Macarons, the incredibly beautiful Parisian cookie, are perhaps equally known for their impossibly smooth surface, delicate raised "foot," and irresistibly chewy texture. As a baker, I see macarons as a bit of a rite of passage. Learning to execute these fluttery friends is a great test of a variety of baking skills: whipping a meringue, piping the perfect round, and getting the bake just right. But I also see them as an incredible opportunity to get creative. At their core, macarons are a simple cookie with a fairly short ingredient list: just almond flour, egg whites, and sugar. And since they are made with almond flour, they are naturally gluten-free. Best of all, the short ingredient list means that the cookie itself is neutral in flavor — meaning you can easily add a variety of different fillings and finishes to take your macarons to the next level.
In my newest episode of "Bake it Up A Notch," I try to show off some of the many incredible things this cookie can do. While lots of macaron recipes play with adding different colors and filings, I want to encourage home bakers to also experiment with an array of sizes, presentations, and finishes, too! From the classic mini sandwich cookies to giant macarons decorated with royal icing, to a towering, sliceable layer "cake," there's a whole lot of ways to embark on your own macaron adventure. Here are the recipes to get you started.
I originally developed this macaron recipe for my first book, The Fearless Baker. My goal was to have a macaron recipe that was as simple as it could possibly be, while still producing the ideal results. If you're not sure where to start macaron-wise, this is a great recipe for you! It's a crowd-pleasing combination of chocolate cookie (courtesy of a small amount of cocoa powder sifted into the dry ingredients), along with a basic ganache filling. I've also included instructions to alter this base recipe to make Vanilla, Fruity, or Spiced macarons, too.
One of the bakeries where I used to work sold large macarons. I loved these varieties because they were even chewier than their miniature counterparts. Classic macarons for sandwich cookies are around 1 1/2 inches wide, but these beauties are piped to a whopping 3 inches wide! This larger size makes them ideal for a whole number of things. Scoop some ice cream between two for a chewy, gluten-free take on a classic ice cream sandwich. Sprinkle some graham cracker crumbs on top before baking, then use them to make s'mores. Or my favorite, use the wider surface area as the perfect, smooth canvas for decorating with royal icing or buttercream (see my Piping 101 video for ideas)!
Made from the aforementioned jumbo macarons of my dreams, these macarons are finished with a generous sprinkling of nonpareils — one of the easiest ways to finish any macaron that always looks picture perfect. In between the cookies, they boast an outer ring of smooth, tangy cream cheese frosting. Inside, they have a sweet core of strawberry jam. This same idea can be applied to other macarons to combine two flavors you love: like chocolate frosting with a peanut butter core or coffee frosting with a salted caramel center!
After baking, macaron cookies are typically chewy, but when they are sandwiched together with filling and refrigerated, they absorb some of the moisture from the filling to become beautifully soft. This concept can be used to make stacked macaron presentations, too. You can use multiple macarons of the same size, or opt for graduated sizes to produce a tower effect. Assemble the cookie towers by applying frosting to the surface of each macaron and stacking another on top. After refrigerating, these stacks will be soft enough to easily slide a fork through — making them a perfect make-ahead option for special occasions or dinner parties.
If you can make macarons in all sorts of sizes . . . and you can stack macarons to create a layered effect . . . then of course you can make a macaron-inspired "cake." This funfetti-vibed creation starts by piping macaron batter into four 6-inch rounds and topping them with plenty of confetti-style sprinkles. The baked and cooled layers are stacked together with frosting to produce a beautiful naked-style cake fit for any celebration!
While simple rounds are the most classic macaron shape, it's possible to pipe them in an array of shapes. This takes a bit more skill to execute, so try your hand at some basic recipes first. Once you've gotten going, sky's the limit — I've seen everything from cacti to pumpkins to hearts (which inspired my peach shape here). Just like classic macarons, you can trace your shapes ahead of time on your parchment to serve as a guide while you pipe them. Here, after baking, I added even more dimension by brushing a portion of each cookie with edible luster dust (this is optional, but another fun and simple way to add some flair to any macaron)! Filled with a peaches and cream sort of combination (creamy frosting outside, peach jam inside), they are finished with tiny mint leaves to make them look like they were plucked right off the tree!
My youngest niece is macaron-obsessed, and requests them each year for her birthday instead of cake! She was the inspiration for these macarons that hearken back to my favorite Easter candies. I dye the macaron shells delicate pastel colors and use a stiff-bristled brush to apply a splatter technique to give them the look of robin's eggs. They are filled with whipped malted milk chocolate ganache with a gooey caramel core (but feel free to swap the caramel for another Easter favorite, marshmallow fluff).