We have all heard the saying, “practice makes perfect.” But what that saying doesn’t mention is that in the process of practicing, we are going to have a lot of failures along the way. This is certainly true in baking.
Baking the perfect macaron takes enormous skill that is only honed through many hours of practice. Along the way, you will have a lot of macarons that don’t come out quite right.
Nonetheless, the products of these failures are often delicious. What’s more, you probably put in a lot of work to make them.
Let’s explore some of the ways you can salvage failed macarons without resorting to simply throwing them away. After all, no one wants to waste good food, and you have the opportunity to share the love.
What Characterizes a “Perfect” Macaron?
Before we dive into what to do with the imperfect treats, let’s look at some of the reasons why you might need to repurpose them in the first place.
This will help us understand why a failed macaron isn’t only about flavor.
The texture of the cookie should be very smooth with no bumps, and the filling needs to be smooth and silky, certainly not sticky. The cookie also needs to be soft, but not doughy and not too moist, nor should it be crunchy or browned. The interior of the cookie should be full and fluffy, but with no air holes.
The cookies must be round for a traditional macaron, and perfectly round is obviously best. In terms of size, they should be small, only about two to three small bites’ worth in each macaron.
The color of the cookies should be vibrant, and even though you can use whatever color you want, it needs to be even, without any variations or streaks in the cookies. Of course, pastels are the traditional color of macarons.
All of this is to say nothing about the actual taste! That is exactly why you might end up with imperfect macarons that still taste amazing. Now, let’s explore what to do with them.
1 – Use Them as a Topping
If your macarons didn’t come out exactly right, you can use them as a topping on a variety of items, either whole or crumbled.
If you want to leave them whole, consider baking a cake and lining the entire outside with macarons—imagine how pretty that would look!
You can also crumble the cookies, particularly if they came out of the oven too dry or browned. Just put the unfilled macarons in a blender or food processor and pulse a few times until the crumbs reach your desired consistency.
Then, the sky is the limit. One really delicate idea is to sprinkle them on top of anything with white frosting. You could even shape a rainbow from the colors.
Another great way to use ruined macarons is as a topping on ice cream. The almond flavor of the cookies tastes especially good with chocolate ice cream.
You can freeze and save the crumbs to use as a topping whenever you like. Just be sure to keep them in an airtight container in the freezer.
2 – Turn Them Into Something Else
If the macarons you made still taste great, why not use the cookies for something else? You can use icing and piping bags to make intricate decorations on them to hide the surface imperfections.
Try making your kids’ favorite cartoon character, or animals. Use icing to attach them to one another to make other shapes—get creative, since you have the opportunity.
3 – Let Your Kids Play with Their Food
Similar to the idea above about turning them into something else, let your kids (or someone else’s kids) get creative with the damaged cookies. They can make temporary collages or other shapes with the macarons.
Turn it into a kind of sensory activity for preschool children. Ask them what the cookies feel like when they squeeze them or squash them; what they smell like; what they sound like when you break them; what they feel like at different stages of destruction; and most importantly, what they taste like.
A note of caution: this is a great activity to invite friends over to participate in, but make sure you check with parents about allergies first. Obviously, macarons contain almonds, which is a relatively common allergen, especially among children.
4 – Mix Them Into Something
If you’ve decided to crumble your macaron cookies, you can do more than just use them as a topping. You can mix them into loads of different kinds of batters and other treats to add a colorful pop and a burst of flavor.
You could mix them into sugar cookies, cake frosting or batter, or even cannoli filling. They do a great job in other baked goods creating that fun confetti look.
Mix them in with pancake or waffle batter for added sweetness in the morning. Especially if you have kids, this is a great way to start someone’s day off bright.
If you’ve never made your own ice cream, now is the time to try. Crumble your macarons and add them to your vanilla ice cream recipe for a gorgeous pop of color.
The possibilities for crumbled macarons are pretty endless, but what about the ganache? If you crumble, you should do so before adding the ganache filling.
If you’re going to try again within a couple of days, you can store the ganache and use it when you produce more perfect shells. Or use it to fill another kind of pastry, even a doughnut.
5 – Share the Love by Donating Them or Giving Them Away
If you look hard enough, you will likely find a place that will gladly accept less than perfect macarons. Aside from food banks, try nursing homes, hospital waiting rooms, or churches.
You can even take them anywhere that you know the homeless congregate. Many homeless people welcome food, especially a delicious homemade treat.
Get creative and use your imperfect macarons to say thank you to public servants. Drop off your macarons at your local domestic violence or children’s advocacy center, library, fire station, or anywhere people are volunteering.
You can give them to a neighbor, family member, or friend just to brighten their day. Give them to someone to take into work with them or bring them to a meeting or gathering of friends.
Enlist your co-workers in your new hobby but let them know you’re trying to achieve the perfect macaron and ask them to be your taste-testers. Chances are, you will have a lot of grateful people in your office.
Or, put them in your kids’ lunches or give them to your kids as a treat: they aren’t likely to notice small bumps on the surface.
Sometimes, food banks and other food sources are a bit wary of accepting homemade goods, and for good reason, so check ahead before dropping them off.
6 – Use Them as Decorations
Do you know someone with a bridal or baby shower coming up? Or maybe you’re throwing a dinner party this weekend and your house could use some brightening.
Macarons can be arranged beautifully for any kind of occasion and used as decorations. Best of all, you don’t have to worry about keeping them fresh or sanitary, and they can be thrown away afterward for easy clean up.
7 – Eat Them Anyway!
What better motivation can there possibly be to try again than to just go ahead and eat the damaged macarons yourself? Besides, you have put in a lot of work and deserve some of the reward!
Part of becoming a great baker is making mistakes and learning from them. If you throw away every imperfect outcome, you are going to waste a lot of really tasty treats, as well as miss opportunities to connect with others.
So, go ahead, eat your heart out.
What NOT to Do with Ruined Macarons
There are a couple of things that you should not do with ruined macarons. Let’s go over a few so you can avoid adding to your woes.
Do not give them to pets or leave them outside for other animals. Some of the ingredients are unhealthy or even dangerous for animals (no matter how much they may beg for a nibble).
Don’t compost them. Baked goods, along with other breads, should not be composted because they attract the wrong kind of pests.
Don’t force yourself or anyone else to eat them if you or they really don’t want to. We know, we just suggested eating them, but it defeats the purpose to force yourself to eat a treat if you are not going to enjoy it.
Finally, whatever you do with them, don’t forget to learn from your mistakes; you can’t fix what went wrong without understanding it in the first place. That’s the biggest waste of all.
…Try again! Part of what makes macarons such a decadent treat is knowing the kind of work and skill that goes into making them in the first place.
If you struggle to achieve the perfect macaron, don’t get discouraged. With this list, hopefully you have found some fun alternatives for the treats that didn’t quite measure up in your quest for perfection.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.