Long before the current obsession with the cupcake, Parisians ladies were going crazy for brightly-coloured, dainty little sugary treats of their own. Macarons, made famous by Parisian patisserie Ladurée, are tiny cakes made from ground almonds and egg whites, with a dollop of jam, cream or ganache in between the layers.
The origins of the recipe for the biscuits that make up the two halves of the macaron are shrouded in mystery, but it is thought that Catherine de Medici brought it to Paris in the 16th century. The association with the iconic Ladurée bakery only began at the start of the 20th century when the founder’s grandson, Pierre Desfontaines, had the bright idea of wedging two macarons together with a creamy ganache, thus transforming a relatively ordinary biscuit into the macaron we know and love today.
Ladies who lunch
Desfontaines was also a shrewd businessman, and opened up a tearoom next to his bakery where Parisians could enjoy his new sugary treats. Because ladies were seldom seen in cafés (let alone bars …) during the period, Desfontaines’ tearoom was a welcome refuge for the women of Paris—and Ladurée had its first generation of dedicated fans.
Visit the original Ladurée bakery on rue Royale, not far from the Marais in Paris’ chic eighth arrondissement, and you’ll see thousands of these tiny confections piled up behind the counter. They’re also available in a number of outlets all over the city, including from a large Ladurée tearoom on the Champs-Elysées.
What’s your flavour?
The sugary treats are now available in dozens of flavours. Some of the more traditional options include pale green pistachio macarons, vibrant pink raspberry macarons and, of course, delicious dark chocolate macarons. More modern flavours include licorice and green tea, and some patissiers have even tried savoury macarons! If you’re anything like us, you’ll have a hard time choosing your favourite!
And if you don’t fancy paying the Ladurée prices (or waiting in line for a seat in the tearoom), you can always try your local patisserie when you’re staying in Paris, though purists would say theirs will never quite be as good.