Sant Jordi festival cake and photos – a recipe with marzipan roses, a dragon and a book!

Celebration cakes

Who’s Sant Jordi?  He’s Saint George and the patron saint of Catalonia following a visit where he slayed the dragon and rescued a damsel in distress.  He was a busy knight, completing the same heroic deed in Britain and various other countries.  But did you know here in Catalonia the April 23rd Diada de Sant Jordi celebrations also involve books and roses?   All will be explained later with photos of the festival in Barcelona!  But this is THE big romantic day of the year and I wanted to invent a cake for the occasion that could also double as sustenance for this weekend’s climbing in the pre-pyrenees.  So to kill two birds with one stone (sorry birds, it’s just a figure of speech) I made a heart-shaped fruitcake, covered it in a layer of marzipan and added marzipan roses, a dragon and a book!  Not just a fancy cake, but also tasty and fairly nutritious made with spelt flour, honey and brown muscovado sugar, replete with dried fruit and nuts.  The marzipan is yummy and though decorating cakes really isn’t my forte it turned out almost presentable!  You should give it a go, with or without the dragon! 🙂

I had to steel myself for the ordeal of cake decoration and eat loads of healthy chocolates first to help me prepare.  But it wasn’t so bad!  Marzipan is less sweet than fondant icing and yummy!  You can have a great plasticine-like playtime session!  Hmmm, my dragon does look like a kid made it.  Must practise my dragons…

Rosy thoughts

Do you need patience and practice for the roses?  Yup, a little!  The techniques I used are based on Christophe Felder’s explanations in his Patisserie book combined with those taught on our basic Cordon Bleu patisserie course in Paris.  To be honest our first roses were not particularly attractive.  It was hot and mine were drooping and ugly, then I mistakenly put them in the fridge and they started sweating.  Nightmare.  Not to mention the shouting chefs à la Mr Ramsey (I did not mention that).

So I was most relieved when these roses turned out better.  My main tip is:  don’t flatten them out too thinly thinking you’re imitating nature.  Forget nature, they need to be a little thicker than paper thin (within reason) or they droop and look sad.  And don’t have too many petals.

The recipe

The fruitcake

Soak the dried fruit a day or more before making the orange and rum cake anglais-fruitcake (the recipe’s on my guest post at my friend’s Hogrider Dookes’ blog).   Use a heart-shaped tin or any other shape (around 20cm diametre).

The marzipan layer

You’ll need around 350 to 400g of marzipan.  With Christmas fruitcakes you wait at least a month till they mature before covering with marzipan, but this is a cake-anglais hybrid so we’re doing it now.  Woohoo!

First turn your cake upside down so you get a flat surface to cover.

Brush with apricot jam

1.  Gently warm a few tablespoons of apricot jam and brush a thin layer over the top and sides.

Colour and knead the marzipan

2. Knead the marzipan till it’s smooth and pliable, with very little green powder colouring or gel.

Roll out the marzipan

3. Lightly dust the worktop with icing sugar and roll out a layer of marzipan large enough to cover your cake’s top and sides. Use a measuring tape for greater precision.

Roll the marzipan over the cake

4. Loosely roll the marzipan over your rolling pin.

Roll over the cake

5. Then unroll carefully over your cake.

Smooth with the palms of your hands

6. Smooth the surface of the marzipan down with the palm of your hands so there are no pockets of air

Trim the excess with a knife

7.  Trim the excess marzipan with a sharp knife. If there are any gaps or holes you can fill with little pieces of marzipan.

The rope (twisted braid) border

Knead the leftover marzipan.

1.  Roll two lengths of thin rope (enough to go around your cake).


2.  Braid the two ropes together.

Position braid around cake

3.  Carefully position the braided rope around the base of the cake.

The marzipan roses and leaves

White roses

1.  Make a roll of marzipan.

2.  Cut a plastic piping bag at the seam or an A4 plastic envelope (to get two sheets of plastic, one under and one on top).

3.  Cut similarly sized pieces in your roll. Some can be smaller for the earlier petals. Also shape one little cone.

4.  Place the pieces, well spaced out, between the two sheets of plastic.

5.  Flatten with the back of a metal spoon.

6.  Then flatten the outer edges of your petal a little more, leaving a slightly thicker middle base (of about 1cm height and width).

