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Of Macarons and Madeleines: A French Cookie Faceoff

Oh no!
Over the past week, we asked you, our readers, which fancy French cookie you preferred: the macaron or the madeleine. Both cookies are steeped in tradition and lore--while the macaron has a place amongst royalty and in fancy tea salons, the madeleine was immortalized by Proust and also has its own rich history. At the end of our poll, the vote, while certainly not a landslide--was decidedly in the macaron's favor: 169 vs. 123 out of 292 votes.

But what did all of it mean? Like the spies we are, we delved on both sides of the ring to find out more:

So Popular!
Team Macaron: What is it about these l'il Luxembourgers? Here's what some experts had to say:

Lydia, who is planning on entering a pastry program very soon, sums it up nicely: "Macarons are like fairy cookies. They probably eat them in Middle Earth and Oz."...but don't think she's talking about their relative the coconut macaroon, for she goes on to say "I'm actually offended when someone thinks I'm talking about a coconut macaroOn in such glowing tones." Owch. Of course, Lydia has also had the privilege of eating macarons from Pierre Herme, which may explain why she's such a devotee.


For Veron, who runs the macaron-and-cupcake-makin' business Petites Bouchées (best business ever?), it's the variety and possibility that appeals: "With macarons, the flavors , color and uses are endless - your limit is your imagination. You can just sandwich them simply or make them part of an elaborate dessert. As she goes on to say, while perhaps an acquired taste, they do ultimately hook you: "When I first brought macarons in [to work], it took a while before the container became empty maybe because a lot of people are not familiar with them. Nowadays, on my way to the breakroom to leave some macarons I get stopped on the way so they can have first dibs."

Macaron on Unicorn

Team Madeleine: However, not all of you were sharing the love of that sweet-sandwich. So, heading over to the other side, here's what our experts had to say:
Allyson, whose skill is evident on her fantastic site ReTorte, cites texture and a low-key, nonfussy nature in the Madeleine's favor: "First of all, they're more cakey (or they should be)...Macaroons involve a lot of effort for little reward, in my humble opinion."

For Kelly, soon-to-be culinary school grad and brand-new pastry chef at A Voce, prefers the shell-shaped cookie: "I'm a bigger fan of the madeleine. I prefer their texture and flavor. As you well know, crispness has its place in cookie-land: i.e. biscotti. But in this case, I have to opt for the soft madeline. I believe the madeline's capability to stand on its own makes it superior to le macaron, that needs something like coffee and tea to compliment them. Even look at the petit four 'Sarah Bernhardt,' that macaron base needs that cream center and chocolate coating. Plus, macarons don't remind me of children's book series the way madeleines do...."
Oh no!
However, as Cake Gumshoe Phil (who is getting his PhD in literature) reveals, literary connections don't always bring on good feelings: "Like most people who are expected to have read Proust, I have a rather tortured relationship with him and madeleines. As almost everyone knows Proust's dipping of a madeleine into his tea recalls his aunt and his childhood, it becomes a moment of connecting to his past. Proust, of course is intimidating. It's long, complex and oh so French. Madeleines, while still being French however, are rather delicious in their petite nature and simple flavor. Yet, as much as I like them, the very site of a Madeline brings into me an anxiety over finishing Proust: " 'Have I read enough to actually talk to people about the book? Will I ever finish it? Do people actually read the whole thing? I really, really, really need to get back to that- I'll start tomorrow.' "

So Pretty!
But if you're still undecided? Of course, there is also the school of thought that they're just from different worlds and that individuals will generally relate to one more than the other depending on who is doing the tasting. As Aran of the lovely site Cannelle et Vanille says: "I see the madeleine as the 'stout' girl vs the 'ecole superior' refined macaroon. Madeleines are soft and bumpy, dipped in coffee, making a messy table from spilling milk.... and the macaron with its thin crunchy exterior and refined almond crumb is like the perfect, slim daughter of a diplomat... the macaron has travelled the world and can be filled with matcha ganache, passion fruit... she has experience in the ways of the world as the madeleine is a sweet country girl."
Beautifully put indeed--after all, who wouldn't admire that sleek, refined macaron? Perhaps we all want a piece of that glamour.
Or perhaps what it really comes down to, all things considered, is cuteness. Which one is more adorable? Well, as proven from the unicorn's preference, cuter crowd of friends, and batting lashes, we suspect we know what really threw the vote.

