Photo by Hayley Waldo Photography December 2017 // Greenery provided by June 16th Events
I've always said that I enjoy styling desserts way more than I enjoy making them. There's something satisfying about settting everything out and detailing the presentation for a good picture. Macarons are one of those pastries you don't want to carelessly set out on a plate. I've spent so many hours making them, they deserve a little stage.
Traditionally, we think of the colorful macaron towers displayed in the windows of Paris constructed of perfectly even rows. My spin on a macaron tower has a little more movement and texture, adaptable for any party theme. Alternating each row of macarons at different angles gives you the flexibility to create something unique every time. I fill the gaps with floral, fruit, pieces of candy bark and spun sugar etc... If you are concerned about the macarons falling off in the warmer weather, wrap a piece of cheesecloth, linen or wire to secure them in place. Whatever you do, don't forget your toothpicks. One of the first macaron towers I set up outdoors was in the heat of summer and I had left my toothpicks behind. They were melting off like butter. Cheescloth saved the day!
This finished tower was 11" tall and sat upon a 6" wide faux cake base 3" tall. I used a 9" cone and an assortment of 44 salted orange and raspberry macarons to be exact. The more macarons you face out on their sides the more you will need. The more you lay flat against the cone the less you will need. I use a combination of both to create some whimsy and texture.
The faux cake base is completely optional but it does add that finishing touch with some additional height. (Total height with the cake base was 14.") You can also use a "real" cake underneath, just be sure to add support rods *inside* of your cake center to hold up the weight of your tower or it will fall over!
If you don't need the cake base, frost a 6-8" cake board or plate underneath the foam cone for added support. I also recommend assembling these on location if at all possible. I've tried to transport these towers and they tip over so easily going over bumps and up driveways its hardly worth it. Unless you want to anchor them down with royal frosting and secure them with skewers in a box it's less stressful this way.
To create your own macaron tower you will need:
8-12" Styrofoam cone
6" round x 4" high, Styrofoam disk (optional)
Lots of toothpicks
Almond bark or any white melting chocolate
A bag full of butter cream
Icing spatula, or pastry knife
30-60 assorted macrons of your choice
Dried fruits, herbs, edible flowers or greenery freshly washed and dried
8" cake stand or platter for display
Start by melting a package of almond bark or candy melts in a glass dish and mix until smooth. (Follow package directions for microwave or stove top.) With a pastry knife or spatula, coat the Styrofoam with a thin base coat. This will seal in the foam dust and crumbs keeping your macarons clean. Don't worry about how this layer looks. Let the chocolate cool in the fridge for a few minutes and wipe off your utencils. Repeat this step with one more layer to cover your thin spots. I don't even try to get it smooth, a little texture looks natural and will all be hidden. If you are using the faux cake base, attatch the finished cone with more chocolate and let harden together. I've also used butter cream to cover the cone a number of times but this way is less messy. I like the melted chocolate bark because it hardens and makes it easier to handle when assembling.
Its a little runny and messy to use the melted chocolate, but it's so worth it! Stick it in the fridge to speed up the hardening process. If you are preparing your cone ahead of time, wrap in plastice wrap until ready to use to keep any dust from sticking to the chocolate. (Throw away any leftover bark or save it for this purpose only)
Once the cone is completely hardened you are ready to begin! Start with a row of tooth picks around the base, (spacing them about 3/4" from the bottom and 1.5" inches apart in width.) Pipe a small dot of buttercream against the cone right over the toothpick and gently place a macaron until it pierces half way through. The buttercream will act as a cushion and glue and keep them from sliding around. I place about half of the macarons sticking out on their sides right through the center filling. The other half of my macarons are facing flat piercing only through the first shell into the filling. You don't want any sharp toothpicks breaking through the outside layer of your pretty shell or they will crack and fall off.
Once you have the first row in place, begin with the next row up and so forth. If you find yourself breaking them easily you may be poking the toothpicks through too far. If you don't have a lot extra to work with, replace your cracked, more fragile macarons at the bottom of the tower and save your pretty shells for the top. You will be able to cover them up with flowers and greenery later on. As you can see below I have a cracked one at the base already. It's nice to have a half dozen extra for mistakes.
When I'm adding each layer I also think about where I'm going to place my flowers or greenery. Wherever I have macarons sticking out on one side I plan to add the filler/flowers to the opposite side to balance out the proportions. As you can see here it looks a little crooked and lopsided to the right. (Later, I added greenery to the space on the left.) Place your final layer of macarons on top with a little extra frosting to keep it in place.
At this point you can serve it now or add embellishments! I personally like to fill in the gaps... Be sure to clean the greenery or blooms that you will be adding and don't use any poisonous plants or flowers! June 16th Events so kindly provided the evergreens here and I dried a few oranges and cut them in wedges. With your piping tip, squeeze a bit of more frosting into the gaps where you are going to add the greenery and use a toothpick to secure any stems that will need some extra support. I had to use a few hidden toothpicks for the orange wedges so they would stick out enough to see them and not fall off. The twigs added some contrast and balanced out the cascading pine needles.
And there we have it, a little bit of twigs and greenery here and there with pops of dried oranges. I kept the colors pretty nuetral with speckles of natural orange food color and gold leaf. The greenery was a little heavy to stay on around the base so I cut it up in smaller pieces layering it on a pile of frosting to hold it in place.
To serve, pull off a macaron where ever you please! It's easier to start from the top down, but the macarons should stay in place if they have a chance to set up for a few hours.
I can't wait to see what variations you come up with! Be sure and tag us! If you have any questions I would be happy to help, leave in the comments below. Happy hosting!