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Difference Between Marzipan and Almond Paste

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Fruit cake topped with a yellow marzipan layer and round balls of marzipan
Peter Chadwick LRPS/Moment/Getty Images

There is often confusion about the difference between marzipan and almond paste which is logical because they are very similar with very similar ingredients. They are not the same though because almond paste is not always marzipan but marzipan is always a type of almond paste. Technically almond paste has less sugar and egg whites than marzipan and almond paste can actually be an ingredient in marzipan with extra sugar and egg whites. These products can trigger both nut and egg allergies so it is important to be aware of that when using them for cakes.

Marzipan and almond paste are not staple products in most North American kitchens or recipes but is quite common in German, British and French cuisine. In Germany there is rose water added to the ground almonds and sugar. French marzipan is produced with sugar syrup instead of simple confectioners' sugar which makes the finished product whiter in hue and lighter in flavor than its Germany counterpart. Both German and French marzipan is either cooked or has a heated component whereas British marzipan is not cooked at all. Despite these differences all of these end products are called marzipan.

Almond paste is traditionally used for filling in cookies, cakes, tarts and other desserts. It is lovely when used in a chocolate cake as filling.It can be cooked or uncooked depending on the recipe and contains eggs. Almond paste usually has a lovely distinctive almond taste that is intensified by the addition of almond extract in most recipes. Marzipan is sweeter than almond paste and can be rolled smooth and draped over cakes similar to fondant as well as formed into decorations like fruit or figures.

Almond Paste

Ingredients

  • 3 cups blanched almonds
  • 3 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt

Preparation

  1. Put blanched almonds in a food processor and pulse until almonds are completely ground into a smooth meal.
  2. Add the sifted icing sugar, egg whites, almond extract and salt and pulse until mixture is very smooth and well combined. Turn paste out onto a board and knead gently into a ball.
  3. Place finished almond paste in airtight containers in the fridge or freezer. This recipe can stay in the fridge for up to one month or in the freezer for three months.
  4. When you need the paste take it out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature.

Marzipan

Ingredients

  • 2 cups prepared almond paste
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 6 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preparation

  1. Knead room temperature almond paste against the sides of a large bowl to soften completely and then mix in egg whites using your hands until well combined. This will be quite messy!
  2. Knead in icing sugar one cup at a time taking care to incorporate each cup fully before adding the next. Continue until all the icing sugar is used up.
  3. Add vanilla and knead until marzipan is very smooth and pliable. You might have to add a bit more icing sugar if the marzipan is too sticky.
  4. Wrap finished marzipan tightly in plastic wrap and store in the fridge until you need to use it. When you need the marzipan remove it from the refrigerator let it sit at room temp until it softens up and knead again until it is pliable but not sticky. Knead on a slab with cornstarch because icing sugar can make the marzipan too dry if you knead too much into the product. You can use gel food coloring to tint the marzipan whatever color you need.
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