These Pumpkin Spice Macarons are almond flour-based meringue cookies with a pumpkin spiced creamy filling, and Jack-o-lantern faces, making them the perfect Halloween macarons. Naturally gluten-free.
These sweet, bite-sized almond pastries are such an adorable treat, but they can be a bit tricky at first. It’s easy to get hollow, crackly, or lopsided cookies.
But using the tips and tricks in this recipe, you can avoid macaron mishaps and have perfectly shaped amazing Halloween cookies.
Macarons can seem a bit daunting at first, but once you’ve got the technique down, you can easily whip these up for all your special occasions.
If you want a little practice with making meringue before you try these macarons, you might start with these Ghost Meringues. They’re so adorable and would be fantastic alongside these cute pumpkin macarons.
If this is your first time making macarons, never fear, you’ll get the practice you need to feel confident when making these special treats throughout the holidays.
For the Shell
- Egg whites – these are no subs for these! They’re an essential component of macarons (as are all the other ingredients, except for the orange gel) and you need to whip them into a stiff meringue. Also make sure that the egg whites don’t have any traces of egg yolk or water.
- Granulated sugar – this helps sweeten the macarons as well as stabilizes the egg whites.
- Powdered sugar – this makes the macarons lighter + sweeter.
- Almond flour – This provides the structure for the macarons.
- Wilton orange gel – gives these macarons their fiery orange color. Feel free to omit it or use a different color!
For the Macaron Filling
- Softened Butter
- Powdered sugar
- Pure vanilla extract
- Pumpkin pie spice – helps make these pumpkin spice macarons! Feel free to substitute cinnamon if that’s what you have on hand or make my Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice.
Wilton black food marker – for those adorable faces.
How to make the macarons
For the Shell (in a nut-shell):
- Mix and whisk the egg whites and sugar until they peak.
- Add half of the powdered sugar and almond flour.
- Fold and then add food coloring.
- Fold some more and add the second half of dry ingredients and fold until the meringue reaches the lava stage and stop.
- Pipe 1-inch circles on a baking sheet, and drop the sheet on the counter a couple of times.
- Set aside to rest then bake and cool.
The above photo is the macarons before and after baking. As you can see, they don’t spread much at all!
For the Filling:
- Mix butter and slowly add the powdered sugar a little at a time.
- Once incorporated, add pumpkin spice and vanilla.
- Mix on high until the icing is smooth and fluffy.
- Transfer to a piping bag and pipe filling onto the center of macaron shells.
- Top with another macaron shell and repeat.
- Place in the fridge to age overnight.
- Bring macarons to room temperature before serving and draw on the faces. Or not! They’re also nice without.
All in all, these pumpkin spice macarons take 20 minutes of prep, 15 minutes to cook, 30 minutes to rest, and two days to get mentally prepared. 😉 They aren’t the easiest cookie to make, but once you get the hang of it, they will be the most rewarding.
With this macaron recipe, you’ll get 24 little pumpkin face macarons.
Macron vs. Macaroon
Before we dive in any further, let’s first clarify a few things.
The differences between a macaron and a macaroon are not only how you pronounce them, but also being made of diverse ingredients and how complex a cookie can be.
Macarons, the ones we’re making today, are meringue-based sandwich cookies that are sweet little perfectly round, righteously smooth, usually colorful cookies with a flat bottom put together with a creamy filling. The texture is airy and moist, but a bit chewy with a melt-in-your-mouth distinction.
Macaroons, on the other hand, are large, dense, coconut-based drop cookies. They look more like coconut mounds than regular cookies. They’ve got a flakier coconut exterior, an irregular shape and rely mostly on coconut and sugar for their sweetness.
Not only do they look different, but the range of making macaroons goes from easy to exceptionally easy; whereas, macarons range from exercising precision to honoring precision.
The art of the macaron is in the exactitude it takes to get perfectly round, melt-in-your-mouth delights, but it’s worth it.
And once you’ve mastered the technique, you will definitely have fun exploring the different flavors and colors of these versatile jewels.
Macaron Tips and Tricks:
Read through the recipe instructions a few times to be clear about each step if you are doing this for the first time. There is not a large margin for error with any macaron, and I want you to have a great experience and the best cookies.
Let the eggs come to room temperature before you whip them up. Cold egg whites won’t whip like warmer ones, so let them sit a bit, and maybe read those directions one more time. 😉
Make sure to whisk your egg whites and granulated sugar mixture constantly.
Adding ¼ teaspoon of cream of tartar to your egg whites and sugar can help stabilize the meringue and prevent it from cracking.
It’s important to whisk your meringue just until it reaches stiff peaks because undermixing your meringue is just as dangerous as overmixing it!
Fold, fold, fold, but don’t go stir-crazy or you’ll have a disaster. In fact, there is so much to folding, I’m going to include a tried and true technique below.
