Marzipan is a nut confection, popular across the Middle East and Europe.
Marzipan is made primarily of ground blanched almonds, sweetened with sugar. It is traditionally shaped and painted with food coloring to resemble fruits and animals, having the texture of an edible “clay.” 1
Artist and inventor Leonardo Da Vinci created all sorts of marzipan sculptures that were meant to be permanent, but were most often devoured, writing in his Notes on Cuisine: “I have observed with pain, that my signor Ludovico and his court gobble up all the sculptures I give them, right to the last morsel, and now I am determined to find other means that do not taste as good, so that my works may survive.” 2
My grandmother and I made Marzipan together each year for Saint Nicholas Day, on December 6th – the Netherlands’ modest equivalent to America’s Christmas. Young children each leave a shoe in front of the chimney or outside the front door to be filled by Saint Nicholas with marzipan, an orange, and small toys. 3
From the beginning of civilization, the white-blossoming almond tree heralded spring and provided an emblem of the archetypal White Goddess. Its archaic Semitic name, amygdala, can be traced back to the Sumarian ama ga, which means the Great Mother.
Almond’s ancient Aramaic name, luz, means “light” and symbolizes life overcoming death.
Shaqed, the Hebrew word for almond, is linked in the Old Testament with the word shoqed, meaning “to watch over.” This is believed to connect the almond, the “tree of divine light” (symbolized by the menorah), with the omnipresence of the divine. Moses’ staff, the “rod of God,” handed down from Adam, was made of almond wood. 4
Research indicates nuts, including almonds, are heart healthy. Almonds are a good source of antioxidant vitamin E, magnesium, and dietary fiber. They also are sources of B vitamins, potassium, calcium, iron, monounsaturated fat, and phytosterols. Phytosterols are believed to inhibit intestinal absorption of cholesterol. 5
Nut Allergy Disclaimer: Almond allergies are less common than peanut allergies. Still, it is good to be aware of the symptoms of an allergic reaction. If one does exhibit signs of an allergic reaction, it is important to seek medical assistance as soon as possible as anaphylaxis may result. Those who are allergic to tree nuts and peaches are likely allergic to almonds. Symptoms of an almond allergy may include itching, burning, or swelling of the mouth, GI distress, vomiting, localized skin rash or irritation. If the reaction is severe, anaphylaxis may result. 6
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Decoration Time: 10 – 60 minutes
Yield: 1.5 cups marzipan
2 cups blanched almonds
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoons brown rice syrup
optional: 1 teaspoon almond extract
optional: food coloring or cocoa
clean coffee grinder
optional: paint brush
1. Grind almonds in small batches in coffee grinder until finely ground into coarse flour.
2. Add salt and optional almond extract to almond flour.
3. Stir in with hands just enough syrup until sculptable dough forms.
4. Sculpt marzipan into fruits, animals, and other shapes.
5. Optional: Paint marzipan sculptures with food coloring, or roll in cocoa to make “potatoes.”
1. Davidson, Jane L.; Davidson, Alan; Saberi, Helen; Jaine, Tom (2006). The Oxford companion to food. Oxford University Press.
3. Charles W. Jones, “Saint Nikolaos of Myra, Bari, and Manhattan: Biography of a Legend” (Chicago: University of Chicago Press) 1978.