Photos by Kaili Reveles
Bright, colorful and always Instagrammable, French macarons have exploded in local popularity in recent years. These meringue-based confections date back to the Renaissance in Europe but have only captured Americans’ attention over the past decade.
“To be honest, when I was in culinary school in 2005, they were not a thing. I had never learned how to make them,” says Cara Linn, founder and owner of Sweet by Cara Linn, an Amarillo bakery and dessert bar. “They started taking off in the past few years so I had to learn how to make them.”
An Amarillo native, Cara graduated from the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University in Louisiana, then interned with celebrity cake designer Elisa Strauss in New York City. After spending several years in NYC bakeries and restaurants, Cara eventually opened her own cake business in Brooklyn until moving back to Amarillo a decade ago. In 2020, she bought the former Uptown Sweet Shoppe at 34th and Coulter, and has recently rebranded it with a new name.
Cara says “elevated sweets” are her passion. The bakery uses only organic cane sugar. “Everything we do is with the best ingredients,” Cara says. “That’s really important to me. We don’t use cake mixes or icing from a bucket. Everything is from scratch here.”
This includes her popular macarons. “People go crazy over them. We sell a ton,” she says.
We asked her to walk readers through her step-by-step process of creating these sweet, delicate cookies in a home kitchen.
Sift the Flour and Sugar
A French macaron—not to be confused with the coconut-derived macaroon—is made up of two primary parts: the crisp macaron shell and the flavorful fillings. When made right, the whipped egg white base gives the shell a crisp-yet-chewy texture.
To begin, sift the almond flour and powdered sugar together. Cara recommends using an overly large bowl for the dry ingredients, which helps you manage the batter more easily later in the process.
Cara stops at this point to urge patience for home bakers. Macarons aren’t easy to make. “They are very finicky cookies,” she says, and baking them requires precision. “That’s why people buy them. But if you’re making them at home, they don’t have to look perfect. They’ll still taste delicious.”
Mix the Egg Whites
Cara uses fresh egg whites rather than liquid egg whites. While separating the eggs, she says to take caution to keep any yolks out of the mix, as any fat will impact how well the meringue sets up. Like other experts, Cara recommends letting the egg whites “age” in the refrigerator for around 24 hours before mixing, which improves elasticity during whipping.
The whipping is important. Mix for several minutes until the egg whites form stiff peaks. “That’s one of the most common mistakes,” Cara says. “Knowing how long to whip the egg whites.”
For instance, not mixing long enough can leave the shell grainy or lumpy. Overmixed egg whites can end up cracking in the oven. Properly stiff egg-white peaks won’t drip or move on their own.
“Some days, we still mess up a batch,” Cara says.
When it comes to the macaron shell, the fun colors are cosmetic only and the result of gel food coloring. (Without food coloring, they’ll taste just as good but might look a little boring.)
It’s important to use gel food coloring instead of liquid, which can alter the batter’s consistency. Add one to two drops of gel coloring directly to the egg whites by slowly folding it in, or beating at low speed on a mixer.
Once the food coloring has been added, sift the almond flour mixture into the mixing bowl and use a rubber spatula to fold it into the batter “until it flows off the spatula like lava,” Cara says.
When it reaches that consistency, put the batter in a pastry bag and fit it with a piping tip.
Cara recommends using silicone macaron molds, which are flexible and non-stick. The piping process needs to take place quickly so the batter consistency doesn’t change. Pipe the batter into the mold in circles—typically these are around 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter—using a swirling motion.
“Once you start piping, don’t let the batter sit,” says Cara. “If you don’t do the swirl right away, it can keep you from getting that smooth texture.”
Again, macarons are finicky.
To avoid air bubbles, Cara then slaps the silicone mold onto the pan a couple of times, and even bangs the pan on the counter. If necessary, use a toothpick to pop any leftover bubbles, which might create cracks in a macaron shell after baking.
Then let the piped circles rest. Cara recommends at least 30 minutes, or until the tops of the shell are dry to the touch. This gives them time to rise and develop the little “feet” that add to the chewy texture. Don’t let them rest too long, though. After an hour or so, they might start to deflate.
Fill ’em Up
After baking and letting the shells cool, it’s time to add the filling, turning the individual shells into colorful cookie sandwiches. The filling is what gives a macaron its flavor, and Cara says the sky is the limit. “There are no rules on the filling,” she says. “You can use ganache, jams, buttercream icing.”
She created delicious, fall-friendly Orange Rose, Candy Corn, and Caramel Apple flavors for.
“There are myriad options and flavors for macarons.”
122 grams almond flour
122 grams powdered sugar
92 grams egg whites
82 grams granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 to 2 drops gel food coloring
Sift together almond flour and powdered sugar in a bowl. Set aside. In another glass or metal bowl, add egg whites and granulated sugar and set on top of a pan of boiling water. Whisk until sugar is dissolved. Place egg white mixture in a mixing bowl and add cream of tartar. Whip to glossy, stiff peaks. Add food coloring, then place a sifter on top of mixing bowl and sift the almond flour mixture into it. With a rubber spatula, fold batter until it flows off the spatula like lava. Place batter in a pastry bag and pipe in circles. Let circles rest for about 30 minutes until tops are dry to the touch. Bake in a 240 degree oven for approximately 24 minutes, flipping pan halfway through. Once macarons are cooled, fill with your favorite filling. We use buttercream icing flavored with extracts, white and dark chocolate ganache, jams, or lemon curd.
Yields approximately 2 dozen macarons
Cara Linn of Sweet by Cara Linn