Author Notes: Marchpane is an early version of what we call marzipan. Both are made from ground almonds, sugar, and water (usually rose water). The difference is in how they are used. These days, we tend to think of marzipan as just decoration or icing. In Tudor times, marchpane was a dish all on its own and was often elaborately decorated, serving as a centerpiece on a feasting table. This version is adapted from the recipe in "The English Huswife" (1623 edition) as well as modern interpretations of it (including the one from London Eats who created the one pictured here). —Deborah Menikoff
Serves: 6 to 8
For the marchpane:
cups ground almonds
cup confectioners' sugar
ounces rose water (plain water or water mixed with a bit of juice or cherry liqueur works too)
For the decoration:
cup confectioners' sugar
ounces rose water
baking decorations (food coloring, cookie cutters, edible balls, sprinkles, dried fruit, etc.)
- Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). In a large bowl, stir the ground almonds and confectioners' sugar until thoroughly combined.
- Add rose water, one teaspoon at a time, until you have a smooth paste. The amount of rose water can vary depending on the almonds, but your goal is stiff, smooth paste that is not sticky.
- Either put down greaseproof paper or dust a cutting board with a bit of confectioners' sugar, then place mixture on top.
- Roll out to about 1-centimeter thickness. A circle is the traditional shape, but make any shape you like.
- Transfer to baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Save any scraps and use to make decorations: hearts, diamonds, leaves, etc.
- Bake the marchpane disc for around 25 minutes until it is just starting to brown.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- If you've saved scraps to make shapes, make them now and bake until just starting to brown—time will depend on size, but start checking at 10 minutes. Allow to cool before decorating.
- Make the icing: Mix the confectioners' sugar with rose water until the icing is a thick, flowing consistency.
- Use this to ice the top of the marchpane disc. You can make it more opaque by putting on a couple of coats, allowing it to dry in between each one.
- If using sprinkles, balls, or dried fruit to decorate, place them on the JUST barely wet final coat.
- To ice any marchpane decorations, color the icing with food coloring. Leave the decorations to dry, and then place on the disk using small dabs of icing to stick pieces in place.