When I was little, my parents used to take my brother and I to Swedish Bakery in Chicago once a year. Unfortunately, the bakery is closed now. However, I still remember how everything tasted. One treat I distinctly remember was the marzipan cake. It was a bright lime green and had roses of frosting on top. It had a chewy texture and tasted like almond extract. When thinking back to our bakery visits, I realized I still didn't know what exactly marzipan was, only that I loved it. If you're in the same boat I was, here's the rundown on marzipan. 

What is Marzipan?

What is marzipan? Marzipan (mah-zuh-pan) is a confection primarily made of sugar and almond meal. It is also often scented with vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and other sweet spices. It's almond fondant that's super chewy and sweet, and it makes any sweet pastry seem 10x fancier. 

Marzipan has the same purpose as fondant on a cake. It can be colored and used to cover any cake. It's usually used for holiday pastries, wedding cakes, and petits fours. It can be also be molded into the shape of animals, fruits, vegetables, and so on, to make cute almond-flavored goodies.


The word marzipan is derived from the German Marzipan or Italian marzapane, most likely after St. Marcus. Interestingly, there are many theories on how marzipan was invented. The Spanish claim that marzipan was invented in Toledo, while Italians say it was in Florence. The French claim that they invented the sweet treat in France. 

The invention of marzipan, however, usually traces back to the 15th century in Lübeck, Germany. Legend has it that during this time, there was a famine in the city. Flour for baking bread was scarce. Therefore, the senate of Lübeck ordered bakers to create an alternative. The bakers combined eggs, sugar, and rations of almonds, and marzipan was born. The exact origin of marzipan, however, remains unknown since many other cities in Europe turned to it as an alternative at times of famine. 

How Marzipan Is Made

Marzipan can be made one of two ways. The German variety is a mixture of almonds and sugar ground coarse and heated until dry. After cooling, both glucose and icing sugar are added to the mix. French marzipan is not cooked. Rather, sugar is boiled with water and added to the almonds and yields a finer texture and whiter color.

Sometimes marzipan is made with egg yolk to give it a yellowish color, or any food coloring to give it the color that you desire. Sometimes flavorings like rosewater, orange, vanilla, and even chocolate are added for extra pizzaz. 

#SpoonTip: You can make marzipan at home. No French baking skills are required. 


Although nobody really knows the true origin of marzipan, it has clearly been loved and enjoyed all over Europe and the rest of the world. Marzipan is a traditional food to eat on weddings and religious feast days in Italy, Greece, and even Cyprus. It's a tasty and exotic addition to many traditional cakes, pastries, petit fours, chocolates, and candies.

In Mexico, marzipan is often made with pistachios or pine nutes instead of almonds and is used to make beautiful candies. In the Middle East, marzipan is often flavored with orange, cinnamon, or cardamom to make a sweet and flavorful dessert. 

In many parts of northern Europe, it's considered good luck to receive a marzipan pig on Christmas or New Year's Day. In Germany, Schwein gehabt, or "having a pig" means having good luck. Therefore, the marzipan pig symbolizes good fortune. 

Next time you head to your favorite local bakery, that next family wedding, or just feel like baking something fancy, give marzipan a try. Appreciate its many possible backstories, and understand why so many people all over the world enjoy its flavor, versatility, and sweetness.