Historical Recipes: ’Marchpane’’ Tudor Marzipan

This week’s historical recipe is Tudor but also includes a 21st century version (chocolate coated marzipan truffles), and an almond-free version using coconut for those with allergies. So this can be very historical or very ”nouvelle cuisine”! It is simple and makes for terribly delicious treats that can keep for months if not years… ready for Christmas if they don’t get devoured straight away.  Brought to you by Caroline Nicolay, archaeology educator & Iron Age specialist at Pario Gallico.


These ‘’marchpane’’ recipes were all measured by VOLUME, not by weight. Which is great: no need to use a scale and you can simply make as much or as little of the mix as you want! 

For a real Tudor recipe you will need the same volume of ground almonds and icing sugar.

But if you want to use weights you can follow my recipe using 100g ground almonds for 50g icing sugar and add a bit more sugar or almonds to make it more or less sweet and match you own tastes. 

– 100g ground almonds (or 150g / 200g/ etc) (or blanched / flaked almonds that you grind yourself)

– 50g icing sugar (or 75g / 100g / etc)

– 1/2 tsp or 2 to 3 drops rosewater* essence (I use ‘’Nielsen-Massey’’ brand that you can buy in supermarkets such as Morrisons, in cook shops or online)

– water (about 4 tsp)

For an almond-free alternative version, you can use: 

– 100gr desiccated coconut (or 150gr / 200gr / etc) 

– 70gr icing sugar (or 105gr / 140gr / etc)

  1/2 tsp or 2 to 3 drops rosewater (essence)

– water (about 6 tsp)

. For the modern ‘’truffles’’ recipe we will also need: 

– 100gr dark chocolate (I use 70% dark cooking chocolate, you can use the one you prefer) to be melted

*- you can replace the rosewater by a few drops of… Coffee Extract, Vanilla Essence, Orange Blossom essence, or any taste that you like! (I use coffee extract to make ‘’mocha’’ truffles)

A 16th century recipe 

It was all done by VOLUME, not by weight, for these marzipan recipes. Which is great: no need to use a scale and you can simply make as much or as little of the mix as you want! 

Mix together the ground almonds and the sugar.

Add the rosewater essence and the water, one teaspoon at a time to gage how much water is needed (otherwise the mix will be too liquid. Careful, it goes really fast!):

(To give an idea of weights: 225gr ground almonds for 100gr caster sugar and 2 drops of rosewater+ a few tsp of water)

Make into a stiff paste, not sticky / wet, and adjust by adding a bit of icing sugar and ground almonds if it is too wet, a few drops of water / rosewater if it is too dry.

Leave the paste to dry for 5 minutes before shaping it as it is quite soft.

Shape the paste (you can roll them into beads the size of a hazelnut, or be very creative and make flowers, cubes, fruits, animals… ) and leave it to dry on a plate or parchment / baking paper in a dry warm place. It can be left to dry overnight, but if the weather is very warm thy might be dry enough within a few hours … you can also eat them whenever you want to!

** Chocolate coated alternative**: 

Once the paste is shaped and left to dry for 30minutes minimum, you can also melt some dark chocolate in a dry pan on a low heat, remove from heat when it is liquid and dip your marzipan creations in the chocolate using two forks. Coated like this, the marzipan can be put on a plate or baking parchment sheet to cool and dry. 

When well dried, the truffles can be stored in an airtight container and will keep for weeks and months. You can almost prepare them for Christmas already! Though they usually get devoured fairly quickly.. 


You can also paint the marzipan with edible food colourings, gild with gold leaf, sculpt figures or pieces to assemble to create a very complex centerpiece… and enjoy at the end of a meal or as a sweet treat with a cup of tea! 

Archaeology educator and Iron Age specialist, living historian and experimental archaeologist, Caroline Nicolay, Director at Pario Gallico. Caroline will be back at the festival this year demonstrating Iron Age cookery and how to make ancient paints, among other things.

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