Holiday Feature


for a Traditional Treat

by Rosemary Henry


Marzipan is a traditional confection found everywhere in Europe, especially at Easter and Christmas. It is usually shaped and colored to look like small fruits or flowers and can be found molded into all kinds of Christmas shapes. The molding and coloring is truly an art form, becoming very elaborate sometimes, but even the most inexperienced sculpturers among us can make a very impressive tray of sweets without too much trouble.

According to the British Sugarcraft News in an article by Steve Benison, Marzipan, or 'machipan' as it was first called, originated from the Egyptians where it was originally made from pistachio nuts blended with honey. Rose Levy Beranbaum in her cookbook "Rose's Christmas Cookies" gives a recipe for pistachio marzipan and several ways to use it. She recommends using a tiny amount of glycerine as a way of keeping the marzipan soft and chewy.

The name literally translated means almond bread, and gives an indication of its contents. There are many recipes for marzipan if you want to make your own, or there are a number of brands on the market to purchase. The most popular of these come packaged like sausage in a tube. You can buy either almond paste or marzipan. Almond paste is intended to use for baking. It is a raw paste and has a higher proportion of almonds to sugar than the cooked marzipan. It is used in products like macaroons. Purchased marzipan is ground finer to eat as is, or use to mold or decorate. In Britain there is legislation that regulates the minimum nut content for marzipan as not less than 23.5% of dry almond substance and no other dry ingredient. Not less than 75% of the remainder can be solid carbohydrate sweetener. The cooked variety contains ground almonds, liquid glucose, a cooked 'soft ball' sugar solution and confectioners sugar. The cooked variety has a longer shelf life.

If you want to make your own marzipan it can be as simple as combining equal parts of almond paste and fondant and then using additional confectioners' sugar to stiffen it. There are many variations on this, however, and you may want to try several.

A good basic recipe for marzipan is as follows:

Marzipan Recipe

1 lb. almond paste
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup marshmallow creme
Approx. 6 cups confectioners' sugar

Combine all ingredients except sugar and mix them well. Add the sugar gradually until the dough is stiff and about the consistency of pie crust dough. Then knead it until it is smooth and uniform. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let age for at least 24 hrs. After the dough has aged, divide into sections and color and shape and have fun!

When coloring marzipan use paste colors and a small brush to paint the "blush" on fruits. Let shapes stand for several hours and then glaze with a mixture of 1/4 cup light corn syrup and 1 tablespoon hot water. After glazing, let glaze set for several hours.

In 1999, Rosemary Henry published the "Cookies" Newsletter. For more information, you may try to contact her at:

"Cookies" Newsletter
9610 Greenview Lane
Manassas, VA 22110-3320

Other Marzipan Recipes

December Itinerary... Kate's Virtual Journey: A Progressive Feast

12/04/99: The Holy Lands: Holiday Soul Food
12/11/99: Italy: Angels on Strings
12/18/99: Germany: Desserts in Deutschland
12/25/99: France: Foie Gras in France



11/06/99 India: Spicy Chaat and a Cuppa Chai
11/13/99 Egypt: Eating Like an Egyptian
11/20/99 Turkey: A Turkish-Roast Turkey
11/27/99 Detour: Holiday Gift Ideas

10/02/99 Japan: Nimble Nibbling
10/09/99 Korea: Mad About the Mandu
10/16/99 Vietnam: From Moon Cakes to Pancakes
10/23/99 Thailand: The Monkey Feast
10/30/99 China: Festival of the Hungry Ghosts

About Kate's Virtual World Tour: A Progressive Feast
From September 1999 to January 2000, this progressive banquet begins with Appetizers in Asia, continues with multiple courses across India, the Middle East, and North Africa, and around Christmas, crosses over to Europe for Desserts in Deutschland. Recipes, country backgrounds, local attractions, and special travel tips make each stop vivid and exciting, as if you were right there, experiencing the journey yourself. These world tour specialties and authentic recipes will inspire you to create your own unique and festive holiday tables, fit for kings and queens. No passport needed, just a fork, a stove and a hearty appetite!  

Copyright © 1999, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.

Holiday Recipe Headquarters

Copyright © 1999, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.

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This page created 1999 and modified November 2006.