Everyone deserves a treat that will lift their spirits when needed – a little mignardise (the French word for precious or cute.) You can’t go wrong with the little taste of heaven from the French macaron, two perfectly-shaped meringue cookies filled with cream and presented like a little rainbow in a box or cellophane bag. Magnifique!
For Chad and Taylor Carnahan, the fancy sandwich cookies have special meaning. “We had macarons on our honeymoon,” recounts Taylor “and on our anniversary in 2021 Chad bought me some as a gift to remember the occasion. When he arrived with them and opened the box, he realized that the shop, that had made them, had cracked some in the packaging. He was so disappointed. So, during COVID, with nothing else to do, we decided to make the perfect macaron. In one week, we made 600 – and they sold.”
By August of that year, the Lake Charles natives opened The Mac Box, selling at events and a small local café. Today the couple offers 50 very creative spins on the classic almond macaron, from sweet and decadent to seasoned and boozey, and the unimaginable in between.
Using the traditional French method, the intriguing treats are made with ground almonds, egg whites and sugar. Taylor fills them with a plant-based buttercream infused with extracts, liquors, seasoning or syrups that are emphasized in the crunchy, chewy shells. The rest is her skill and Chad’s creative ideas.
To achieve the uniform shape, batter is piped onto circles that are drawn on parchment paper – an acquired skill in itself – and then the sheet pan is “slapped” on the table to release any air bubbles. “Taylor slaps it firm on the counter like she’s mad at it,” laughs Chad. It’s all done in their home kitchen, where there’s lots of baking racks and counter space, starting around 7 p.m. and continuing into the night until 3 a.m. (The couple cares for their one-year-old godchild during the weekdays, while running errands and coordinating deliveries, but Taylor says they work better at night anyway.) “We make the macarons the week they’re needed, to keep them as fresh as possible, notes Chad. “Freshness is key to our business; we bake until the last minute.”
Aesthetics is the other thing they work to achieve. Looking at the perfectly-shaped, gem-like bites, you’d never know the challenges faced in making them. For one thing Taylor says, “If you over fold the batter or add too much flavoring, the shell might become wrinkly. The shells have to dry before baking them, to the point that you can tap them. That can take anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes, depending on the humidity level – which has been high this summer. Macarons are very humbling to make. They sometimes don’t want to work with me. And, if you’ve made a mistake, there’s no way to know until you’ve ruined the batch. It takes about two hours to make a batch of 100.” Despite the challenges, the couple churns out just over 600, alone, for each market.
Though macarons are the star attraction at many bridal and baby showers, Chad (who concocts the flavors) says “a ton of men love them – but they have to taste them first.” Going by sales, guys love the pecan pie, whiskey peach, apple pecan moonshine – and Cajun maple, made with a sweet, spicy seasoning that Chad found at Home Goods’ food section and suggested to Taylor to try. It quickly went from being a fall flavor to a regular on the menu. Other best-selling flavors include birthday cake (popular among children), pink champagne, s’mores, blueberry cheesecake and lemon. Taylor’s latest creations include a blackberry balsamic macaron and a Cajun latte version, with a chili expresso buttercream. Aside from customized macaron boxes, The Mac box also offers beautiful macaron towers, holiday and specialty-themed sets and stunning three-tiered macaron cakes, in 6” or 8” sizes. Resembling a giant macaron, they are made using the same method.
If you’re not lucky enough to live in Lake Charles, where The Mac Box is based, no worries; the Carnahans deliver to several areas in Acadiana – and they arrive perfectly intact. Or you can check them out at the Delcambre Seafood & Farmer’s Market.