Königsberger Marzipan
Renate Bromberg

Photos: J. Hermolin
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History: The art of combining ground almonds and sugar into a paste is over 1000 years old and originated in the Orient. It is believed to have been brought to Europe by Arabs through Spain. There, it grew quickly in popularity as a dessert, but only for royalty and the wealthy because of the extremely high price for sugar. It wasn't until the beginning of the 19th century that sugar prices came down and marzipan became a dessert more people could afford. Marzipan was also used for medicinal purposes well into the 18th centrury. It was used both as a way to make bitter pills more palatable, as well as medicine for specific illnesses. It was known as "energy bread," "heart sugar," and "marzipan for the sick."

The German name has largely ousted the original English name marchpane with the same apparent derivation: "March bread." Marzapane is documented earlier in Italian than in any other language, and the sense "bread" for pan is Romance. The origin could be from the Latin term "martius panis", which means bread of march. However, the ultimate etymology is unclear.