Dragon Marzipan Centrepiece – GBBO Showstopper Challenge (Week 8)

img_5173Week 8! Tudor Week!

Yeah, I didn’t realise that was a typical baking style either. My mistake.

This week had the bakers making various indulgent treats fit for Henry VII! A savoury pies signature, a ‘jumbles’ technical (what the hell are those?), and a 3D marchpane cake showstopper.

According to the brief food history bit of the episode that no one really pays attention to, marchpane was used to construct these crazy elaborate centrepieces that you absolutely had to have on your 16th century banquet table if you wanted to prove your worth! ‘Marchpane’ is basically the old name for marzipan, but made with just ground almonds, icing sugar and rose water whilst the modern version usually includes almond flavouring and and egg to soften too.

This week’s challenge was to make a 3D marchpane centrepiece to the following criteria:

  • seemingly needed to include a cake
  • also seemed to require both marchpane and marzipan, made from scratch
  • entirely edible
  • 3 hours 30 mins

img_5184The design could be anything, although most bakers seemed to go with a Tudor-ish theme. I went for a dragon. As you do.

From the moment Mel mentioned ‘dragon’ as an example of a marchpane centrepiece during the food history bit, I was gone. Typical Ang making things difficult for herself!

Anyways, I then decided I was going to pair my Tudor dragon with a fiery stem ginger cake. Because dragons breathe fire. And they love ginger. Fact.

Here’s how I got on…

img_5100I first started by making the ginger cake. I did this by weighing out the flour, bicarb and spices into a large bowl and giving them a quick mix.

img_5104Then in a large saucepan, I melted the butter, dark brown sugar, black treacle and golden syrup over a very low heat until the sugar dissolved and all was combined.

img_5110In a separate container I beat together the egg and the milk.

img_5112I also finely chopped some stem ginger for some extra heat.

img_5115I then poured the melted ingredients into the dry, along with the eggy milk and the chopped stem ginger, and mixed till fully incorporated.

img_5117img_5121I poured the mixture into a lined 2lb loaf tin and baked at 180°C for 50 minutes. Once baked I let this aside to cool whilst I got on with the marchpane and marzipan.

img_5125For the marchpane I mixed the ground almonds and icing sugar together. Ideally you should pulse them together to get a really fine powder for a smooth dough but I only have a dinky chopper at home and I wasn’t going to waste time pulsing it in tiny batches!

img_5130I then mixed in a few tablespoons of rose water to bring it together as a dough. You’ll probably need to get in with your hands to do so!

img_5132img_5150I then tried to dye my marchpane a vibrant red (using gel food colouring so I wasn’t adding too much more liquid!), but my god that stuff is difficult to knead! I just about got to a dark pinky red before I decided it’s not worth spraining my wrists over!

img_5151I then rolled out the marchpane between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper to a ½cm thickness. (I did this because my marchpane was oddly oily?! I reckon it was the rosewater I used.) I then cut out a 2 wings using a template I’d drawn up beforehand, and a few triangles of various sizes for the spikes.

img_5152I baked the wings on a curve (made with aluminium foil) and the spikes on a small tray at a lower temperature of 150°C for 25 minutes until they were just beginning to colour. I removed from the oven and set aside. Do not touch the fragile things at all until COMPLETELY cooled! I made the mistake of trying to move one and the top point may have broken off…

img_5126For the marzipan I pulsed mixed the ground almonds and icing sugar together in a large bowl.

img_5134I then added some rosewater…

img_5136…and some almond extract.

img_5138I then poured in 2 egg whites (which came to 60g) and mixed this together until it came together as a dough. Again, you’ll probably need to knead it with your hands to bring it together.

img_5140img_5156I then took half of my marzipan and dyed it a dark reddy purple by kneading in the gel food colouring. With the other half, I reserved a small piece in the original colour (for nails and teeth) and dyed the rest dark brown. I kept this covered in cling film to keep from drying out until ready to use.

img_5144As an optional extra I then crushed and melted some orange and yellow boiled sweets in a metal cookie cutter lined with baking paper by placing in the hot oven for about 5 minutes. Once melty I used a toothpick to dip 2 sunflower seeds into the orange goop to coat and set aside to harden. This was so my dragon could have glassy amber coloured eyes.

img_5146img_5154Once the cake had cooled, I levelled off the top then inverted it onto the board I wanted to serve on and brushed the entire surface with apricot jam.

img_5157I then rolled out my dark brown marzipan to a large rectangle of ½cm thickness and lifted onto my cake to caver completely, cutting off any excess and sealing all seams.

img_5159To make the structure for the dragon I started by melting some unsalted butter in a large saucepan over a very low heat.

img_5160I then added mini marshmallows and let to melt slowly until there were no lumps.

img_5163img_5166I took the marshmallow of the heat and mixed in the coco pops until evenly coated.

img_5168I let this cool a little until it was beginning to set and safe to handle with my hands.

img_5170I sculpted this using lightly oiled hands into my desired dragon shape. I kept this in the fridge until set. Mine actually kept drooping so I had to keep checking on it! In hindsight I probably could have added some melted chocolate for a much firmer set!

To decorate my coco pops dragon I covered the entire thing with the dark reddy purple marzipan. I flattened out pieces and just moulded it over each section of the dragon until fully covered, and smoothed out the edges. I then used whatever tools I could find to sculpt out the details/features, and added a few little marzipan extras (the horns, nails, teeth, edging on the wings). I also added the ‘eyes’.

Finally, I embellished the dragon and it’s base with edible glitter/dust, and added a few crystallised ginger ‘rocks’ at it’s feet too!



