What is marzipan and what is it used for? We uncover all there is to love about this sweet almond confection.

By Nadia Hassani
November 23, 2020
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What Is Marzipan?

Marzipan is a candy or a confection made of almonds and sugar or honey as a sweetener, plus flavorings such as almond oil or almond extract, rose water, or orange blossom water. Commercially produced marzipan often contains additives and preservatives such as glucose syrup, invertase, or sorbic acid.

For commercially produced marzipan, raw almonds are blanched to remove their skins, then they are ground into almond flour and roasted. Because of its light color, marzipan lends itself to dying.

What Is Marzipan Used For?

Marzipan is used in a variety of dessert and candy recipes, including everything from cookies and cakes to truffles and pralines. Marzipan is also often dyed and shaped into miniature fruits to be enjoyed on their own or used to decorate cakes. Chocolate-covered marzipan is one of the simplest ways to prepare and enjoy marzipan, whether you make your own marzipan from scratch or use store-bought.

Credit: Nadia Hassani

What Ingredients Are in Marzipan?

Almonds and sugar are the two basic ingredients in marzipan, and all you need to make marzipan at home. Optionally, you can also add flavorings and/or food coloring.

Beyond the basic ingredients of almonds and sugar, the ingredients and types of marzipan vary, often from country to country. Most commercially produced, European-style marzipan does not contain egg whites so it’s vegan.

Strictly speaking, marzipan is always made with almonds. However, marzipan-like confections made of nuts instead of almonds, such as pistachio marzipan, are also often referred to as marzipan.

In the United States, marzipan is a fine-textured, ready-to-eat confection, unlike almond paste. You can find marzipan in the baking aisle of well-stocked grocery stores or it can be purchased online. In some countries, marzipan contains bitter almonds, though this is not so in the U.S., as their sale is prohibited.

Photo by Allrecipes
| Credit: Allrecipes

German Marzipan

In Germany, which is renowned for its marzipan, especially the Lübecker Marzipan from the north German city of Lübeck, food laws regulate the different marzipan classifications. The quality of the marzipan is determined by the ratio of sugar and the raw marzipan material called Marzipanrohmasse which may not be more than 1:1. In other words, the higher the amount of almonds, the better the marzipan quality. German marzipan is often shaped like a loaf of bread, or into marzipan potatoes. For New Year’s, marzipan is shaped into piglets with a clover leaf for good luck. There are numerous regional marzipan specialties, of which the filigree Königsberger marzipan with a caramelized top might be the most sought after.

British Marzipan

In Britain, supermarkets sell both white and golden marzipan. White marzipan is the preferred marzipan for dying with food coloring. It is also used to make three-dimensional cake decorations such as fruits or vegetables. Golden marzipan on the other hand is mostly used to cover cakes, such as Battenburg cake and the traditional British Christmas fruitcake.

Elsewhere in Europe

Almost every European country has its own marzipan creations. Sicily in Italy is home to two famous specialties with marzipan, the dessert Cassata and Frutta martorana, miniature fruit-shaped marzipan. A Spanish marzipan specialty is mazapán de Toledo from the Spanish province of Toledo. Swedish Princess cake is a layered cake covered with green marzipan.

Store marzipan in an airtight container
| Credit: Nadia Hassani

How to Store Marzipan

Marzipan needs to be stored air-tight to prevent it from drying out. Due to the oil contained in the almonds, it should be kept in a cool, dark place like the refrigerator so it won’t turn rancid.

Once opened, commercially produced marzipan is a bit less prone to drying out than homemade marzipan, but try to use an opened package within seven to 10 days.

If marzipan dries out, it cannot be turned smooth again but no need to throw it out -- only the texture is affected and it is still perfectly edible. Add it to a crumble topping for muffins or coffee cake or sprinkle it over ice cream.

Can You Freeze Marzipan?

Yes, marzipan can be frozen! Freezing marzipan leftovers, whether store-bought or homemade, is the best way to prevent it from drying out. Wrap it tightly in freezer bags and freeze for up to six months. There is no need to freeze unopened commercially produced marzipan, as it is well sealed and will stay fresh until the expiration date.

More About Marzipan...

Whether you're already a marzipan fan or just wondering what to do with marzipan, we have loads of recipes and resources to meet all of your marzipan needs!