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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)

I might come as a surprise for you guy but as much as I love making macarons, I'd rather eat my share of madeleines...you know, to keep the world go round!!

April 20 | Unregistered CommenterTartelette

Now if there were only good vegan versions of these..

Such exciting Cake Drama!

April 21 | Unregistered CommenterFreshly Found

LOL love this post!! Gosh how could I choose with my sweet tooth :S

Rosie x

April 21 | Unregistered CommenterRosie

SOOOOOO cute!!!! Oh gosh I've never look at them the same way again. heh. :)


April 21 | Unregistered Commentercuriousfoodie

You are TOOO clever! My daughter & I are fans of the Madeleines (look at my thighs for proof!).

Jessie, I tagged you for a blog award. You are such a joy to read & I'm a huge fan.

xoxox Amy

April 21 | Unregistered Commenterfamiliabencomo

Dang, I missed the vote!! I'm not sure if I would have known which one to pick thoughm since I'm not sure I've had either one! Now I need to find myself a recipe...

April 21 | Unregistered CommenterVegan_Noodle

ok.. the cuteness level has gone from high... to code red. little eyes stuck to pastries? delicious.

I love both now, having seen their cute little expressions.

You are correct...it's all about the cuteness!

April 21 | Unregistered CommenterOwl Chick

I can't really fairly vote because I've never had a madeleine, but I recently had my first macaron and can't stop thinking about these wonderful cookies!

April 21 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah

I have not had either of them. I am going to have to try making them both. Now I just need to find a madeleine pan.

April 21 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

Tough competition!! Although, for me, the macaroon reigns supreme ;0)

April 21 | Unregistered CommenterVeggieGirl

I love this post! Super fun. :) And...I can't add a thing to the debate, as I've never eaten either...*gasp*...

April 21 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

That is too cute. And edible. Cute and edible, my favorite pairing!

April 21 | Unregistered CommenterEllo

What an incredibly entertaining post! Stellar pictures, too.

I've actually never had a macaron before so I can't really compare and contrast, but I've always thought that madeleines were very special. Not quite a cookie, yet more refined (in its own way) than a muffin or even a cupcake.

April 22 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Now I do not even know whose side I am on... but what I do know is I want a cookie! Preferably one of each... so I can try to decide again! Wonderful pictures and spying.. You have made my Tuesday morning more bareable now that I have started it with Cakespy!

April 22 | Unregistered CommenterSweet Sins

Oh how I love this blog! While I have never had either of these cookies, I know now that whenever I get the chance to, I'll understand them better and bear the comments in mind as I munch on them.

April 22 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia

I'd usually be on team macaroon.. but your last photo illustration has maybe made me somewhat undecided! They're both too cute when they have a face!

April 22 | Unregistered Commentercakewardrobe

Ever since I had a Macaroon at Thomas Keller's Bouchon in Yountville, it's my favorite, favorite!

April 22 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Your photos crack me up! You need your show girl. Maybe an hour on PBS? I see it now ...The Cake Spy Cupcake Comedy Hour!

April 22 | Unregistered CommenterGigi

Geez that's hard to decide.
I would say Macaron first, Madeleine second and canele third.. oh but wait, canele is not an option. That's another post for you! :-)

April 22 | Unregistered CommenterZen Chef

Madeleine . . . I love you. Too bad I didn't vote. Too busy eating you.

April 23 | Unregistered Commenterchou

Grace: Thanks! Yes, the burger thing does kind of seal the deal! Doesn't it?

Cakelaw: Ah, so true--as much as I love the macaron, making them seems so fussy!

TW: So true, Phil might need help with that issue. And true...in an effort to make a decision, we might have to eat a few of both! :-)

Ann: Ha! We can respect that.

Lydia: True, one cannot live on just one type of cookie--let's let both of them in our lives!

Christine: They are both delicious!! Thank you for your kind words!

Jeanna: Well, I think the Unicorn made his choice...

Wandering Coyote: Oh, you must get a new camera!! Your baked goods are always so photogenic!

Recipegirl: NO WAY!! You must try them both!!

Isa: You must!!!

Hannah: Thanks!!! I think they'd get along great with your elephant guy.

Veron: Thanks! It was a lot of fun doing it.

Glamah16: Yeah, Aran is--no pun int.--one smart cookie!

Ms Meghan: Good point--the macaron would likely disintegrate in hot tea!

Ricki: When done right they can be divine--but not good ones are really not good, I think!

Ginny: True--there are all sorts of cookies for all sorts of moods!

Lydia: No problem! Thank you for expounding on the joys of the macaron!

Lori: You must try one! Now! Thank you for your kind words!

Phil: Almost. Rearing unicorns anchor it back to a little sick though.

Obsessive Foodie: Get out of here.

Sophie: Thanks! The expressions are the best part I think!

Lina: Thanks!! :-)

Puglyfeet: Yes, we are a bit wicked--it's so fun though.

JustJenn: Whoa, you're hardcore!

Tartelette: Ooh, that is quite an admission! Your macarons are so beautiful though! :-)

Melisser: I have seen a vegan financier, another type of fancy french cookie. I think that the macaron might be tricky, but I could see a Vegan Madeleine!

Freshly Found: Yes, it is drama! Of the sweetest sort!

Rosie: True, it's a hard decision! :-)

Curious foodie: You know, we still ate them.

Amy: Thank you so much! That made my day! And madeleines are so tiny, how could they make your thighs big? no way! You're tiny.

Vegan Noodle: Yea! You have to try 'em!

EB: The eyes weren't delicious but the rest of them were.

Owl Chick: Yes! Cuteness rules!

Deborah: Like Lydia says--fairy food!

Kevin: You have to do both! And while you can make them without the pan, they're better in the correct shape!

Veggiegirl: Do you have a vegan recipe?

Sarah: NO! Must remedy this ASAP!

Ello: Yes, ours too!!

Christina: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed!

Sweet sins: Thanks!! Glad to have sweetened your week! :-)

Cynthia: Sounds good--mindful eating! We like that.

Cakewardrobe: Yes, the face does change things doesn't it?

Jen: Oooh, that would tip the scales!! lucky you!

Gigi: Ha!! Wouldn't that be funny!

Zen Chef: Yes! Cannele vs. Financier? ;-)

Chou: We feel that pain. Trust us!!

April 25 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

I love it!!

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