This post is brought to you by Louis Jadot wine. Recipes and ideas are my own.
We LOVE a reason to entertain around Stir and Strain headquarters, and while the fireworks have died down (mostly) around Los Angeles, we’re still seeing some blue, white, and red in our future as Sunday the 14th is Bastille Day. And what better way to celebrate than with some french wine— Louis Jadot to be exact, and a colorful macaron tower… that you get to build AND eat?!
If you plopped me somewhere in France today, with all the pastries and desserts laid out in front of me, my first instinct would be to sprint towards the macarons. Yes, sprint. Macarons are like tiny empty canvases waiting to be filled with delicious flavor combinations. Also, I find them hard to just have one, and a party becomes instantly better for me if a platter has been laid out. And if you’ve managed to create a tower of them I will gush about your party foreverrrrrr.
But why celebrate Bastille Day if you’re not in France, or not French? Because we just have a love of French food and culture. And we still have our 4th of July decorations up from last week (kidding). There’s also a lot of interesting history there as well. Personally, I am huge history buff and my favorite types of books delve into the intricacies of a country’s politics and culture. Bastille Day actual celebrates the storming of the Bastille, a prison, and the beginnings of the French Revolution and democracy in the country.
Interested to know a bit more? While there are numerous books one could read, recently I just finished the book A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel, a favorite author of mine, which follows the characters who made up the French Revolution and their lives through the revolutionary times. Funny at times, violent at others, it was an intense read about events I really knew little about. When speaking of the revolution in France, I think most Americans might recall Marie Antoinette saying “let them eat cake”, and they definitely will recall a guillotine or two, but wow, those times were so much more than that and I highly suggest this particular novel to get a real sense of the years that surrounded the changes in the country.
But let’s get back to entertaining. First, go ahead and pour yourself a glass of wine. We’re pouring a Beaujolais and Mâcon-Villages Chardonnay from Louis Jadot. Both of the wines work well with desserts and are great party wines if you’re considering a spread of french foods like cheeses, seafoods, and light meats. The Beaujolais is 100% Gamay with juicy flavors of strawberry and black cherry with a little spicy black pepper. While the Chardonnay, made with 100% Chardonnay grapes, is more floral with apple and citrus aromas and slightly mineral notes. They are also both reasonably priced if you are looking for a few bottles or more to serve at your fête.
Now, the macaron tower. My biggest pet peeve about all the macaron towers out there is that the entire thing is not edible. Most are stuck on to a styrofoam tower, held in place with buttercream or a toothpick. While it can be impressive in height, I’d rather have a dessert tower that can be fully enjoyed by my guests. So, I decided to make this more of a “petit” tower, and have as my structure for the macarons to sit on be tiered vanilla cake. I mean, I wouldn’t be disappointed to be served a piece of cake with macarons covering it. This does mean baking a few small cakes (like, 3), but if you have the basic pantry staples around and a few small cake tins or even ramekins, this comes together quite quickly. And the macarons, while you most definitely can make those two, I just happen to have a favorite macaron shop here in Los Angeles I got mine from (and that is just far enough away I don’t visit them everyday… that would be dangerous for me).
If you’d like to make this taller, you can bake a larger base and build up from there. Height is totally up to you, but for me, I found three cake layers sufficient for a small party.
Et Voilà! Let’s pour another glass of wine, make some buttercream, and build a macaron tower for Bastille Day.
For the cakes
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg
1-1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk
- Preheat the oven to 350, and grease a 6″ round cake pan, a 4″ cake pan, and a 4 ounce ramekin. Line the bottom of the pans with a round of parchment paper.
- In a medium-size bowl, beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until creamy, 1-2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until well-combined, about 15 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl.
- In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Add half of the this to the batter and beat for just a few seconds before stirring in half of the buttermilk. Continue beating. Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat, and then stir in the remaining milk.
- Divide the batter into the prepared pans, about 2/3 of the way up the pan. Bake smallest cake 16-18 minutes, and the larger cakes 35-37 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool on a wire rack in the pan. Carefully remove it from the pan, pulling away the parchment paper once it has cooled.
For the buttercream
1 cup unsalted butter
4-5 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
salt to taste
In a stand mixer, beat butter until creamy, 1-2 minutes and then slowly pour in 4 cups of the powdered sugar. Add in heavy cream and vanilla extract. Beat mixture until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. If mixture is too soft, add in more powdered sugar up to 1 cup, a quarter cup at a time. Beat in a pinch of salt. Set aside.
(these can be any flavor, we are just looking for the blue, white, and red of the French flag)
11 blue macarons
8 white macarons
8-9 red macarons
Once cakes have cooled, lightly frost outside of cakes. Add an extra dollop of buttercream between each layer of cake to secure each layer. Next fill a piping bag with the remaining buttercream and pipe a quarter sized dot around the edges of each cake layer. Secure a macaron in place, pressing lightly to hold. Place a small dollop on the very top layer and secure 2-3 macarons in place at an angle. Enjoy with a glass of Louis Jadot wine!