Pumpkin Spice French Macarons

Ok, ok.  You know that in October that everyone jumps on the pumpkin spice bandwagon.  But these Pumpkin Spice French Macarons really are worth the hype.  They are like the perfect little bite of pumpkin pie, in one adorable little French package.  Ooooh la la!

What are we waiting for?  Let’s do this!

Pumpkin Spice French Macarons

Macaron Ingredients:

100 g. egg whites

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

50 g. white sugar

200 g. powdered sugar

110 g. almond flour

Food Coloring Gel

Pumpkin Spice Buttercream:

(very lightly adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction)

3 egg whites

1 cup white sugar

1 1/2 sticks room temperature salted butter (no substitutes)

2-3 tbsp. pumpkin puree.

1-2 tsp. pumpkin spice (depending on how aggressive you want your pumpkin flavor to be– I used 2 tsp.)

Whip room temperature egg whites, cream of tartar, and white sugar with the whisk attachment of your stand mixer until the whites reach stiff peak stage.  Meanwhile, pulse your almond flour and powdered sugar in a food processor until the mixture is well combined.  Sift your almond flour/powdered sugar mixture through a sieve and throw away the pieces that are too large to pass through the sieve.  When the whites have whipped into stiff peaks, fold the almond/sugar mixture into the whites gradually and carefully until they reach proper “macaronage.”  Place 2-3 drops of gel food coloring into the batter and swirl gently before carefully pouring into a piping bag.  Pipe meringue circles onto a silpat using a template, if desired, and slam the cookie sheets several times on the counter to dislodge air bubbles.  Allow circles to dry for 20 minutes before baking at 300 degrees for 20 minutes, one sheet at a time, in the center of the oven (move oven racks, if necessary).  Do not open the oven until the 20 minutes are up, and use an oven thermometer for best results.  When your macarons are done they should feel “firm on their feet.”  If the macaron shells are soft or crack when gently touched, bake for 2 more minutes and test again until they are firm on their feet.  After baking, remove entire silpat to cooling rack and allow shells to cool, completely, before removing them from the silpat.

To make pumpkin spice buttercream, place your egg whites and sugar together on the top of a double boiler.  If you don’t have a double boiler you can use the metal bowl of your stand mixer over a saucepan with about an inch of boiling water.  Make sure that the water is low enough that it doesn’t touch the bowl on top with your egg whites in it.  Whisk the egg white mixture over the boiling water until the egg whites reach 160 degrees (use a baking thermometer to make sure you get the temperature right).  When your mixture reaches 160 degrees remove it from the heat and whisk it with the whisk attachment of your stand mixer until it cools slightly (I use ice packs on the side of the mixing bowl to cool the mixture more quickly). When it reaches room temperature, switch from the whisk to the beater attachment.  On medium speed whip the frosting, slowly adding the room temperature butter in pieces.  When you get all of the butter added, whip for several minutes on high speed until your frosting looks like whipped butter (which, technically, it is).  Add in your pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice and mix just until combined.  The frosting is now ready to use, or you may refrigerate, covered, for several days (bring to room temperature to pipe before using).

Now, in pictures! ?


French Macarons are like the one that got away.  They are the ex you can’t forget.  They are the test where you accidentally marked the wrong answer on a question that you knew solid.  They are your neighbor blowing leaves into your yard instead of raking them.  They are sadness.  They are pain.

They are wonderful.

The thing is, French Macarons are addicting. Yes, they are devilishly difficult, but their beauty makes up for it. They are the Femme Fatale of the baking world.  They are dangerous and sultry and beautiful and seductive.  They will haunt you with their beautiful agony.  And you will be addicted for all time.

If you are new to macaron making, check out my more detailed shell making post here.

The best part about macarons are their fillings.  Technically the shells don’t have much flavor on their own– they derive that flavor from the fillings that kind of “absorb” into the shell as the cookies rest.  This means that macarons should really sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 day prior to serving them– otherwise you won’t get the “married” taste of the shell and filling together.  If you want a bachelor shell, then by all means go for it as soon as they are ready.  😉

Today we are going to be filling our shells with buttercream– but not the nasty, heavy, “so sweet you feel like you need an insulin shot” American buttercream.  Yuck, yuck, yuck.  We will be making Swiss Buttercream, which is so different from the cloyingly sweet American kind that you can hardly believe they are in the same family.

The first thing you need when making Swiss Buttercream is a double boiler.  If you don’t have a double boiler (who does??), then use a small saucepan with about an inch of barely boiling water and the metal bowl from your stand mixer.  Whisk your egg whites and white sugar over the boiling water (making sure that your water doesn’t touch the bowl) until the mixture reaches 160 degrees.

Keep whisking as you heat the egg mixture so that you don’t get weird cooked parts along the sides.  When your thermometer says 160 degrees, pull the egg whites off the heat and move your bowl over to the stand mixer.

See?  You already have your egg whites cooking in the bowl that you will whisk them in.  This means that you save time AND dirty dishes.  You’re so smart.  I love working with you.

