There are countless ways you can decorate a cake. From royal icing to chocolate ganache, the options are limitless.
Yet, two of the most popular choices are fondant and marzipan. These toppers are easy to work with and you can mold them into all sorts of shapes.
Plus, they come in a wide variety of bold colors. While the two icings are different, most people find it hard to point out the distinctions.
So, if you’re comparing fondant and marzipan, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the toppers.
I’ll also discuss all the differences and similarities between the two.
Fondant has been around for many years. Cake decorators have relied on the topping since the 19th century.
It’s an icing paste that you can add to pastries to create intricate designs. Because of that, fondant quickly became a staple in cake decorating.
There are quite a few reasons behind the topper’s popularity. For starters, the sweet treat is easy to prepare.
All you need is:
- Corn syrup
- Vanilla extract
- Confectioner’s sugar
These are all ingredients that you can find almost anywhere.
Besides that, fondant is incredibly malleable. For that reason, it’s simple to shape and mold into any design you like.
Finally, the icing has a subtle flavor. So, it won’t have that much of an effect on the overall taste of your dessert.
Marzipan is another type of icing that comes in paste form. Yet, this variety has been around for a lot longer than fondant.
The origins of marzipan date back to 16th-century Spain. During that time, people ate the tasty treat all year round.
Then, it eventually became a traditional Christmas dessert.
Because of how versatile it was, marzipan quickly spread all over the globe. Today, people use it as a topper to decorate pastries.
Although some chefs like to incorporate it into cake and candy fillings.
The main ingredients of marzipan include:
- Almond meal
- Egg whites
- Corn syrup
This makes a delicious mixture that can work with all sorts of desserts.
Now that you have a bit of information on the toppers, I can move on to the differences. In this section, I’ll talk about the most notable aspects of the icings.
To start off the list, I’ll discuss the most obvious difference. If you look at the recipes I mentioned, you’ll notice that the icings have unique components.
For starters, the main ingredients of fondant are confectioner’s sugar and water. Moving on, marzipan mostly consists of almond meal and water.
That means they’ll be significant distinctions in flavor and texture.
Besides that, fondant recipes usually include gelatin. This will help stabilize the mixture and firm it up a bit.
In contrast, marzipan relies on egg whites as a stabilizer.
The texture is one of the most important aspects of a dessert. It allows you to add an element of interest without overpowering a dish.
With paste icing, you want something that’s pliable with a dough-like consistency. Luckily, both marzipan and fondant fit the bill.
Yet, there is a slight difference in texture.
Fondant is usually soft, clay-like, and easy to roll out. This makes it ideal for covering large cakes and pastries.
On the other hand, marzipan is a little firmer. That’s because egg whites are a better stabilizer than gelatin.
They’ll hold the mixture together and allow you to create detailed designs.
When it comes to flavor, fondant and marzipan couldn’t be any more different. Both toppings are sweet, yet that’s where the similarities end.
First up, fondant mostly tastes of sugar. When you bite into the icing, you’ll get a strong punch of sweetness, but not much else.
The vanilla extract does add an interesting flavor twist. Although it’s on the subtle side.
Moving on, marzipan is a lot more flavorful than fondant. Biting into the treat, you’ll still get a punch of sweetness.
However, this will soon fade into a nutty aftertaste. You can really tell that almonds are a major component of the icing.
The moisture content of your icing can have a major impact on your final treat. It’ll determine how you use it and the final mouthfeel.
For starters, store-bought fondant typically has a moisture content of 10% to 14%. This allows it to stay solid at room temperature.
Yet, almond meal is a lot drier than confectioner’s sugar. So, marzipan will need more water to form a homogenous paste.
That’s why its moisture level is closer to 17%.
The difference in water content means that fondant will dry out much quicker. When that happens, it’ll be tough to shape or mold.
Most people know that salting is an excellent way of preserving food. Yet, they’re not aware that the same applies to sugar.
When you add a lot of the sweetener to a dish, it’ll stop microbial activity. That’ll inhibit any bacteria from growing on the food.
So, because of their high sugar content, fondant and marzipan can last for a long time.
Under the right conditions, marzipan has a shelf life of up to six months. Yet, fondant can survive for much longer.
On average, fondant will keep for anywhere from six months to two years.
Both fondant and marzipan are fairly easy to make. Yet, each one has a distinct process.
With marzipan, all you have to do is throw all the ingredients into a food processor. After that, you have to knead the dough for about a minute, then refrigerate it.
That means, in about 15 minutes, you’ll be able to enjoy the almond icing.
On the other hand, fondant involves a few more steps. For starters, you’ll need a double boiler to melt and activate the gelatin.
Other than that, you have to mix the corn syrup and vanilla thoroughly before adding the sugar.
Finally, you need to roll the fondant out until it’s smooth and not sticky. This can take a few minutes, depending on how much elbow grease you put in.
That means marzipan is the way to go if you’re short on time.
Even though the two icings have similar textures, chefs use them differently.
Since fondant is softer, you’ll be able to use it to cover entire cakes without much effort. Plus, this icing is perfect for creating delicate flowers.
Yet, marzipan can be a little stiff. So, if you try coating it over a cake, you’ll end up with many cracks in the surface.
Because of that, the almond paste is much more suited for creating sculptures. You can make detailed figurines with all sorts of colors.
On top of that, you can bake marzipan, while fondant will melt in the oven.
For that reason, marzipan is a lot more versatile.
Fondant and marzipan come in a rainbow of vibrant colors. Using gel food coloring, you can achieve almost any shade with both icings.
Although, fondant will take on color much faster. That’s because the base of the topper is a pure, snowy white.
So, any amount of color you add will show up instantly.
Sadly, the same isn’t true for marzipan. Since the base is a pale brown shade, changing the color may prove a little tricky.
You have to add more food coloring to achieve the same vibrancy as fondant.
Yet, you can add a few drops of pink food coloring. This will cancel out the brown of the marzipan and leave you with a neutral base.
While both icings are well-liked, fondant takes the cake when it comes to popularity. That’s because it’s much easier to use for beginner bakers.
Besides that, marzipan contains almonds. So, people with nut allergies won’t be able to enjoy the treat.
Finally, almond paste incorporates egg whites. That means it’s off-limits to vegans.
You don’t need marzipan to use fondant in cake decorating. You can use the icing separately without any noticeable consequences.
As long as you use a little water to secure the fondant in place, your dessert should turn out great.
If you’re debating fondant vs. marzipan, there are a few factors to consider. When it comes to ingredients, fondant relies on icing sugar, while marzipan uses almond meal.
Because of that, the former is slightly softer and easier to shape.
Moving on, marzipan has a much more distinct flavor profile. It’s a bit sweet with a pronounced nutty aftertaste.
Finally, fondant seems to be more popular because it doesn’t contain eggs or nuts.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.