Saturday, May 8, 2010

When Pastry & Artistry Meet part 2: Marzipan Centerpieces

The next two showpieces I worked on were for my Candies & Confectionaries course.  They were made from Marzipan, which is an edible almond/sugar mixture, not to be confused with "Almond Paste" which is much much grainy-er.  Incidentally, I've made that mistake before...

Fruit Centerpiece:

This centerpiece had several components: 1) the dummy cardboard cake (cardboard used so that it would have a much longer shelf life) covered in Marzipan, 2) a piped border on top of the dummy cake, 3) Marzipan fruits which were hand sculpted and airbrushed.

I decided to sculpt my entire fruit selection to all resemble citrus fruits for several reasons.  First of all, I wanted to challenge myself to see how many different citrus fruits I could make and I ended up with grapefruit, oranges, blood oranges, tangerines, lemons, Meyer lemons, limes, key limes, kumquats.  Second of all, I thought that doing all citrus would have a unique presence and be different than what many of my classmates were doing.  In order to make the marzipan fruits as authentic as possible, I went to Whole Foods (one of my favorite places) and purchased some real ones to look at while I sculpted and colored.  This project was the first time I had ever used an airbrush gun.  Fun, but a bit tricky!

I also decided to make the sides of my dummy cake an aqua/teal color because it would be a huge contrast from the colors of the citrus.

Overall, I was happy with the way it turned out....  I had a few issues with my piped border because I chose something more complicated than I probably should have (or I should have practiced a ton before hand....).  Still, my Centerpiece was chosen for the display case and can be seen when you first walk into the culinary building!

Animal Centerpiece
Conceptually, this piece took a great deal more planning and brainstorming.  We were told we needed to make an entirely edible centerpiece featuring animals sculpted out of Marzipan, only there were some other guidelines as well: 1) We needed to make three different kinds of animals;  2) we needed to make three of each of the different kinds (so a minimum of nine animals total) though not all the animals needed to be in the centerpiece (some could be presented on a separate board; 3) the animals must tell a STORY that a child would understand with little to no explanation.

I played around with several ideas, but many were not attainable due to the extremely soft nature of Marzipan.  It collapses and squishes quite easily, which is good while sculpting, but not so good when you want things to stand up....

I really love sheep, so I knew I wanted to make sheep.  And one of my favorite books as a wee child was "Goodnight Moon,"  So, I came up with the idea of making a rabbit in a bed with counting sheep around him/her, an owl standing guard over the bed, and a tiny mouse thrown in just for fun.

With the exception of the cardboard base beneath the "carpet" the entire piece is completely edible!  One of the trickiest portions to construct was the bed for the rabbit.  I made it a week prior to the other components, used spaghetti and linguine noodles as supports (they are edible after all), and hoped for the best :)  To give the sheep their "fluffy" appearance, I painted them with royal icing several times.  Aren't the little sheep tails just adorable!

My animal center piece was also chosen for the display case and can be seen when you first walk into the culinary building!

Creations from my class

Throughout this entire project it was truly amazing to see all the different subject matter my classmates all did.  No one's project was like another's project.  Isn't it amazing how different our minds work when given similar instructions?

Next up, the Pastillage and Royal Icing Centerpiece: the most INTENSE of them all! 


  1. Whenever I look at your blog, I show the pictures to Jeff who works with great food every day at one of the best restaurants in Atlanta, and he always says "She has such a great future ahead of her." Just wanted to let you know that someone who serves Top Chef finalist food every day is always impressed with your work!

  2. Bravo encore et encore, Mlle Vein. I can't wait for you to visit and see all this wondrous food here! J'ai beaucoup de fiers de toi! bisous grases.