Preheat the oven to 300F / 150C / gas mark 2.
Work the ground almonds, sugar and rose-water together to make a stiff paste.
Knead until quite smooth.
Reserve a little of the marzipan for decorating the marchpane and place the rest on a sheet of greaseproof paper.
Roll it into a circle, about 3/8-inch thick, and decorate the edges with the back of a knife as you would a pie.
Slip the marzipan on to a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, then turn off the oven, open the oven door and leave to cook for another 15 minutes, then turn off the oven, open the oven door and leave to cook for another 15 minutes, or until firm and dry, but only lightly coloured.
Meanwhile, mix the rose-water and icing sugar to a thin paste for the glaze.
Brush over the marchpane and continue cooking for about 5 minutes until dry and glossy.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Roll out the reserved marzipan until quite thin and cut out into hearts, diamonds, letters, animals or birds.
Paint with edible gold colouring and fix on to the glazed marchpane as it dries to form patterns or pictures.
Alternately, the reserved marzipan can be modelled into figures of animals or birds, or into knots which can be gilded as before.
Sugar-coated caraway, fennel or coriander seeds, or confectioners' silver balls can also be used for decoration.
Serve as a sweetmeat with coffee at the end of a meal.
** A Book of Historical Recipes ** by Sara Paston-Williams The National Trust of Scotland, 1995 ISBN = 0-7078-0240-7 Scanned and formatted for you by The WEE Scot -- pol mac Griogair ORIGINAL RECIPE:: How to make Marchpane Cake (dated from 1699 AD) "Take blancht Almonds and sugar and beat them up into a Past, and when have beaten it into a Past, rowl it out about the thickness that you will have your Marchpane Cakes to be and cut them in 3 square pieces and set an Edge to them of the same past, and Impress the Edges of them, then take Rose Watter and beat searced sugar in it till it be as thick as Pancakes, butter and wet them within it and strew a few of Bisketts in them and set them upon Wafers, and set them againe upon Papers and bake them, and keep them for your use.
" To gild a Marchpane or any other kind of Tart (dated from 1584 AD) "Take and cut your leafe of golde, as it lieth upon the booke, into square peeces like Dice and with a Conies tailes end moysted a little, take golde up by the one corner, lay it on the place beeing first made moyste, and with another tayle of a Conie drie presse the golde downe close.
And if ye will have the forme of an Harte, or the name of Iesus, or any other thing whatsoever; cut the same through a peece of paper and lay the paper upon your Marchpane or Tart; then make the voide place of the Paper (through which the Marchpane appeareth) moyste with Rose Water, laye on your golde, presse it down, take off your Paper and there remaineth behinde in golde the print cut in the saide paper.
" Historical note: The marchpane was the centrepiece of any banquet.
It was a large flat disc of marzipan, sometimes with a raised rim round the edge, weighing perhaps 3 to 4 pounds or more, which was iced, sumptuously decorated and surmounted for special occasions with three-dimensional figures or models in cast sugar (hot sugar syrup moulded in stone, wooden or pewter shapes); sugar plate (similar to modern fondant icing) or almond paste.
Finally, the marchpane was often gilded with gold leaf, readily available but exceedingly expensive in Elizabethan times.