Use the whisk attachment of your stand mixer to whip the hot egg whites into a meringue with stiff peaks.  I have a couple of little ice packs that I kind of “tie” along the side of the bowl with a kitchen towel to cool the meringue more quickly.  The more quickly it cools, the more quickly it whips up for you.  The ice packs just speed the process up so that you aren’t standing at the mixer all day.  Whip that hot meringue into cooled, stiff peaks.

Pikes Peak.  Er, I mean, stiff peaks.  This is perfect.

I used to get confused about soft peaks, stiff peaks, firm peaks.  Whatever.  Because, technically, this photo is a stiff peak, yet it is bending (AKA not stiff?).  WHAT?????  How is bending meringue stiff?  HOW???

Basically, your meringue should hold a stiff peak when you pull the beater out of the bowl.  When you first stop the mixer and pull the whisk out, a line of meringue will come up out of the bowl and stand there without bending over.  However, if you turn the beater upside down this stiff peak can bend into a “bird’s beak” shape (as seen in the photo above) and still be considered stiff.  The line coming up out of the bowl from when you removed the beater won’t bend over.  It’s kind of confusing but you will see when you try it.

Soft peaks immediately bend when you life out the whisk– before you even touch anything, they droop and bend over because they are weak.  Stiff peaks hold their shape, reaching up toward the beater that just came out of the bowl, until you move the beaters around.  Stiff peaks can actually pretty much hold your whisk upright in the bowl if you disengage it from the machine.  Stiff peaks.  You’ll know when you see them.  They are, well . . . stiff.  You’ve got this.  I believe in you.  You’ll be able to tell the difference.

When you get the stiff peaks (which you got perfectly right, because you are so smart and fun to work with), then it’s time to switch out your whisk for your paddle attachment.  Whipping the meringue, slowly add your room temperature butter, chunk by chunk, allowing it to whip into the mixture before adding more.  Your butter needs to be room temperature, or the icing won’t turn out right.

It will look weird and grainy and oily, but keep adding your butter and letting the machine whip the prisoners . . . I mean, um, icing.  It takes a few minutes, but suddenly you will see this grainy puddle turn into something gorgeous right before your eyes.

It turns into this light, gorgeous, airy creation of creaminess and bliss that just begs to be tasted. And please do– just use a different spoon every time (yes, I am assuming there will be more than one time).

Now your buttercream– soft, pillowy clouds of airy, creamy loveliness– is ready to be turned into beautiful macaron filling.  So, ahem, please allow me to introduce you to everyone here.

Buttercream, meet pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin puree (that we are using today), and boiled cider and apple pie spice (which we are using later).  These will be your partners for today’s dance.  I also color coded my spatulas (red for apple, orange for pumpkin), which I thought was clever until I accidentally reversed them and had to wash dishes again.  Oops.  So much for being smart.

Notice that I have the pumpkin draining in a coffee filter-lined fine mesh strainer.  Basically, I want some of the liquid to drip out of it before I add my pumpkin to the buttercream.  You want pumpkin taste, but not pumpkin moisture, because too much moisture will make your filling watery.  I got quite a bit of fluid out of my pumpkin before adding it to the buttercream, and my icing was a better consistency as a result.  Go ahead and drain the pumpkin– you can tell everyone it was your idea.

Yes it’s kind of messy, but it’s gooooooooood.  This is the buttercream after I mixed in my pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice (and washed and reset the spatulas to be the correct color.  Sigh).  Just keep stirring with a small spatula and make sure that everything is combined equally (no gigantic pockets of spice that haven’t been mixed in. Eww).

Put your pumpkin spice buttercream into a piping bag and fill your beautiful orange macaron shells.  Gaze at their loveliness.  Sigh deeply.  Send little pumpkin hearts out of your eyes toward the macarons.

Pumpkin Spice French Macarons

You might even want to wink at them. You know . . . because they are so stinkin’ cute.

Pumpkin Spice French Macarons

French Macarons should have a “chill out period” of at least 24 hours in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, prior to eating them.  As we mentioned, above, this just makes sure that they have time to mesh their flavors together so that you get one perfect, nougat-like bite instead of a weird, disjointed, “filling coming out of every corner” bite.

Pumpkin Spice French Macarons

Side note, while I’m thinking about it.  This pumpkin buttercream also works really well for cakes (old fashioned spice cake with pumpkin spice icing, anyone?).  You can keep this recipe on the counter, covered, for a day, or in the fridge, also covered, for several weeks.  You can even freeze the leftovers– just make sure they come to room temperature before you use them.  See?  This is so easy.  I knew you’d ace it on the very first try. You’re a genius.  I love working with you.

Pumpkin Spice French Macarons

As far as the macarons go, after they sit in the fridge for 24 hours,  they are ready to serve.  May I recommend some great friends, some steaming cups of coffee or tea, and some French macarons, dressed in their October finest?

Don’t mind if I do.  And may I say, you have exceptionally good taste.

Pumpkin Spice French Macarons

The shell is delicious, with a hint of crunch.  The filling is smooth, velvety, perfectly pumpkin.  The entire bite?


Pumpkin Spice French Macarons

And I’m pretty sure that it is a rule in Iceland or something that seconds are mandatory.

You did it.  And I’m just so proud of you.

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