7.  Carefully wrap the first smallest petal around your cone.

8.  Add a second bigger petal, fixing at the base. Try to make the petals a little higher than the cone.

9.  Pinch the petals between finger and thumb to give a ‘rose petal effect’.

10.  Work your way around adding petals but not too many.  Five or six petals seems to work – as you prefer.

Slice a bit off the base.

Red roses

Repeat the same process but adding the colouring powder or gel with care or you’ll get dark red roses like I did!  Which strangely enough looked nice but I’m not eating them!


The leaves are self-explanatory and fairly easy.  Please follow the photos and don’t make them toooo thin or thick.DSCF8288 - CopieDSCF8292DSCF8293DSCF8294Put it all together and tada!

DSCF8298The dragon and book

Shape a dragon and book.  For the book I used a toothpick to make horizontal markings. If you don’t like doing this kind of thing find someone helpful who likes modelling plasticine.  Or have only roses.

Finishing the cake

Arrange your marzipan decorations on top and take photos from different angles…

Oh, and eat it!  It’s better after a few days and will keep at least a week or so wrapped in baking parchment then covered in foil.  It could be stored without the decorations.Sant Jordi’s Day

Want to see the Catalan legend of Saint George, the dragon, the maiden and the rose?  Schoolchildren depict or act this story every year and make roses or dragons, and you can watch this charming tale on a youtube video narrated by a young person.

The dragon sowing terror and chaos in a delicatessen or looking shocked at the prices?

And the poetic part of the legend is when a drop of the dragon’s blood transforms into a rose.

A day out

Catalans all look forward to this lovely day, gathering in droves around the centre of Barcelona.People browse at the stalls, buying books or roses. Women and children walk around happily holding their roses.   These are not only presented to sweethearts but also to friends, mothers, daughters and classmates.  Traditionally women receive roses and men receive books.  But nowadays many women like to get books too.  My friend bought a couple for herself and her mother. Caught up in book-buying fever I picked one up too, about food of course.  It’s written by a group of friends who were on a cooking course together.DSCF8548And four of them kindly signed it for me!There were famous authors signing books at various stalls drawing big crowds, so we walked a little further off in search of typical Sant Jordi breads and cakes.  My friend did tell this man his bread is not really ‘traditional’.  Neither are book-shaped cakes as both were reportedly invented in the 1980s.  Luckily he was a cheerful man and not at all worried about such considerations.  The bread’s striped to ressemble the Catalan flag, with layers of cheese and sobrasada (a raw cured sausage) and walnuts round the outside.  Very tasty!

If you want to know more…

… you can soak in the atmosphere on the streets by watching two youtube videos: here and here.  There’s also a great article here.

Back to my Sant Jordi cake!

You might not celebrate Sant Jordi or even Saint Georges, but I’ll wish you happy Diada de Sant Jordi anyway!  And even if you don’t fancy the dragon and book perhaps one day you’d like to cover a cake with marzipan and roses.  Oh, and make a lovely fruitcake too of course!  No need to wait for Christmas! 🙂

I’ll take some to the Fiesta Friday party (woohoo!) with thanks to the lovely Angie@thenovice gardener for hosting and to her co-hosts Effie @Food Daydreaming and Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook.too.  Some cake will also go with me on this weekend’s climbing trip.  My friends always appreciate a nice moist piece of fruitcake for a bit of energy between climbs!  I hope they don’t mind the marzipan being green this time! 🙂So I’ll say farewell to you and hope you enjoyed ‘virtually’ sharing in the festivities!  May you ‘slay’ all your dragons and have a lovely rosy weekend ahead!!!  Next time we’ll be eating something completely different – and less colourful! 🙂

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Baking on Sundays with my French mum was a lovely part of my childhood. Later I experimented with baking books or internet recipes and did the pâtisserie course at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. Still trying out new recipes and inventing cakes with influences from all around the world, including some healthier ones. Yes, love cakes!!! Hope you'll love them too and have fun baking. :)

51 thoughts on “Sant Jordi festival cake and photos – a recipe with marzipan roses, a dragon and a book!”

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