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Christmas Sugarplums

Christmas Sugar Plums


Units Scale
  • 1 cup (about 5 ounces) unblanched almonds, toasted
  • 1 cup (about 8 ounces) dried apricots
  • 1 cup (about 6 ounces) pitted dates
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest (about 1 orange)
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
  • 5 tablespoons honey (preferably clover honey)
  • Large-crystal sparkling sugar or coarse sugar
  • Marzipan Coating
  • About 2 pounds marzipan
  • Plum Decoration
  • Violet food coloring
  • kirschwasser
  • Large-crystal sparkling sugar or coarse sugar
  • Leaf Decoration:
  • Leaf green food coloring
  • Electric green food coloring
  • Gold Luster dust
  • Whole cloves


  1. Fruit and Nut Sugarplums
  2. Line a large baking sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper or wax paper.
  3. Place the toasted almonds, apricots, dates, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, and orange zest in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse into a finely ground mixture. Tip: The mixture should be finely ground but still crumbly; do not pulse into a puree or paste consistency.
  4. Remove the fruit and nut mixture from the processor and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the Grand Marnier or brandy and honey and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until thoroughly mixed.
  5. Shape mixture into small balls, about 1” in diameter, using about 1 tablespoon of mixture for each ball. Tip: A small ice cream scoop is ideal for making uniform-sized candies.
  6. The balls will be moist and sticky until they sit and dry out a bit. Let sit at room temperature, or cover balls and refrigerate until well chilled, 1 to 2 hours to firm up and loose some of their stickiness. Roll in large-crystal sparkling sugar or coarse sugar. Or, cover with marzipan coating.
  7. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate up to one month. Makes about three dozen 1-inch balls.
  8. Marzipan Coating:
  9. Determine how many Sugarplums you want to wrap with the marzipan coating. You will need about 1 ounce of marzipan for each sugarplum.
  10. Tip: To cover 12 Sugarplums, I used 12 ounces of marzipan. Use 2 to 4 ounces of marzipan for the leaves, depending on how many leaves you desire. Use 2 ounces marzipan for about 12 leaves. Use 3 to 4 ounces marzipan if you want extra leaves.
  11. Tint the larger portion of marzipan to wrap the Sugarplums with violet food coloring. Tint the smaller portion of marzipan for the leaves with leaf green plus electric green food coloring. Knead the marzipan until you get a consistent color with no streaks. Keep un-used marzipan covered to prevent drying out.
  12. Dust a work surface with powdered sugar. Divide the violet colored marzipan into 1 ounce pieces. For each Sugarplum use a small rolling pin to roll the marzipan into a 4 inch circle, about ⅛ inch thickness.
  13. Fold the marzipan around the Sugarplum to completely enclose it. Pinch the marzipan edges together and mold into a plum shape, with the top slightly pointed and the bottom slightly rounded. Flatten the bottom slightly if you wish the plums to stand up-right, otherwise let them lay on their sides. Make a crease vertically down the center of each Sugarplum with the back of a knife.
  14. Lightly brush the marzipan plum with kirschwasser and roll in decorative or coarse sugar. Set aside. Tip: I first sprinkled a light coating of coarse organic sugar on the Sugarplum, and then rolled in decorative sparkling sugar crystals to get maximum sparkle.
  15. Roll the green marzipan about ⅛ thick. Using a leaf cutter or cut freehand, cut out 1 or 2 leaves for each Sugarplum. Use the back of the knife to press lines into each leaf to resemble the leaf veins. Using a dry artist paintbrush, lightly brush each leaf with gold luster dust.
  16. Use the tip of a toothpick to make a small hole in the top of each leaf. Push the tip of a whole clove through the hole you just made and then push the tip of the clove into the top of a Sugarplum to adhere the leaf, using 1 or 2 leaves for each Sugarplum. (Remove the clove pieces before eating the marzipan Sugarplums).