Some friends were throwing a Memorial Day BBQ, and I couldn’t exactly show up sans cupcakes. Festive cupcakes. But I’d already done red, white, & blue cupcakes, so the only logical solution (of course) was marzipan.
I’ve never made marzipan before. I’ve seen it a few times. I’ve watched cooking shows and learned (well, as much as one can really learn from tv) how to make pretty marzipan fruits, but that was mostly shaping and painting, not the actual creation of the marzipan. I did, however, have a handy dandy little cake-centric cookbook that I picked up on wicked sale at the Barnes & Noble at school, and there just happened to be a recipe for marzipan on page 247. Awesome. That recipe actually didn’t work out so well for me, but with some modifications, I ended up with a passable recipe for rolled marzipan.
I’ve decided that real marzipan requires almonds which have been peeled before being ground into powder. I used the store-bought variety of almonds – which are extra convenient for people like me who don’t have the equipment for grinding almonds into a fine powder – and my marzipan had dark brown flecks in it. Nothing tragic, just an aesthetic concern.
I also learned that this particular recipe does not agree with spatulas. Check out Mr. Depressed Starfish:
Yeah. He didn’t want to come off the spatula. At all.
Anyways…on to the recipe!
Rolled Marzipan Stars
2 cups finely ground almonds
1 cup superfine sugar (I may have copied this down incorrectly…will update when I get home)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla (the original recipe called for almond extract, but I was out…oops)
3+ cups confectioner’s sugar (just keep the bag handy)
In a large bowl, combine almonds, superfine sugar, and 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar. Make a well in the center, and add the egg and liquid ingredients. Blend with a wooden spoon, but if it gets too sticky, just knead into a dough with your hands.
This is where it comes in handy to have a friend in the kitchen. The dough is bound to be way too sticky to work with, so have someone on hand to spoon in more confectioner’s sugar, a tablespoon or two at a time. Keep kneading the dough/adding sugar as needed until it’s workable and un-sticky, and roughly the texture of soft sugar cookie dough.
Divide the dough in two (or further, if you’re doing more than two colors). I used regular grocery-store food coloring (nothing too special – no candy colors or gel-based dye) to dye the marzipan red and blue. Put a few tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar in a bowl, and drop in 15-20 drops of food coloring. It seems like a lot, but you’ll need at least that much for bright colors. Mix the food coloring into the sugar until it forms a light paste, then incorporate the dye paste into the marzipan. Yes, dye will get on your hands. No, this is not the end of the world – it washes off, and lemon juice makes it wash off more quickly. Have fun playing with your grown-up playdough, and add a few drops of food coloring as needed. If the dough gets sticky, add more confectioner’s sugar. When the dough is the color you want it to be, wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for about a half hour.
Tear off two large pieces of plastic wrap, and place the marzipan between them. The plastic wrap will save your rolling pin from being stained with food dye. Roll the marzipan flat to about 1/8″ thickness, then peel off the top layer of plastic.
If you have cookie cutters, use them. I don’t, for some bizarre reason, so I had to do this part with a knife and a stencil made out of freezer paper. Cut out a shape, then peel back the marzipan and transfer the shape to a piece of freezer paper while you cut out the rest. Don’t try to spatula them off – they will stick, and your pretty, angular stars will look like depressed starfish once you pry them off the spatula. If you haven’t frosted your cupcakes yet, let the marzipan shapes hang out in the fridge while you do that.
Frost cupcakes, and top with pretty marzipan shapes. Refrigerate until served.
The marzipan is pretty and exciting, but – much like fondant or any other decorative icing – may be a wee bit too much. Don’t feel bad if you take a bite and decide to peel the rest of the star off.