Ever since coming home from a recent visit to Paris, I’ve been on the lookout for authentic French macarons in Indianapolis. While in Paris, I visited Ladurée, which had the best macarons I’ve ever experienced. Literally life-changing. So much so, that I started to become frustrated that I couldn’t find anything that was anywhere as close to the flavor of those French macarons here in Indianapolis.
Since I wasn’t having any luck finding amazing macarons locally by happenstance, I decided to go on a hunt for macarons that were most like my beloved Ladurée macarons, or at least as close as I could possibly find in this city. After getting recommendations from friends and scouring reviews online, here are the best macarons I found:
Bites Coffee and Dessert Bar
When I visited Bites in the middle of the workday, it was fairly quiet. There were a few people working on their computers at the small tables by the windows at the front of the shop, and no line in sight.
I immediately spotted the macarons and was excited that they were only $1 at full price. At the time, they had 3 flavor options — almond, blueberry waffle, and salted chocolate caramel. Unique flavors may be interesting to some, but I was already put off since I knew with that kind of variety that they were likely not intended to imitate macarons from France, but they were so reasonably priced that I tried them anyway.
Both the texture of the macarons and the consistency of the fillings were good, but I just wasn’t a fan of the unique flavors when what I was looking for were only authentic French macaron flavors. If I hadn’t been using a Ladurée macaron as a measuring stick, I would have enjoyed these macarons in their own right.
Gallery Pastry Shop
My first visit here, there were no macarons, but one of the employees recommended if I wanted to try back next week, to come back on a Wednesday when the macarons were marked down from $2.50 to only $1, better known as “Dollar Mac Day”.
I forgot to snap a pic of these macarons in the case with the flavor names, so I’m probably going to completely botch the flavor names by naming them myself based only on taste, but The Gallery had three varieties for sale when I visited – a caramel chocolate, blueberry, and mint chocolate.
The caramel chocolate one was the first one I tried, and it was ok. The shell cracked when I picked it up, so it immediately failed my density test (my density test for macarons: when pressed lightly, the macaron should not crack and the filling consistency should be thick enough not to ooze out), and biting into it revealed it to be more of a cake-like texture than what I consider a traditional macaroon texture. It was extremely light and airy, but moist at the same time.
I had a similar experience with the blueberry and mint chocolate macarons. The Blueberry macaron had both a cream filling and a blueberry compote inside, which was a surprise. The Mint chocolate had a very light mint flavor (if it was even supposed to be mint), and the filling was a lovely, rich chocolate ganache that I would love to have in a jar and eat by the spoonful.
All three macarons had a similarly light, cake-like texture, more like tiny little cakes than macarons. The Gallery has developed their own unique take on macarons, but unfortunately for me, it’s not as similar to a Ladurée macaron as I would have liked. This would be a place I’d stop in to try new macaron flavors just for fun, as well as sample some of the other yummy looking goodies on their menu.
Cake Bake Shop
The Cake Bake Shop is where I started my macaron search. As many times as I’ve frequented this place, I’ve been too focused on cakes & chocolate chip cookies to give macarons a second thought. I intended to try only vanilla and lemon macarons for this taste-testing adventure, but, unfortunately, The Cake Bake Shop (and everywhere I went to try macarons) had different varieties in stock, so I was limited to whatever varieties were being sold at the time.
At Cake Bake, rose and chocolate macarons were what they had, so that’s exactly what I bought. It’s hard to describe the rose-flavored macaron… but it does not taste like a rose smells. It’s more like a slight hint of a floral flavor mixed with a sweet cake flavor. I enjoyed the taste of the cookie part of the rose macaron but was not a fan of the buttercream filling. First of all, it failed my personal density test for macarons: when pressed lightly, the macaron should not crack and no filling should ooze out. When I pressed lightly, the cookie part stayed intact, but because this was filled with buttercream, the filling was definitely oozing out. The flavor of both the cookie and the filling were great; I just didn’t care for them paired together.
On to the chocolate macaron — this one was a winner! I had low expectations of this flavor after not being impressed by the rose macaron, but instead, I was pleasantly surprised at how good this chocolate one turned out to be. The chocolate flavor was smooth and light, and the filling was a caramel ganache with chocolate swirled into it. An excellent flavor and filling made this one rank high on my list as a macaron I’d come back and eat again, but I still felt like that certain je ne sais quoi that made the Ladurée macaron taste so good was missing from this macaron.
This place is small, but it has everything you need. And everything you need is sweets and bread. I ended up buying things other than macarons, just because everything here looked so good, but I’ll focus on just the macarons for the purpose of this list.
Rene’s was out of vanilla macarons when I visited, so I tried the blueberry and lemon flavors. The blueberry was so-so, but the lemon was surprisingly tasty. These macarons are pretty big, both in height and width, when compared to the other macarons I tried.
