Back on day 1 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar, I brought you my version of a whole-food, low added sugar Christmas cake. Mine has been hidden away, a little extra brandy added every week to make it extra moist and boozy. Now it’s time for the next stage. So for day 22, I bring you my version of marzipan – a low sugar, gluten-free, egg-free almond paste.
There’s not getting away from the fact that this a very different to marzipan you buy in the shops. It’s not smooth, delicate or yellow! It is however super tasty and easy to make. It is rather soft though, and not so easy to roll out. But if you’re happy using your hands instead of a rolling pin, it’s super simple to use as it’s pliable and really forgiving. As the dough is so soft, it’s a good idea to make a few days before you plan to ice the cake to give it a little time to dry out.
Before I go on, I feel it’s important to discuss the elephant in the room – how to ice a Christmas cake using whole-food ingredients. After all, icing is pure sugar, and icing sugar at that, the most refined you can get. To be honest, I have no alternative to offer. A Christmas cake should be white – it’s snow after all. There are recipes for brown sugar icing, but I feel it makes a cake look more like dirty slush rather than fresh virgin snow! Sometimes on special occasions, you have to make a compromise.
So I use ready-roll icing, add it to the cake to make it look lovely. Then when presented with a slice, I decide if I want to eat it or not. Since eating a whole-food plant-based diet my taste-buds have changed so much that icing really is too sweet for me now and I tend to peel it off and just enjoy the rest of the cake. Maybe one day I’ll find a good alternative, but for now, that’s the best I can come up with!
Right, now that’s been dealt with, back to the marzipan. Recipes usually call for a large amount of sugar, but I feel that ground almonds have a natural sweetness of their own, so have only added a small amount of coconut sugar. To replace the eggs, I have used ground flaxseed. As well as working as a binding agent, this adds a little extra plant-based omega 3 fatty acids, an extra healthy bonus hidden away.
Once you have made the dough, the natural oils will start coming out; this is what makes it difficult to roll out. So just grab chunks of the marzipan, flatten it in your hands then stick to the cake, pressing it into place. Once you’ve covered it completely, smooth the joins to make it look seamless and all will be well.
One last thing, I used a little warm marmalade to help keep the marzipan stuck to the sides of the cake, a preventative measure rather than an absolute necessity. I figure it’s best to stick it in place now rather then risk it sliding off when it’s dried.
The amounts in the recipe is enough for a thin coating for a 20cm round cake as per the recipe here. It can also be used for other cakes, like this yummy Simnel cake at Easter. One other useful piece of information is that this vegan marzipan can be frozen if you make it before you want to use it. Just make sure it’s fully defrosted before you try to use it!
If you give this a try, don’t forget to let me know how you get on.
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed yellow flaxseed is better than brown
- 4 tablespoons water
- 150 g ground almonds
- 50 g 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon almond essence
To decorate a cake
- 2 tbsp orange marmalade or apricot jam
- Mix the ground flaxseed and water together in a small bowl and leave to thicken for a few minutes.
- Weigh out the ground almonds into a medium-sized bowl.
- Add the maple syrup and almond essence to the flaxseed mix and stir well to combine.
- Pour the mix into the ground almonds and stir well to combine. It will gradually come together as a soft dough. Use your hands to knead it for a minute or so to make sure everything is brought together.
- Leave to stand for 10 minutes.
To decorate a cake:
- Cut the dough in half. Use one half to cover the top; break in half, flatten one half in the palm of your hand then place over the top of the cake. Spread it out with your hands, pinching together any breaks and patching where needed. Repeat to cover the remainder of the top.
- Whilst you are covering the top, gently heat the marmalade so it's easily spreadable. Use a pastry brush to spread it over the side of the cake. Break the remaining half of marzipan into small balls. Flatten each one in the palm of your hand into rough rectangles and apply to the side of the cake. Pinch any joins together and patch where necessary. Finally, smooth the top edges to make it seamless.
- Transfer to a serving plate, cover loosely with foil and leave in a cool place to dry for 2 days if possible before icing.