The Transplanted Baker’s turning two and that calls for a cake and a pat on the back!!!
For those unfamiliar (I’m talking about most of the U.S.), marzipan is a sweet, pliable confection made of ground almonds or almond paste, egg whites, and sugar. The charm of using marzipan in your baking is that it is relatively easy to work with and a bit like playing with clay or play-doh (some might argue that all three are edible...) Some pretty amazing things have been sculpted out of marzipan, I’m sure that everyone has seen the brightly-dyed, little marzipan fruits and animals around the holiday seasons- we buy at least one “good luck” marzipan pig every Christmas. Marzipan’s popularity is wide spread over Europe, particularly in Germany, Italy, and Scandinavia, but you’ll have to look in specialty shops to find it in the states. In Norway, a nation that has an affinity with almond-flavored baked goods, marzipan cake is THE party cake, being served at everything from weddings to baptisms to funerals. I once went to the grand opening of a job placement center here in Førde and was served a slice of apricot marzipan cake from a cake that was over 3 meters long!
Now, I had no plans of making any marzipan mangoes or lambs for this cake, nor did I have the intention of making my marzipan mixture from the ground up. I did, however, do a little research to find out exactly how one makes marzipan and found some really serious stuff! Like how EU law dictates that marzipan made within the union MUST have a minimum almond oil content of 14% and a maximum moisture content of 8.5%. I wonder if Luxembourg might get penalized if their oil content dropped too low and a child in say, Finland had a birthday cake that lacked that coveted almondy flavor. I also learned that the Germans, as they do with most everything, place extremely high standards on their marzipan and guarantee a 2/3 by weight percentage of almonds (by comparison, 1/2 is the typical ratio in Scandinavia, while the US generally has a much higher ratio of sugar to almond paste...not surprising).
Back to my cake! For this particular marzipan cake, I chose to use flavorings that I had around the house. I made the cake 3 layers high (the most traditional) and filled the first layer with my newly made hand-picked, raspberry freezer jam topped with some plain whipped cream. The second layer features apricot jam with walnuts and cream and the finishing layer bananas and cream. Naturally, you can fill the layers with all the same flavor, or whatever the lucky birthday boy, wedding couple, or blog writer has their heart set on. It is also traditional to make or buy vanilla cream, which is an egg- enriched cream sauce and use that in exchange for regular whipped cream. You can find my recipe for it here.
I should mention that the cake, itself, is a rather basic vanilla flavored sponge cake. It’s easy to make and hard to screw up. It is also the same cake that Norwegians use to make bløtkake, or the celebrational cream cake that is a lighter version of marzipan. I’ve written about bløtkake in a previous post and highly recommend this straightforward and delicious recipe, but you could use any favorite sponge cake recipe.
intimidated by the large list of ingredients and instructions!
*Don’t be intimidated by the large list of ingredients and instructions!
For the sponge cake:
Recipe adapted from Beatrice Ojakangas’ Scandinavian Feasts
*makes one- 9” (23 cm) 3-tiered round cake
6 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar
1 1/2 cups (200 g) All-Purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1. Preheat oven to 350F/175C.
2. Line the bottoms of three- 9”(23 cm) round spring-form pans with parchment paper and coat with either butter or cooking spray
3. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder.
4. In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer, until frothy. Raise the speed on your mixer to high, and add the sugar gradually, beating until thick and lemon-colored. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low, and slowly add the flour to the whipped eggs, mixing until just blended.
5. Blend in the vanilla and lemon juice, then pour the batter into the prepared pan spreading it out to the edges.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly golden. Check with a toothpick (the center of the cake should bounce back when touched). Allow to cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack before removing the cakes from their pans.
For the filling and marzipan covering:
*Play around and customize the fillings to suit your taste! Apple slices baked until tender with cinnamon and sugar is especially good, as are fresh berries.
About 3 Tablespoons raspberry jam
About 3 Tablespoons apricot jam
1-2 ripe bananas, thinly sliced
1/2 cups (50 g) walnuts, chopped medium-finely
1 1/2 cups (325 ml) whipping cream
1 lb. (400 grams) Marzipan paste (will usually come in tube form.
+Some powdered sugar for adding to the cream and for sprinkling over the finished cake and any desired decorations for the finished cake (ie: extra marzipan for shaping into roses, tubes of colored gel for writing messages, etc...)
1. Whip your cream with a little powdered sugar, add some vanilla if you like.
2. Place one cake, bottom-side up, on a piece of parchment paper and coat with the raspberry jam (or other jam of your choice). Then coat the jam with a thin layer of cream.
3. Place the next cake on top, again bottom-side up. Coat with the apricot jam (or other jam of your choice), then sprinkle the jam with 1/2 of your walnuts, add a thin layer of cream, then sprinkle the rest of your walnuts on top of the cream.
4. Place the last cake on top, this time right-side up. Layer the banana slices over your cake, then add another thin layer of cream on top and across the sides of your cake. (Remember, you are not “icing” the cake, you are simply adding a thin, smooth layer of cream to act as a barrier between the marzipan and the cake itself).
5. Place the marzipan on a clean surface and sprinkle with some powdered sugar (don't use flour!). Using a rolling pin without grooves, roll out the marzipan to a size just larger than the cake. Carefully pick up the marzipan, perhaps with the aid of the rolling pin, and drape it over your cake, try not to let the dough crack in any spots. Tuck the edges under you cake a bit, then trim the excess with a sharp knife.
6. Decorate the top with your colored gel, or if you’re feeling ambitious, make some marzipan roses! I didn’t have any extra dough to make a rose, but if you would like some guidance, watch this step-by-step instructional video. You can't not love the woman's accent!