Want some whimsy on your Halloween or Thanksgiving table? Then consider having fun with a little marzipan sculpting. For this project, we took inspiration from forests full of the rich colors of autumn and the fragrance of acorns and wild mushrooms. First we cracked open a favorite book on wild mushrooms by eminent mycologist Roger Phillips. Then we found a specimen we thought would render well in marzipan. We mixed cocoa powder in with some marzipan to make the rich dark color for our acorn caps. And we also made some paper templates for the leaves.
Before you get started, here are some basic tips for obtaining the best results when making marzipan figures.
1) Have all of your tools and ingredients set up before you start. Some of the tools we use include:
– A silicone baking mat to keep the work surface clean. A sheet of parchment paper or a clean cutting board will work well.
– A rolling pin, sieve, grater and small knife. The rolling pin helps flatten the marzipan. The sieve and grater are for adding texture. Look around your kitchen for anything that might be useful to add texture to your pieces. A small paring knife is needed for cutting out flat shapes and for decorating the pieces.
– Disposable latex gloves. (If you want to eat your creations, it is best to wear single-use latex gloves, which protect the marzipan from cross-contamination. Gloves also keep the food coloring from staining your hands.)
– Paste or liquid food coloring in a range of colors.
– A pastry brush and a lightly beaten egg white to use as ‘glue’ to adhere pieces together. (If you want to eat your figures, use pasteurized egg whites. Corn syrup will also work.)
– Cocoa powder, cloves and any other embellishments that occur to you for the project.
-Powdered sugar for dusting your work surface when rolling marzipan.
2) Plan the steps in advance. Make each component at one time. For example, the marzipan mushroom has two pieces, a tinted cap and a plain marzipan stem. We made all the caps at one time then all of the stems. Then we assembled the mushrooms. This saves time.
Making the Marzipan Mushroom
First, find your inspiration mushroom and set up your tools before opening a can of Love’n Bake® Marzipan.
Next find the right color for your project. (Here we chose Beige paste food coloring for the mushroom cap and applied it to about 2 Tablespoons of the marzipan.)
Knead the marzipan for a few seconds and the color will be evenly distributed throughout the paste. (For some projects, you may want to knead less for an uneven effect.) Roll the marzipan into a small log shape then cut it evenly into three or 4 pieces. Each one will become a mushroom cap.
Roll one piece of the tinted marzipan into a ball. (Here we are using about 1 Tablespoon of the tinted paste for each mushroom cap.)
Flatten the ball of marzipan under a slightly cupped hand.
Here is the flattened ball, now the beginning of a mushroom cap.
Thin the edges of the mushroom cap by pinching them lightly between your fingertips.
To make the mushroom gills, turn over the cap. Use a paring knife to lightly score the cap in a radiating pattern.
Sprinkle the cuts in the marzipan cap with some cocoa powder. Carefully spread it all over the one side of the cap.
Then dust off the excess cocoa powder and place the cap, cocoa-dusted side up, on a clean sheet of parchment paper. (You’ll be washing your hands or changing your gloves after this step.)
To make the stems, roll about ¼ cup of untinted marzipan into a smooth log. Cut the marzipan into 3 or 4 pieces, as many as you have made caps. Roll a section of the marzipan into a squat log about 1 ½ inches long and tapered slightly at one end. Dip a tooth pick into some cocoa powder then press it into the sides of the small rolled marzipan log. This colors the stem just enough to make it look as if it was grown in soil.
Then press down on the widest end of the stem to flatten it slightly. This will help the mushroom stand up securely once the cap is attached.
When ready to attach the stem to the cap, brush the tapered end of the stem with some beaten egg white.
Place the cap on top of the stem and press it between your fingertips until it feels snugly attached. Stand up the mushroom on a clean piece of parchment and allow it to set for at least 10 minutes. You may have to press the base onto the parchment and change its shape as needed until the cap stands upright on its own.
Once the mushroom caps are firmly attached to their stems, have fun turning up the edges to give the mushrooms a more realistic and jaunty appearance.
Making Marzipan Acorns
Find an acorn or another nut for inspiration.
Take some marzipan and make several test acorns to determine how much marzipan to tint in the 2 colors for the finished piece.
To make 4 dark acorn tops, add about ½ teaspoon of cocoa powder to 1 ½ Tablespoons of marzipan.
Knead the marzipan until the cocoa powder is evenly distributed.
Roll the cocoa-tinted marzipan into a log and then divide it into 4 even pieces. Roll each piece into a uniform ball. Flatten the marzipan between your palms.
Press the chocolate marzipan between your thumb and forefinger making an indent on one side. This will fit over the top of the acorn.
To add some textural contrast, press the flat side of the chocolate marzipan cap into a fine sieve. Set it aside.
Tint some marzipan with green food color. (We used a Moss Green paste coloring.)
Knead until the color is evenly distributed. Take approximately 6 teaspoons of the green-tinted marzipan and roll it into a log. (Use the remaining green-tinted marzipan for leaves.)
Divide the green marzipan into 4 uniform pieces. Roll them into slightly tapered ovals.
Brush the top of a green acorn with some egg white then press a chocolate marzipan cap on top. Roll the chocolate marzipan over the back of a fine sieve to emboss it with the hatchmark pattern.
Insert a clove into the top of each acorn.
Making Marzipan Leaves
Cut a leaf shape from parchment or waxed paper. Roll out the remaining green-tinted marzipan on a silicone baking mat that has been dusted with powdered sugar. Dust the marzipan with a little more powdered sugar. Place the stencil on top.
Use a paring knife to cut out the leaf shape.
Brush the powdered sugar off of the marzipan. Use your fingers to smooth the edges of the leaf.
Drape the marzipan leaves onto a decorative board. Let them wrinkle and ripple to give the leaves a more naturalistic appearance. Add the mushrooms and acorns.
When kept covered with plastic wrap, these marzipan figures will stay soft enough to eat for a few days. For decorative use, they will keep for 4 to 6 weeks during which time they will dry out and harden. But when kept out of direct sunlight and in a cool place, they will retain their fresh appearance.