Why Duff Goldman Prefers Substituting Fondant With Marzipan For Cake Decorating

Fondant is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of thing. Cake decorators love it for the versatility it brings to their craft. Its moldable, almost clay-like texture is ideal for forming elaborate ribbons and flowers, but it's also the icing of choice among cake makers intent on creating lifelike confections. Consider, for example, one of Duff Goldman's most famous cakes, an R2D2 replica he made for "Star Wars" creator George Lucas. Or how about the giant box of crayons he made for Crayola's 50th anniversary in 2008? These awe-inspiring creations would have not been possible without fondant.

However, this ingredient can be tricky to work with, especially in the hands of a novice. Fondant is sensitive to climate, which means too much moisture can make it sticky and if it's too dry, it will crack. It also has a fair share of detractors who are experienced cake decorators, including Goldman, who appreciate the benefits of fondant for the creativity it allows, but who don't particularly care for the taste or texture of the malleable substance. And while Goldman isn't likely to ditch fondant any time soon, he does have a suggestion for an alternate — marzipan. In fact, he even recommends marzipan as a quick-and-easy way for a home cook to upgrade store-bought cake.

How he suggests using marzipan and what ingredients it contains

Goldman shared the tip in 2020 during a wide-ranging Q&A session with Insider. "I would get a cake that was as plain as possible, maybe one with just a border piped on," Goldman advised. "Then I'd get some marzipan, which you can typically find in the baking aisle, and make decorations with it. Marzipan is a good substitute for fondant, which most grocery stores don't sell. It can be used to shape decorations and it tastes much better than fondant, too."

Sounds good, but what exactly is marzipan and how does it differ from fondant? In its simplest form, it's a paste made of sugar and almonds that has a sculpture-friendly consistency similar to fondant, so it's a good choice for home cooks whose cake-decorating aspirations include a bit of sculpted whimsy. It's also sweet like fondant, but the almond base gives marzipan more depth of flavor. You can even add color to it, but be sure to choose food coloring paste. Liquid varieties of food coloring will make the marzipan too sticky to handle.