This will be a show stopper whether you do this to decorate the top of a cake or you do this as a centerpiece for a dessert buffet.
I first came up with this idea when I entered the Oklahoma Sugar Art Show (if you're not familiar with it, it's the most prestigious cake competition in the country). For that, I created an image of a horse (picture is posted at the end of this 'ible).
By taking a few sweet ingredients, you can create total masterpieces. I'm not that good "painting" freehand, so I'm using a template to create the outline.
Step 1: Ingredients & Preparation of the Modeling Chocolate for the Frame
Once the marzipan "painting" is done, you will be transferring it to a chocolate backing and frame (this will make more sense later).
First, we'll need to make some modeling chocolate.
- 8 oz chocolate semi-sweet dark chocolate
- 4 oz corn syrup
Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe dish. Melt at 30 second intervals so you don't burn the chocolate. Stir in the corn syrup. You will see the mixture start to come together. It will be soft, but it will set up.
Transfer mixture onto plastic wrap and set aside. This will keep for around 6 months in a cool place.
Step 2: Ingredients & Mixing the Marzipan
- 1 pound Almond Paste
- 1 pound Powdered Sugar
- 1/4 cup Corn Syrup
Sift the powdered sugar.
Place the almond paste in a mixing bowl. Using a paddle, start mixing on low to break up the almond paste.
Add the corn syrup and then add the powdered sugar in 3 stages. The mixture will look crumbly.
Take the bowl off the mixer and press the mixture together using your hand. The warmth of your hand will help to bring the marzipan together. If it looks like it's not coming together, you can add another tablespoon of corn syrup. Once it's a nice dough consistency, stop working the marzipan. DO NOT over mix! If you do, the oil will start separating from the marzipan and it will no longer be good.
Step 3: Preparing the Chocolate Frame
Take the modeling chocolate you've previously prepared and unwrap the plastic. The modeling chocolate will be set pretty hard; to make it workable, put in the microwave 10 second, turn it and it may take another 10 seconds. DO NOT overheat.
Start kneading it to make it pliable ~ it should be just like play dough or clay. When it's smooth throughout, roll it out thin. To avoid the chocolate from sticking to the table, lightly dust with cornstarch. The size you will need to roll it out to will depend on the size of the picture you will end up burning. Make the chocolate piece 1" larger all around. Cut using a knife.
The modeling chocolate I made was 12 oz and it was enough to roll out a 9.5"x 9.5" piece, plus extra for the edging.
For the edging, I rolled out the modeling chocolate to thin cylinders and cut them to the length necessary for the edges of the frame. If the large square has dried some, you can use a little water to glue the edging. To give it some texture, I used a fork to create lines in the edging. The possible designs to the edging are only limited by your creativity.
Once the frame is done, set it aside.
Step 4: Preparing the Marzipan "canvas"
Start rolling out the marzipan on a piece of parchment paper. You can use some cornstarch if it looks like it will stick, but use it sparingly.
Roll it out to about 1/4" thick. You will need to roll it out slightly larger than the image you plan on burning.
I'm not great at drawing freehand, so I'm using a picture as a guide. If you can print the image on thin paper it will help with the transfer of the image.
If you need to use a picture like me, take the image (printed on thin paper or the parchment version) and place it on top of the marzipan.
Trace your entire image using a medium ball point pen. If you use a fine point pen or a pencil you're likely to pierce the paper and as a result the marzipan. Press firmly to make sure you're leaving the outlines, but not so firmly that you'll pierce the paper.
Now for the fun marzipan burning.
Step 5: Painting With a Wood-burning Tool
I used a wood burning tool. Generally the tool will come with an assortment of tips.
Take the image you've traced. Initially, I used a blade shaped edge to create the outlines. Carefully touch the marzipan with the tool to caramelize the surface. It will only take a second or two per section. Continue outlining the image.
For the eye, I switched to a round tip.
To create the feathers I used a flat tip to cover more surface area.
Continue burning the entire image. Go back and do any retouching of areas that need it.
Step 6: Attaching the Marzipan Painting to the Chocolate Frame
To attach the marzipan painting to the previously made chocolate frame, brush a little of corn syrup on the chocolate backing and slide the marzipan painting onto it. Allow to dry for a couple of hours otherwise it will slide if you try and stand it up. If placing on top of a cake, you can do it right away.
Step 7: Enjoy
Whether you're planning on just displaying it as part of a dessert buffet, placing it on a cake, or just giving it as a gift, every bit of it is edible.
Also, included is the picture of the cake I entered in the Oklahoma Sugar Art Show to give you an idea of another display option.