I have a real soft spot for “cute food.” Marshmallows shaped like mushrooms? I’ll buy them. Chocolate truffle penguins and mice? Oh, I’ve come home with them more than once! But when it comes to pastry my two great loves are France and Japan. Macarons, those tiny almond pillows that seem so prevalent these days as a wedding favor, have long been an obsession of mine. Conveniently they are both French in origin and super popular in Japan, giving me twice any many opportunities to indulge.
Macarons are usually round, which is lovely, but one should not feel restricted by classic appearances even when the item is as naturally fancy as this. I started with tiny, bite sized rounds, piping them as I normally would. Then, with a smaller tip on my piping bag I went back in and added cat ears, bunny ears or teddy bear ears to some of them. The trick here is to make the ears smaller or skinnier than you think they should be so that when you bang trays to remove air bubbles they don’t spread into an unidentifiable mess.
Once my macarons have baked and cooled, I use edible markers to draw simple facial features on the animal shapes. Wouldn’t this be fun for a fancy child’s party? An Alice in Wonderland themed tea?
A few of my tiny rounds received more complex, grown up designs, like this cameo and a monogram. I used powdered gold luster to add a highlight.
Another regional delicacy I love are alfajores! Small sandwiches filled with dulce de leche, there are so many varieties (including chocolate dipped) that almost everyone has a different idea of what exactly they should be. I used the sugar cookie recipe from Animation in Sugar as the base. I have a set of Hello Kitty vegetable cutters from a bento box kit which I hijacked to cut my cookies. Often alfajores are filled with straight dulce de leche and can be quite messy! I whipped up a modified Tres Leche cake frosting (less butter, less sugar, more dulce -- should I provide the recipe?) and filled my Hello Kitty faces with it.
Conveniently, this all coincided with Pink Cake Box’s annual Holiday cookie swap! Packaging is so important, and so much fun! Here is an assortment with my Hello Kitty alfajores, a few cat faced macarons and a handful of handmade tootsie rolls -- Yes, that’s right, handmade tootsie rolls. Actually, they were a happy accident, a recipe of dark chocolate plastique that went awry. I tied them up with a bit of parchment and tossed them in. Of course a pink box is a must here.
The cookie swap was a feast of sweet creations! Even the packaging looked good enough to eat. Some of the confections we exchanged included peanut cookies, chocolate chip, cake batter cookies (!), nutter-butters, cowboy cookies, and many more!
Anna is a classically trained sculptor and illustrator who started her career in cake decorating with Ron Ben Israel in 2000. Since then she has worked for a number of well known cake studios in the New York area doing complex sugar work and design. Her specialties include freehand painting,...
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