With cocoa powder in the shells and vanilla cream cheese buttercream for filling, these cocoa vanilla macarons have just the right amount of indulgence!
So y’all know already that I don’t typically do “basic” flavors. However, my sister and brother-in-law were visiting this weekend, and my sister wanted just a basic vanilla macaron. I couldn’t quite get myself to work with plain vanilla, so I decided to add cocoa powder in the macaron shells, and add cream cheese to the filling.
New home, new kitchen
It’s been a while since I’ve developed a new recipe lately, and it’s because my husband and I just bought a house! We have moved from Fremont, California to Meridian, Idaho (near Boise). It’s been really crazy since April when we first started looking for houses, so I have not been able to spend time producing new content for the blog. Now that we’ve been a bit more settled in our new home for about a month now, I can finally play around with my new kitchen!
I gotta say, I’m soooo happy to have an oven that consistently works, and I also have a pantry now! I’m still working on the organizing bit, but I’ll be sure to post some pictures in a future post. Since I had family visiting, I took that as the perfect opportunity to bake up a storm in the new kitchen. In the span of a weekend, I made my fluffy cinnamon rolls, paleo almond fudge brownies, and of course these cocoa vanilla macarons.
The Italian meringue method
You might have seen my previous macaron recipes and remember that I’ve switched from using the French meringue method to the Swiss meringue method. For a while, that ended up being the right decision to make based on my older, crappier oven in our previous place. But since then, I’ve really been wanting to try making macarons using the Italian meringue method. It does take a few more steps, but I definitely feel that it’s worth it for me since it produces the most stable meringue for my macarons. I’ve also developed a macaron ingredient ratio calculator that works best for me with this method (scroll below).
Please note that the egg whites in the calculator should be the total weight in grams of the egg whites you’re using. Since we’re using the Italian meringue method, you would still need to divide your egg whites in half — the one half to mix with almond flour, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder to make a paste, and the other half to make your meringue.
The Teflon mat
So you might have also noticed that in the past, I’ve only used silicone mats for my macarons. Well, I tried using those the first time I switched over to using the Italian meringue method and I still somehow ended up with inconsistent and ugly macarons. WIth macarons, there are so many different variable to consider when troubleshooting. Whip the batter too long, and it’s ruined. Whip it too short, and it’s also ruined. Ambient temperature can also be a factor.
To narrow down my particular culprit though, I decided to test the same Italian meringue-based batter but pipe half of the batch onto Teflon mat, and the other half onto silicone mat. Lo and behold, the macarons on Teflon baked beautifully, while that ones on silicone were lopsided, and some were even cracked. I’m not exactly sure what the science is behind that, but I’m just glad I can make consistent macarons now.
Tools you’ll need
- 75 g egg whites (divide by half)
- 102 g caster sugar (or regular white sugar will do)
- 102 g powdered sugar
- 92 g almond flour
- 10 g unsweetened cocoa powder
- 25 g water
Vanilla cream cheese buttercream
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter (softened, room temp)
- 2 tbsp cream cheese (softened, room temp)
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Pulse the almond flour, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar in a food processor until there are no significant lumps left. Be careful to not process it so much that it turns into a paste. About 5-7 pulses should do the trick. Then, sift it into a medium mixing bowl.
- Add half of your egg whites (about 37 g) to the flour, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar and mix with a silicone spatula until it forms a paste. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan, heat up the caster sugar with water. While the sugar syrup cooks, and when its temperature reaches 235 degrees Fahrenheit, use a stand mixer to whisk the other half of the egg whites on medium low (4 on the KitchenAid stand mixer) until it gets foamy.
- Once the sugar syrup reaches 244 degrees Fahrenheit, remove it from the stove. Speed up your mixer to medium high and then slowly (and carefully!) pour the hot sugar syrup down the sides of the stand mixer bowl, all while foamy egg whites are still being whisked on high speed. Keep whisking on high speed until the meringue is thick and glossy and has cooled down almost to room temperature.
- Put about two dollops of the meringue into your almond flour paste that you set aside earlier and fold until fully incorporated. This will thin out the batter a little bit before folding the rest of the meringue, and will reduce the chances of over-mixing. Once you add the rest of the meringue in, fold the macaron batter until it reaches a lava-like consistency*.
- Pipe the batter into a Teflon-lined baking sheet. Let it rest for at least 45 minutes until it forms a bit of skin on the top. While the macarons rest, preheat your oven to 300°F.
- Bake the macarons for 15-17 minutes.
- While your macaron shells bake, you can work on your vanilla cream cheese buttercream. Using either a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat your softened, room temperature unsalted butter with the cream cheese and vanilla extract until soft and fluffy. Scrape the sides on your bowl with a silicone spatula. Then, add your powdered sugar, then beat until your buttercream comes together. Put it in a piping bag and chill until you're ready to pipe.
- After your macarons bake, let it cool for at least 40 minutes. Once they're cool, pipe the vanilla cream cheese buttercream on half of the shells. Then top off with your remaining shells. Enjoy these cocoa vanilla macarons!
*Lava-like consistency to me is when I try to make figure eights with the batter using the spatula and "eight" figure disappears into the batter after 10 seconds.
There’s not really a golden ratio for the macaron shells. However, I did end up stumbling upon a ratio of the ingredients that works for me, specifically for the Italian meringue method. Feel free to use the calculator below (coded with the mentioned ratio) by entering the weight of your egg whites in grams. It will then provide you with the weight in grams for the almond flour, caster sugar, water, and powdered sugar. Please note that this calculator doesn’t account for the cocoa powder in this particular recipe. It’s only meant to get you started on basic macaron shells using the Italian meringue method.
If you’re like me, and you’re impatient, you’re gonna want to speed up the process in whatever way you can. Thankfully, my husband is a gear-do (a weirdo, but with gear). For one Christmas, he got me this awesome small portable fan (among other baking-related gifts, of course). It’s such a game-changer! I use it to speed up the resting process that forms the skin on the macaron shells, and of course the cooling down stage after baking.