Almond paste and marzipan contain the same basic ingredients. They are considered two distinct confections used to make and decorate cakes and pastry though. Generally, marzipan is a type of almond paste that contains more sugar.
Almond paste recipes differ, but overall they call for equal parts of crushed, blanched almonds and sugar. Some cooks heat the sugar with water or glycerin and then mix it with almonds that have been crushed in a food processor to make the paste. Some recipes call for almond extract to add flavor to the paste.
Marzipan is made with a higher ratio of sugar to almonds and many recipes call for 1 part crushed almonds to 1.5 parts sugar. Whipped egg whites and rose water are other ingredients commonly added to almond paste to make marzipan. Pastry chefs often add food coloring to marzipan and sculpt it into fruit shapes used to decorate cakes.
Marzipan and almond paste are ancient treats, and different cultures have different traditions. In Toledo, Spain, marzipan is a regional product that must be made of at least 50 percent almonds. European Union rules require all marzipan products to contain 14 percent almond oil. There are no specific U.S. requirements for almond paste or marzipan.