As far as texture, these were slightly delicate, in that, when pushed in slightly, the exterior readily cracked, which is a bit too light and airy for my particular preference but still not bad. The lemon filling and overall flavor was spectacular and made me forget about my original issues with the texture as I kept eating it.
I would and probably will come back soon for more lemon macarons and also try the vanilla macarons when they’re back in stock. And if you ever visit, while you’re here, do yourself a favor and grab one of their croissants. They’re amazing!
Union Baking Co.
This place touts itself as having the “best macaron this side of the Atlantic” as well as having the macaron flavors listed on the website in French, so needless to say, expectations were extremely high for Union Baking Co. to have an excellent authentic French macaron.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t a place you just walk in — you have to place an order online, via Facebook message or by phone first, then set up a time to pick them up. I placed my order via email, which was a fast and easy process.
Here’s what I thought of the macaron flavors I ordered:
All of the macarons were sized at about 1-1/2”, which is on-par with the macarons in France. I was very excited to see visible vanilla beans in the vanilla macarons since the Laduree macaron was chock full of them. After one bite, I thought the taste was just “ok”. The vanilla filling was overly sweet and had a hint of a nutty flavor I couldn’t quite place and the cookie portion alone tasted a little bland. Although I wasn’t impressed with the flavor, the texture of both the cookie part of this macaron and the filling were excellent.
This macaron was loaded with real lemon flavor! Much more lemony than I’ve ever had in a macaron before, but it wasn’t so much that it was overpowering. Again, the texture of both the cookie part of this macaron and the filling were good.
This one tasted almost exactly like a Pistache Laduree macaron! I was very surprised, since, at first glance into the box, I had expectations that the vanilla flavor would be the closest. I would definitely get these again as part of any future orders. My only complaint would be that, although the texture of the cookie part of this macaron was excellent, the filling was a little runny. It appeared that these may have been freshly made, so giving them an hour or two for the filling to firm up may have fixed that issue.
Unlike some of the other chocolate macarons that had a smooth milk chocolate flavor, these had a less sweet, dark chocolate flavor to both the cookie and filling, reminiscent of eating a bite of dark chocolate cake. If you think other macarons are too sweet, this is the one for you.
After tasting these four flavors, I wish I’d have just gotten a larger pack so that I could have tasted all of the different flavors (a total of 10). I can definitely see ordering more in the future in order to do just that.
It appeared that Union Baking Co. is more of a catering/custom order company, but they were happy to fill my tiny 4-pack order. I’m generally more interested in spontaneously stopping in a place and getting macarons immediately, but if you’re fine with waiting a few days or you need a customized or large order of a variety of macarons, this is the place to order from!
Like the previous places I visited, HoiTea ToiTea was sold out of a couple of the flavors I wanted to try, but luckily, they at least had my favorite flavor — vanilla. This one felt the most like Laduree macarons. When pressed slightly, it didn’t crack or break easily and no filling oozed out, which is EXACTLY what I was looking for. The only thing that threw me for a loop was that the macaron was colored purple, which doesn’t exactly scream “vanilla”, but that was a minor issue.
Trying not to get my hopes up too much, I ordered a couple of the vanilla macarons and just hoped they tasted as good as they look. And. They. Did. They are an exact duplicate of a vanilla Laduree macaron, but they’re as close as I’ve ever tasted.
A bite into these exposed more colors and a thin layer of ganache filling. The ground almond in this one was noticeably coarser than any others I tried, which I appreciated, and possibly contributed to the apparent density of it. If you’re familiar with another popular French confection, calissons, the texture of this macaron was reminiscent of the texture of a calisson. The size was relatively small compared to the other macarons I tried during this tasting experiment, but on-par with the macaron size in France.
On a later visit, I ordered more flavors — the creme brulee, lemon, milk chocolate, and pistachio. The creme brulee macaron was amazing! Like no other flavor of macaron I’ve ever had before. It tasted exactly like a Coldstone Creamery waffle bowl with Cake Batter ice cream, in macaron form!
The lemon macaron was fresh and light and the milk chocolate macaron had a smooth and sweet flavor — both very similar to the macarons I had in France. The pistachio macaron was a bit of a disappointment — it had only the slightest bit of pistachio flavor. It wasn’t bad, just mediocre in taste compared to the others.
I enjoyed the majority of HoiTea ToiTea’s macaron flavors and will definitely return for the creme brulee and vanilla macarons, and likely also get some of the lemon and chocolate macarons from time to time. Overall, these macarons had the best taste for the most variety of flavors while also being the most “French” that I’ve found in Indy. In addition, the ambiance of the store is upscale and quiet, and there’s a free parking lot in the back, making it an easy, convenient stop.
After my initial visit, I learned that HoiTea ToiTea gets their macarons flown in directly from France! So the lesson here is that if you really want a French macaron that tastes like it’s from France… it has to come from France.