple of veins into the leaf using the back of your knife and stick the leaf into position.
Now you've learnt the basics, why not put your skills to the test and make this delicious marzipan-topped Simnel cake?