I danced on a lamppost and smoked a joint on a statue of a snake. I kissed a boy on a stone curb and crammed into the back of a Fiat with four other students. I ate nothing but bread for a week. I thought I was in love with a one-night stand, so I made him tea and milk and lost his number in the morning. My professor invited me to a roof top party and I got so drunk I sat in a corner, silent, and thought about my uncle’s funeral the next day.
And when fall break hit, I bought a train ticket to Paris. 11 hours, through Lyon. I packed a bag with black t-shirts and a carton of cigarettes. I never made it to Paris, though. There were terror threats in the city that day, so I went to Florence instead. I smoked all the cigarettes in twelve days. I fell in love with every person I saw on the subway home. I got so drunk at the only gay bar I knew about that I ordered two crepes for me and one for my friend who tagged along. I took a shot of vodka from a sweating bottle in the backseat of a cab. I never made it to Paris, but I felt like I was writing a poem during my time in Rome: disconnected, unplanned, high on bummed weed and pills when they were offered. It was a narrative I crafted, harbored in the crawl space of my self-esteem.
It wasn’t so bad, but I wish I had made it to Paris.
Three years later I was unemployed in California. Still hadn’t made it to Paris, though I had promised myself I would when I became a lawyer. I promised myself that every day until I quit law school and couldn’t get a job. I still smoked cigarettes then, and wore a lot of black, but I spent my days on a hammock, thinking about how all my potential was prematurely ejaculated once I graduated high school.
So I fought with my boyfriend about money. About cereal that went stale and if I really needed a lamp next to my bed. About how to raise the dog we bought together in Los Angeles and if love was enough to stay awake in this sleeping relationship much longer.
And in between pretending to learn a language and lying on my resume, I learned to bake. Slowly at first, then gradually I got better. I watched cooking shows in the morning and stretched a dollar any way I knew how. Egg whites for a meringue cake and then the yolks for a custard. Flour from the dollar store and I’d skip my car payment for a month to buy quality chocolate. I only cooked French food early on, to challenge myself. To prove to myself something. I fucked up a bundt cake pretty bad once and cried about it for an afternoon. When my confidence was so fragile, even that was too much to bear. I didn’t bake for a month after that and I remember I always avoided one recipe in particular: the French sandwich cookie, the macaron.
Since then, I’ve made scones, bundt cakes, and galettes. Cakes, cookies, and ice cream. But never a macaron. Until this week, when I realized how far I’ve come and a thousand of miles in between who I was and who I am now. I don’t wear so much black anymore. I’m writing a new narrative. I use an old Coors Light bottle as an ashtray on my parents’ front porch. I made a macaron cake, pink and tart and nutty because I figured, “Why not?” Because that’s who I am now—someone who isn’t creating identity but poetry. Physical, tangible poetry set between the bookends of an uncle’s death in Rome and a crumbling relationship in California. And who I am now doesn’t say, “No” often, especially when I get the chance to bake or bum a cigarette.
Macaron Cake with Cherry Buttercream
I am fully aware that this isn't a proper technique and is a more whimsical approach to the French confection. Makes one 6-inch cake.
Ingredients for cake base
- 1 ½ cup almond meal
- 1/3 cup AP flour
- 1 ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
- 4 egg whites
- 1/3 cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon white vinega
Directions for cake base
- Prep your parchment by drawing your 6-inch circles as your guide for piping. Put parchment on a half sheet
- Sift together almond meal, flour, and confectioner’s sugar in a large bowl and set aside
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they are beyond frothy but not quite solid
- Begin to add your sugar in a stream with motor still running
- As you continue to beat, the egg whites should solidify and be a little shiny
- Add your white vinegar to stabilize the meringue
- Turn mixer off and add about a half cup of the flour mixture to the meringue mixture. Fold it into the egg whites. When mixed, add remainder of the flour mixture gradually, continuing to fold as you go
- When fully mixed, put into your piping bag and pipe into your pre-drawn rounds
- Set out for 30 minutes at room temperature
- Preheat oven to 300*F
- Bake for one hour, checking at the 40-minute mark and every ten minutes after until you notice a hard shell that is set
- While baking, move onto the cherry buttercream
- Remove from oven and allow to cool completel
Ingredients for the cherry buttercream
- 2 cups cherries, pitted
- Juice and zest of a half lemon
- ½ cup white sugar
- 2 TB unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1 TB vanilla
- Pinch of sal
Directions for cherry buttercream
- In a small saucepan, stir together your lemon zest and juice, cherries, and sugar
- Boil on medium until juices of the cherry are released and it is reduced by half. You will have a syrupy product
- Cool completely
- In a bowl, using either your stand mixer or a hand mixer, beat your butter and confectioner’s sugar together, it will create a thick and dry paste
- With your mixer still on low, pour a thin stream of syrup into your confectioner’s sugar mixture and beat until it is whipped and a light pink
- Add vanilla and a pinch of sal
To Assemble: Turn one of your macaron discs over so the flat surface is facing upward. Spread as much of the buttercream as you’d like on top, place second disc on top of first and dust with confectioner’s sugar. Saves for up to two days, even at room temperature.