Pistachio macarons & birthday cakes

My precious little creative director comes up with a new idea for her birthday cake every year and each time, I’m just amazed at how she knows exactly what she wants… and I love to make her wishes come true :-)!

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She loves loves loves pistachio macarons and for her birthday this year, she asked for a cake topped with these delicate little cookies. Actually, she asked for a vanilla cake with pistachio cream inside, vanilla-white chocolate frosting on the outside and topped with pistachio macarons… and here is how it turned out 🙂

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For the macarons (makes about 50 macarons)
Italian meringue recipe from the blog La Cuisine de Mercotte
2 times 55g of egg whites at room temperature
150g almond meal
150g powdered sugar
15g white sugar
a knife tip of food coloring in powder or paste form (not liquid or gel), pistachio green
For the sugar sirup:
150g white sugar
50g water

  1. Weigh all the ingredients precisely.
  2. In a food processor, pulse together the almond meal and powdered sugar a few times, until the powders are well blended and a fine flour-type mixture forms. Set aside.
  3. Make a sirup by cooking together the 150g of white sugar and 50g of water. Bring it to a boil and heat it up to 110ºC.
  4. While preparing the sugar sirup, start beating 55g of egg whites at high speed in a self-standing mixer. When the egg whites start foaming, add the 15g of white sugar.
  5.  When the sirup reaches 110ºC, pour it slowly on the egg whites while continuing to beat at medium speed. Continue beating constantly until the temperature of the egg whites reaches about 40ºC.
  6. Slow down the mixing speed to add the food coloring and the remaining 55g of egg whites. Increase the speed to high again and beat for a few seconds, until the food coloring is well incorporated, then stop.
  7. Replace the mixing tool with the flat leaf tool. Add the dry ingredients – the mixture of almond meal and powdered sugar – and mix at minimum speed for about 1 minute. The egg white mixture must be nice and shiny.
  8. Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag with a round tip of about 6-8mm and form regular circles on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. To achieve macarons’ halves of the same size, it is best to either draw the circles on the parchment paper beforehand or use a silicone baking sheet, with incorporated circles, designed especially for baking macarons.
  9. Let the macarons “dry” on the baking sheet for 10-15 minutes before placing them in the oven. This helps form a thin crust and prevents shell cracking during baking.
  10. Bake at 150-155ºC 13-14 minutes (the first batch will be a test batch to help you understand your oven better and adapt the temperature and the baking time). When done, the macarons must detach from the baking sheet easily. Let them cool down for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.
  11. Fill and assemble the macarons when they are completely cool.

For the pistachio ganache filling
Recipe adapted from the blog La Cuisine de Mercotte
60g white chocolate (I use Valrhona Ivoire white chocolate)
30g heavy cream
3g honey with a neutral taste (I use acacia honey)
2 heaped teaspoons of pistachio butter
90g heavy cream

Melt the white chocolate in a bain-marie. At the same time, heat the 30g of heavy cream together with the honey up to boiling point. Now comes the tricky part – you need to make an emulsion of the white chocolate and hot heavy cream-honey mixture by pouring the heavy cream in 3 additions into the melted white chocolate and mixing very intensely. After the first addition, a thick, almost pasty texture will form. Do not be afraid of this, continue with the second and third addition and mix very intensely throughout the process. A smooth, creamy emulsion will form; if you mixed thoroughly, there will be no lumps and no separation of liquids. Add the pistachio butter to the white chocolate emulsion and when it reaches about 35ºC, add the 90g of cold heavy cream. Mix well and cover the ganache with plastic wrap – it must be in contact with the ganache on the entire surface. Place the ganache in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours, ideally overnight. It’s actually best to prepare the ganache filling the day before you will fill the macaron shells.

The next day, whip the pistachio ganache with a mixer, just like you would whip heavy cream alone into whipping cream. Fill a pastry bag with the whipped ganache and fill the macarons. These cookies are always best after at least 24h, when the filling softens up the meringue shells to give a slightly crispy exterior and a soft, melt-in-your-mouth interior.

For the birthday cake, I made a gluten-free almond meal-based 3-layer cake, flavored with vanilla and orange blossom extract. I filled it with the same whipped pistachio ganache that I used for the macarons (I made one and a half batches to fill the cake) and covered it with white chocolate-vanilla butter cream. I wasn’t the happiest with the visual appearance of the cake – I know exactly what I did wrong and how to do it better next time 🙂 – but it was still quite a success! I loved the marbled effect of mixing white and pink colored frosting together!

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