Food trendspotters the world over are beginning to believe—and theorize in print—that the cupcake’s time in the limelight is finished. Waiting in the wings, according to them, is the tiny, humble macaron, not to be confused with macaroons, the coconutty treats favored by Jewish people during Passover and other High Holy Days.
Macarons look somewhat like Oreos, except they are often brightly colored and not crafted from cookies. Rather, macarons are meringue-based confectionaries, a mix of egg whites, almonds, and both granulated and confectionary sugar. The shells are delicate enough that they shatter with anything more than a gentle touch, including a bite, yielding the cream in the middle. Usually when they’re purchased from a retail shop, they’re stored in cooler cases alongside other cakes.
As with many other confectionaries, the heritage of the macaron is debated, extending as far back as the 700s according to some sources, although the French have mostly taken ownership of it. The modern macaron as we know it was invented by a chef at the French pastry shop Ladureé in the 1830s, but many other regions of France lay claim to their own regional variations. Macarons are also popular in Switzerland and Japan. In France, even some locations of McDonald’s sell them, and Starbucks is trying them out as well as selling cupcakes.
On a purely aesthetic note, macarons are adorable little pastel pats of every color imaginable, from pink to purple and everything in between. Flavors vary widely, from standbys like chocolate and raspberry to green tea and pistachio. They’re usually fairly affordable, about $1.50 each, but the secret is that you can’t just order one. How could you? They all look so cute, so why not try them all, right?
In Atlanta, macarons are found at many different locations, including Joli Kobe, Douceur de France and Maison Robert. I’ve personally purchased them from Joli Kobe and Douceur de France in the past and loved them. Both places also offer little prewrapped bags of pink or blue macarons, perfect for a baby shower. Even Trader Joe’s now sells a frozen pack of macarons, although they must be defrosted for half an hour before consuming, which could frankly be too long to wait once you have a look at them.
When the Wall Street Journal has an article quoting fans who are anxious about a newfound surge in popularity (one woman sounds almost like an indie music fan when she says macarons aren't supposed to be popular) and analyzing the economic impact of a food item, a trend is made.
But why can’t macarons be macarons and cupcakes be cupcakes? Can’t both sweet treats exist in perfect harmony?
Cupcakes are radically different from macarons in construction and style, made from heavier ingredients like cake, buttercream frosting, fondant, sprinkles and such. Often the desire for something sweet is satisfied with just one cupcake in a sitting. Macarons don’t pack the same filling heft, unless you have more than one at a time.
Cupcakes have their own cute pastel aesthetics. You can make teeny-tiny miniature ones or the humongous variety. It’s also easier to craft a birthday or wedding cake from them, although macarons are trying and one style of cupcake cake is infamous for being peculiar-looking and slathered with far too much icing. (The fantastic Cake Wrecks spotlights some of the worst in CCCs, as they call them.)
Why must every sweet treat have to be a trend anyway? It should be up to everyone specifically to decide what they want to eat. If you want a cupcake, forget the trendsetters—go out there to one of Atlanta’s many cupcake bakeries and get one! If you want a macaron or twelve, c’est bien aussi!
Perhaps Kristy Yang of the Dallas Observer says it best: any food fad that involves cake and frosting is fine with us.
A selection (not an exhaustive list!) of Atlanta's cupcake and macaron offerings, so you can decide for yourself:
Share your favorite cupcakes or macarons in the comments!
(Both photos from Wikimedia Commons, stitched together by me)
I mean we eat shrimp and lobster and crab which are basically sea bugs even…
I wonder if Cliff will wait until next month to pontificate on the Amy's Baking…
What did Wayne eat?
Cliff, what did you think of the chicken heart taco with kimchi? I miss the…
- I don't think it's Navarro Carr but maybe I'm mixing things up. No pun…
I like the bartender that was at Sound Table a year and a half ago…