Mad et Mac


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Reader Comments (49)

your animations are a riot.

although i missed the vote, i will say that i find myself leaning toward macarons for two reasons (neither of which involving eyelashes...)--they have the potential for endless combinations and, more importantly, they look like little burgers. :)

April 20 | Unregistered CommenterGrace

LOL - lots of convincing arguments there, although for me, the macaron wins by a nose (as long as I don't have to make them). I love the unicorn - it can come and visit me any day.

April 20 | Unregistered CommenterCakelaw

Must we chose one? They are both so darn cute. I have a certain fondness for madeleines, since I have had success in making them. I've never once attempted a macaron. (Although I will always eat them!) I do think there is a whole separate investigation that should be done on Cake Gumshoe Phil's Proustian anxiety issue!

I have to agree with TW -- why must we choose? I'd probably be swayed by a literary connection, if the macaron could produce one as interesting as Proust. I've made madeleines, but not macarons, so for that reason alone if I did have to choose, I'd probably choose the one I could make.

I doubt I'll ever make a French-style macaron while I will certainly be working on mastering the madeleine, so if I had to choose based on what I can reproduce in my own kitchen...

No! I refuse to make a choice!

April 20 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

I missed the vote but would have gone with macaroons. They are on my list to attempt to bake this week. (They were on my list last week and I didn't get to them!) Love the pics and the madeleines look delicious!

April 20 | Unregistered CommenterChristine

How could you choose?

April 20 | Unregistered CommenterJeanna

I might have to make madeleines today!!

Of course, I have no camera right now. Mine died a couple of weeks ago and although I've ordered a new one, it won't be in until next week. So, perhaps I'll wait until then.

I need to get more (or bake.) I haven't ever tried either one!! And I've even been to France!!

April 20 | Unregistered CommenterRecipeGirl

I love the pics! So cute...
I don't know witch is the best cause I've never tried them :(

April 20 | Unregistered CommenterIsa

These pictures just crack me up!

April 20 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

Great account of the macaron and the madeleine. But I am most impressed with the pictures , the lighting and the color, it's almost like a pixar animation. Great job!

April 20 | Unregistered CommenterVeron

You guys crack me up. Love it. I likes Arans anaolgy best. Sums its up perfectly.

April 20 | Unregistered Commenterglamah16

I can say with certainty that this has been the highlight of my weekend. I made some vanilla macarons last week and although I have a special place in my heart for madeleines, macarons take the prize.

April 20 | Unregistered CommenterAran

I only recently had a macaron, having only known macaroons (which are getting a bad rap for no good reason beyond nomenclature), and I have to say I couldn't choose. I love the light, meringue-like texture of the macaron but I also love cake-y cookies, and madeleines are simply divine dunked in herbal tea, and can withstand it better than a macaron.

April 20 | Unregistered CommenterMs Meghan

I'm not a fan of either, but you've made them both look irresistible!

April 20 | Unregistered CommenterRicki

I love your post! I like both but it depends on my mood...Aran put it the best.

April 20 | Unregistered CommenterGinny

Hey, thanks for quoting me, Jessie! I'm totally honoured.

April 20 | Unregistered CommenterLydia

hmmmmm. I have to say macaron though I have not tried a madeline yet.

Loved your animations.

April 20 | Unregistered CommenterLori

almost TOO cute. almost.

April 20 | Unregistered Commenterphil

I don't like unicorns

This is so cute! I love the expressions on their faces! Hehe, love it. I believe all homemade food has personality, you capture it very well in these pics! This is adorable, can't wait to see more! I am lovin' the fun, quirky expressions :D.

April 20 | Unregistered CommenterSophie

hahah how cute!

April 20 | Unregistered CommenterLina

You simply wicked!!! I looooooooooove these.

April 20 | Unregistered Commenterpuglyfeet

This is crackin' me up.

April 20 | Unregistered CommenterjustJENN
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