Marzipan comes in two colours white and yellow (golden).
The difference between them is white marzipan is pliable and can be dyed with food colour to make modelled fruits or vegetables etc and yellow/golden marzipan is generally used to cover cakes although white marzipan may also be used as a covering.
The golden or yellow marzipan is used as a first layer to cover Christmas or Wedding Cakes giving you a smoother surface to work with thus allowing the final layer of icing fondant to be applied on the top.
The cake should be covered in apricot jam prior to the marzipan being adhered to it. The jam acts as an adhesive and allows it to stick to the cake.
The marzipan acts as a protective layer preventing the fruit cake staining the icing fondant and also keeps the cake fresher for longer.
Here is my Christmas Cake covered in Marzipan and then covered in icing fondant to create an igloo. The final design was an Igloo Penguin Cake.
Yellow or Golden Marzipan is used to top Simnel Cake and can be used as the filling or swirl in Stollen.
White or Golden marzipan can also be used to cover a Battenburg Cake.
In the UK marzipan can also be referred to as almond paste, however, in other countries this is not the case. In places such as the USA they are different, this is because almond paste has similar quantities of both ground almonds and sugar along with other ingredients whereas marzipan will have a higher sugar content, additional ingredients such as oils and can also be rolled out easier. Therefore always check the label to see what you are working with.
Warning – When rolling out or using Marzipan always dust your work surface with icing sugar or confectioners sugar and not cornflour/cornstarch, (always check your icing sugar does not contain cornflour/starch) this is because cornflour/cornstarch reacts with Marzipan causing fermentation and one big sticky mess!
Buttercream can sometimes react badly with marzipan so opt for apricot jam instead.