How long did it take? If I’m just counting the time I was in the kitchen… 5 hours 10 minutes. Ok, I realise that’s WAAAAAAY over the 3hr30 time limit the bakers were given but this was a very overambitious bake! Plus, being my first and only attempt I was having to wing quite a lot too! Pun intended.

I managed to get the cake in the oven and make the marchpane and marzipan well within in the time frame I’d set myself (1hr30), it was dyeing the marchpane and making the wings that took aaaages! Let me tell you, marchpane is a pain in the backside to knead, let alone roll out to shape (or at least my marchpane was!). I even went to the lengths of making a third wing just incase because I was paranoid one would break!

Being me, I also spent and eternity decorating the darned thing! I wasn’t completely sure how I wanted to decorate it when I started so I was just improvising with the various sweets and edible glitters/dusts I had. I actually spent 1hr40 doing this… so I’m pretty sure I could have cut that down once I had a clue!

What worked? I was a little worried about the ginger cake being too soft and moist and getting squished with the weight of the dragon, but it held. *flexed bicep emoji* I’m also pretty happy with how the dragon turned out.

What didn’t work? The marchpane was very temperamental; one wing started breaking despite seemingly being the more solid of the two?! I also should have processed the almonds and icing sugar because once I’d dyed it you could really see the flecks of ground almonds in the marchpane. Ew. Lastly, I could have added some melted white chocolate to the coco pops mix for a firmer set as mentioned before.

Things to improve if I were to take this recipe to the tent? Practice the marchpane stuff – pefect the recipe, dyeing it, and the shaping/baking of the wings. I also should have made the coco pops dragon structure much earlier so I wasn’t having to wait so long for it to harden in the fridge (I didn’t have space in my freezer!). Finally, DON’T TAKE ALMOST TWO HOURS TO DECORATE THE FRIGGIN’ DRAGON! This wasn’t an art lesson Ang.


Dragon Marzipan Centrepiece – GBBO Showstopper Challenge (Week 8)
Author: Acorns & Custard
  • For the ginger cake:
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 115g unsalted butter
  • 115g dark muscovado sugar
  • 115g black treacle
  • 115g golden syrup
  • 250ml milk
  • 85g stem ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • For the marchpane:
  • 350g ground almonds
  • 175g icing sugar
  • 4 tbsp rose water
  • gel food colouring, optional
  • For the marzipan:
  • 375g ground almonds
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 4tsp almond extract
  • 2tsp rose water
  • 2 egg whites
  • gel food colouring, optional
  • For the dragon structure:
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 300g mini marshmallows
  • 200g coco pops
  • For decoration & construction:
  • apricot jam
  • boiled sweets
  • sunflower seeds
  • edible glitter
  • crystallised ginger
For the ginger cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, bicarb and spices.
  3. In a saucepan, melt the butter, sugar, treacle, and golden syrup on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved and everything is blended.
  4. In a separate bowl beat together the milk and the egg.
  5. Pour the melted ingredients into the dry ingredients, along with the chopped stem ginger and the beaten milk and egg, then beat together until combined.
  6. Spoon the batter into a lined 2lb loaf tin.
  7. Bake for 50mins – 1hour until the top springs back when pressed, or when a skewer comes out clean. (You may need to cover the top with some foil half way through cooking to prevent it burning.)
  8. Set aside to cool completely.
For the marchpane:
  1. Preheat oven to 150°C.
  2. Pulse together the ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor to a fine powder.
  3. Gradually add and stir in the rosewater until you get a thick paste/dough.
  4. If you wish to colour the marchpane, add the gel food colouring at this stage and knead through. (I coloured mine red.)
  5. Roll the marchpane out between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper to a ½cm thickness and cut out to what ever shape you wish.
  6. Place onto a lined baking tray and bake for 25mins until just beginning to brown.
  7. Set aside to cool completely before attempting to move it.
For the marzipan:
  1. Pulse together the ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor to a fine powder.
  2. Gradually add and stir in the almond extract and rosewater until you get a thick dough. If too wet, add more icing sugar and ground almonds.
  3. Tip out onto a work surface dusted with icing sugar and roll to whatever you wish.
  4. If you wish to colour the marzipan, add some gel food colouring and knead through. (I coloured half of the marzipan a dark red/purple, and almost the rest of it dark brown, leaving a small piece the original colour.)
For the dragon structure:
  1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter on a low heat.
  2. Add the marshmallows and stir over the low heat until melted and combined.
  3. Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the coco pops until evenly coated.
  4. Once cool enough to handle with you’re hands, using lightly oiled hands, mould into desired shape. I obviously made a dragon.
  5. Leave to cool and set at room temperature, or in the fridge/freezer if in a hurry.
Construction of the dragon:
  1. Roll out the dark brown marzipan to ½cm thickness.
  2. Level the top of the cake and invert onto the board yore serving it on.
  3. Brush with a little apricot jam and cover with the dark brown marzipan.
  4. Crush and melt some orange/yellow boiled sweets on a small lined tray/tin in an oven set at 180°C for 5 minutes.
  5. Dip 2 sunflower seeds into the melted sweets to coat. Set aside to cool and re-harden.
  6. Completely cover the coco pops dragon with the dark red/purple marzipan and mount on top of the covered cake.
  7. Sculpt the head (using coated seeds as eyes), limbs, tail and features of the dragon.
  8. Dust with edible glitter or paint with food colouring.
  9. Cut holes in the back of the dragon where the wings are going to go. Slot in the marchpane wings.


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