Frangipane, Fondant, or Marzipan: How to Solve the Great Icing Debate

almond paste vs marzipan

Bakers Discover the Difference Between Frangipane, Fondant, Almond Paste, and Marzipan

There are lesser-known techniques when decorating with marzipan, frangipane, fondant, and almond paste. In an $11 billion a year industry, you need to know what they are.

Discovering new ways to use these different types of icing can be the edge your bakery needs. What is the best way to do that? Since they do not all taste the same, you want to know when to use the right one.   

The Difference in the 4 Most Common Confectioners Icing 

There are 18 different kinds of icing, and with so many ways to flavor them, creativity is limitless. The types of icing that are the most versatile are marzipan, frangipane, fondant, and almond paste. They are perfect for design elements other icings are not capable of doing.

Some have the texture of dough, while others can be made to spread like traditional frosting. Fondant is very sweet due to high sugar content, while almond paste can be bitter and is more often used as a base for other frostings and fillings.

Take a moment to learn the 4 different types of most common confectioner’s icing—like why marzipan is often confused for the others. 

1. Frangipane 

An ingredient in French baking, frangipane is an almond-based pastry cream with a light, spreadable consistency. In France, it’s not quite Christmas without frangipane-filled desserts.

Here is a simple recipe (make sure to blend these ingredients in this exact order):

    • 3 tbsp softened butter
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup skinless almonds
    • 1 egg
  • ¾ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour

This custard-like filling is perfect for tarts, bostocks, jesuite pastries, pithiviers, and filled croissants. Frangipane is light and has a slight sweetness with a hint of nutty flavor.

2. Marzipan

Marzipan is a smooth, clay-like paste that can be used to frost a cake or be shaped into candies or figurines. It is easy to handle. You can buy marzipan ready-to-use, or you can make it at home with ingredients you already have in your kitchen. 

Here are a few of the most popular marzipan recipes

    • Almond paste marzipan: One recipe calls for adding powdered sugar and corn syrup to almond paste. Another calls for granulated sugar, water, and unbeaten egg whites.  
  • Blanched almond marzipan:  This mixture includes granulated sugar and starch, or sorbitol with the blanched ground almonds. 
  • Ground almond marzipan: Made with either skinless or whole almonds, ground, mixed with sugar, egg whites, and either almond extract or glucose syrup.

With marzipan, it is more about the presentation than taste. You may love how easy it is to use, but marzipan flavor is nutty and tastes very sweet, so some bakers only use it for design elements where other options will not create the desired effect.

3. Almond Paste 

Almond paste is used for many of your desserts and fillings and the base for candy and pastries. It is bitter, and you should not use the almond paste on its own. If you make your own marzipan or frangipane, you can use almond paste as the primary ingredient.  

To make an almond paste, you will put the following ingredients into a food processor: 

    • 1 lb blanched almonds
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 tsp almonds extract

Heavy cream or cornstarch can be used in place of the egg whites. The mixture will have the texture of coarse dough. Almond paste spreads effortlessly, or you can slice it or mold it into figures.

It can be stored for up to one week, making this a popular choice for smaller bakeries looking to save costs by limiting waste.  

4. Fondant 

A smooth sugary paste, fondant is popular with bakers for decorating cakes. Rolled fondant is the most common type used by professional and amateur bakers because it is easy to use. There is also poured fondant. As a baker, you will likely use poured fondant to dip petit fours, cupcakes, and other small cakes and pastries. 

There are a few different types of fondant. Here are the 3 most common fondant recipes: 

    • Rolled fondant: A mixture of powdered sugar, corn syrup, and shortening/oil. Sometimes gelatin will be added. The texture should be firm but pliable.
  • Poured fondant: Made by boiling water, corn syrup, and confectioners’ sugar until clear, with a creamy consistency. 
  • Marshmallow fondant: Melted mini marshmallows are mixed with powdered sugar and shortening until pliable. 

While rolled fondant is great for icing cakes, you will find that its versatility will take your baking creations to the next level. Because fondant is pliable yet sturdy, it can be molded to make animals, people, and objects, like cars or buildings. You will be able to create unique confections that will keep your customers coming back for more.   

Why Marzipan Gets Confused With Other Confectioners Icing 

Because of its appearance, versatility, and neutral taste, people often confuse marzipan with other confectioner's icing. Think back to before you were a baker—did you know the difference between marzipan and fondant?

The texture and purpose of these two icings are similar, but there are significant reasons to choose one over the other. The main reason bakers will choose fondant versus marzipan is when a nut allergy is a concern.

When it comes to frangipane, you may wonder how anyone would be able to confuse frangipane with marzipan. The purposes and texture are different, and you cannot substitute one for the other. The almond flavor is about the only thing they have in common.

So, why does anyone get them confused? Well,  if a recipe calls for the poured fondant to be torched for the visual effect, it often looks like frangipane when it has been baked.  

Marzipan is useful to keep around the kitchen. It will serve many purposes in your bakery, and all it takes is a little refrigeration to refine texture and a baker’s artful eye to create some incredible desserts.

Why You Need to Know the Difference Between Marzipan, Fondant, and the Other Icing Options 

There are great small food business ideas out there, and if you are considering opening a bakery, make sure to familiarize yourself with the many different types of confectioner's icings. 

Understanding the differences between frangipane, fondant, marzipan, and almond paste will improve your talents as a baker. By adding tasty recipes with unique design elements to your repertoire, you are placing yourself above the competition. 

Posted by Damon Shrauner on