What is Marzipan?

Jeff Petersen
Jeff Petersen

Marzipan is an almond and sugar paste that is used to ice cakes and other pastries or sculpted into a variety of shapes to be eaten as candy or used as cake decorations. It is simply a mixture of almond paste, powdered sugar, and a moistening agent such as water, corn syrup, glucose, fondant, or egg whites. After the ingredients are mixed, the paste reaches a consistency of dough or soft rubber and can be rolled, shaped, cut, or molded.

Cupcake decorated with marzipan, a type of almond paste.
Cupcake decorated with marzipan, a type of almond paste.

Because marzipan is both delicious to eat on its own and simple to make, it is often used both as the icing for cakes and as decoration. When used to ice a cake, it is rolled into a thin sheet and draped over the cake, usually with a fruit glaze applied between the cake and marzipan so that the icing sticks more securely. Once draped over the cake, the sides of the sheet are carefully smoothed down so that the icing is uniform and free of bubbles or wrinkles.

Marzipan is made from ground almonds and sugar.
Marzipan is made from ground almonds and sugar.

Marzipan is used to decorate cakes in other ways as well. Its soft, pliable texture allows a decorator to shape it into three dimensional shapes such as flowers, fruits, people, or animals. The marzipan can be colored with food dye or air brushed, and with the right techniques, a skilled artist can make very realistic shapes. Using cookie cutters or a sharp knife, it can be cut into shapes, letters and numbers, which are then attached to the sides or top of a cake. These decorations add color, flavor, and texture to what might otherwise be a plain cake.

Marzipan can be dipped in melted chocolate.
Marzipan can be dipped in melted chocolate.

Besides its role in cake icing and decorating, marzipan is popular as a candy. Its sweet, nutty taste, all natural ingredients, and the often whimsical shapes it can take make it a favorite among both children and adults. This candy can be a simple block of sweet almond paste, but is also found covered with granulated sugar, dipped in chocolate, or flavored. It is sold in bite-sized pieces or larger blocks, as well as in the shape of fruits, animals, and special holiday shapes like Santa Claus or jack-o-lanterns.

Marzipan can be purchased pre-made in many baking shops and candy or grocery stores. Cooks can also buy almond paste to make their own by mixing equal parts of the paste with powdered sugar, and then slowly working in a small amount of corn syrup until the mixture has a soft, slightly dry, dough-like consistency. With their own marzipan, some food coloring, a clean work surface, and some spare powdered sugar in case the paste gets too sticky to work with, cooks can make their own candy in whatever shapes they can imagine.

Marzipan is a paste made of almonds and sugar.
Marzipan is a paste made of almonds and sugar.
Jeff Petersen
Jeff Petersen

Jeff is a freelance writer, short story author, and novelist who earned his B.A. in English/Creative Writing from Creighton University. Based in Berkeley, California, Jeff loves putting his esoteric knowledge to good use as a wiseGEEK contributor.

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Discussion Comments


Is almond paste edible for animals that can have sugar? I am looking to make marzipan cookies for a horse and her rider? Is it OK for the horse to eat this? Any restrictions due to health? Thanks!


@rethsteacher, yes or it will much faster.


does marzipan have to be refrigerated?


@Anon125239: I'm in no way a professional, but the few times I've used marzipan or almond paste, I've found it dries out very quickly. The article indicates you could do this, but I wouldn't do it myself--I'd definitely have a professional do it. Also, royal icing gets rock-hard, so I don't know if it would pull at the marzipan or not.

Either way, a marzipan-enrobed cake would be tooth-achingly sweet. But then again, I'm not a fan of the stuff except as a flavor enhancer. Talk to a professional baker who can give you an honest assessment.


I was thinking about enrobing my wedding cake in marzipan then piping royal icing on it. I've never heard of anyone piping onto marzipan before. can it be done?


it tastes like heaven.


Friends brought some back from germany in the form of a chocolate candy bar. Yummy! It was kind of like a mounds bar but flat and sweeter. Very, very sweet, actually. You can't eat the whole bar at once, for sure, and it's only half the size of a typical hershey bar.


I tried it in this chocolate called Merci, it was really amazing!


Marzipan is originally from the dutch countries.


anon13606: eat it. It's heavenly.


A friend recently travelled to Spain and brought back a gift of marzipan made by nuns. I'm puzzled because it's not at all what I would expect. It is the color of an egg yolk, not what I would call a paste, packed in bite sized foil cups and topped with granulated sugar. The flavor is custard-like and seems like it would benefit from being cooked. The ingredients listed on the box are almonds, sugar and eggs. The illustration on the label shows tiny tart-like pastries baked golden brown with the yellow marzipan as a filling. What do I have and what can I do with it?


Does marzipan harden after a certain period of time? And, if yes, can it still be eaten?


Marzipan has a debated origin and ethnicity but more or less marzipan is a German confection.


What is the ethnicity of marzipan?

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