What Is Marzipan?

It's an essential ingredient for holiday baking. But what is marizpan? And what are your options if you can't find any at the store?

You’ve seen it in baking recipes, and it even has its own holiday (January 12, in case you were wondering). Marzipan is an incredible baking ingredient that’s essential to the best holiday treats. It’s sweet and delicious, and you can use it to make the cutest little candies, elaborately frosted cakes and bite-sized, Marzipan-filled dessert cups. If you’ve never worked with it before, you might think marzipan another name for almond paste. They’re both made with almonds, so they must be the same, right?

What Is Marzipan?

Marzipan is light, candy-like mixture made by mixing finely ground almonds with sugar, corn syrup and egg whites. Some say it originated in Persia, but others claim it came from Germany, Spain, Italy or France. In fact, the ingredient was so popular in Spain that settlers brought it over to the Americas, where it is made with peanuts instead of almonds.

While its origins are vague, one thing is clear: It has become famous for its use during Christmastime. You’ll find chocolate-covered treats all year round, but the winter holidays bring us the famous stollen cake from Germany and fruit-shaped marzipan candies (like these festive Harvest Table Toppers) in many other European countries.

Are Almond Paste and Marzipan the Same Thing?

If you’re tempted to use almond paste as a substitute for marzipan, don’t! You can certainly add sugar and corn syrup to almond paste to make it marzipan-like, but it’s not a good swap as-is. Both products are made with sugar and almonds, but marzipan has a candy-like flavor and a secret ingredient–an egg white–that makes it smooth and moldable. Almond paste, on the other hand, is coarser in texture and less sweet, making it better suited for use as a filling.

You might see people use marzipan and fondant interchangeably in cake decorating. You could certainly use fondant as a substitute, since it has the same sweet flavor and a moldable consistency, but you’ll find it’s not as easy to work with. The almonds in marzipan act as a flour, keeping the product moist and easy to roll. Fondant is made from sugar and gelatin, so it tends to dry out easily as you roll it. It also lacks the characteristic almond flavor that makes marzipan so crave-worthy

How Do You Make Marzipan?

It’s actually surprisingly easy to make marzipan! Many recipes tell you to add confectioners’ sugar and corn syrup to almond paste, but we find these versions way too sweet and lacking in natural almond flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup blanched almonds
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon egg white

Yield: about 1 cup

Step 1: Blend it up

Start by combining the almonds and 1/4 cup of the confectioners’ sugar in a food processor (this is our favorite brand!). Pulse the mixture until it’s well blended. Then, add the remaining confectioners’ sugar along with the almond extract and light corn syrup. Process for one minute until the mixture is very smooth. Finally, add the egg white and process until the mixture forms a ball.

Step 2: Let it rest

No matter how you plan to use it, it’s important to let the marzipan rest. Otherwise, the mixture will be too warm and can fall apart as you work it. Remove the marzipan from the food processor and tightly wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for one hour, until firm.

Step 3: Enjoy!

The marzipan is now ready to use! You can eat it as-is like candy, or press it into molds to make fun shapes like fruits, stars or animals. It can also be used like fondant as a cake topper or placed between two cake layers to create a flavorful divider. If you’d like, you can color it using food coloring to make everything extra festive.

Celebrate the holidays with our favorite almond recipes!

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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.