Using a template is helpful when piping out the meringue circles. You can try this one here or print your own online. You’ll pipe the meringue in 1-inch circles. I find that templates keep everything nice and tidy. You wouldn’t want your cookies being mismatched.
Don’t be shy to slap that baking sheet full of piped meringue circles on the counter a few times, it will ensure all the air bubbles have been released.
You’ll know the macarons have rested enough if you can gently tap it without the meringue sticking to your finger.
If your oven bakes unevenly, you may need to flip your macaron trays halfway through baking to prevent uneven rising/browning.
Use a kitchen scale (as I would recommend for all your baking). Measurements vary in the US depending on the user and the ingredient being measured. So weigh it, be exact and follow the directions, this is a must.
How to fold macaron mixture:
This step is very important which is why I included it in its own section. If you go nuts and start mixing it all together without methodically folding it in, you will have lopsided, crackly shells, and I wouldn’t want you to be disappointed with these fun cookies. So hang in there and read on.
You want to fold and pull the spatula around the bowl. Lightly roll the spatula around the batter and fold the mixture over itself. It may look like it is not mixing or that you have too much almond flour, but trust me, keep folding.
When it looks like it’s all coming together, start dragging the mixture around the bowl and press the batter against the sides of the bowl. The goal is to deflate the mixture a bit while you continue to mix the ingredients.
You’ll see posts that tell you not to deflate the batter, but this is just plain wrong. It’s like knocking down bread dough. You aerate the dough by whipping air into the mixture, but the idea of deflating it a bit is to get the air evenly distributed.
Getting the right marshmallowy consistency takes some practice, but once you do it, you’ll know the proper technique.
The perfect test to see if it is ready to pipe is when you can pick the batter up with the spatula, to create a figure “8” pattern with a solid contiguous swoosh. If you can do a figure 8 a few times over the top of the batter without it vanishing, you’re ready to pipe!
How to pipe macarons:
Transfer the cookie shell mixture to a piping bag and twist the top of the bag, and pipe the cookie mixture, holding the tip 1-inch above parchment paper or you can use a silicone baking mat.
If you print out a template to get perfectly circular shells, you can just put the printout under the parchment paper, no need to trace it because you should be able to clearly see through the paper to know the boundaries of the cookies.
I like to use the templates with two circles, one inside the other because as you release the mixture onto the parchment paper, it will expand to the bigger one and you’re on your way to perfection.
If you need a visual on how to pipe macarons, take a look at this video on Youtube.
If you don’t have a piping bag, no worries, you can use a plastic Ziploc bag. Just fill the bag and cut the tip to create a small hole to pipe the batter.
What is the best surface to pipe macarons?
I like to keep things simple, and I think parchment paper works just as well as a slipmat. Silicone slipmats can be a bit sticky for the batter, and parchment paper is inexpensive; plus, you probably already have it at home.
I would definitely print off a template so that you can better judge the size of the cookie shells to make them symmetrical.
Don’t use wax paper, and don’t butter or grease your surface.
How long do macarons last?
Macarons are best stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to three days which makes them perfect make-ahead treats.
Can you make them ahead?
Yes, fully assembled (but not decorated) macarons are even better after they have aged a day in the fridge. It helps the creamy filling soften the internal shell leaving you a crispy exterior, and gives you that magical sensation and texture expected of the macaron.
So feel free to make these a day or two ahead of Halloween, just be sure to stack them in an airtight container in the fridge.
You could even go as far as to put them in a container that you can’t see through so they don’t all disappear overnight. 😉
Can you freeze macarons?
Absolutely! Freezing macarons is easy, and it takes the pressure off when you are making them for a special event like Halloween.
To freeze after assembling (but not decorating!) the macarons, let them age 12 to 24 hours in the fridge, then freeze them. This keeps the filling from releasing too much moisture when they thaw. Just stack them in an airtight container and put them in the freezer.
The day before you want to serve them, thaw the macarons a few hours in advance. Thereafter, they will stay fresh for 2 to 3 days.
If you only want to freeze the shells and assemble the macarons later, after baking and cooling, you can transfer the shells to an airtight container. When you’re ready to assemble them, just transfer them from the freezer to the fridge a few hours ahead of time to thaw.
Once thawed, you can add the filling and sandwich them together. They should stay fresh for 2 or 3 days. The advantage of filling them after they have thawed works best with jelly-type fillings.
For these creamy filling macarons, I recommend that you assemble them before freezing for best results because the filling softens the cookie shell and melds the flavors.
There are lots of details to pay attention to when making macarons, and one little mishap can be the difference between a smooth perfect cookie shell and a cracked lopsided one. If you’re trying to become a master macaron maker, videos can help you along the way. I say dive in and indulge!
I thought I would take a look at possible mishaps so that you can circumvent any issues.
Why are the feet cracked?
If the bottom of the shell of the cookie (feet) is cracked, one possible issue is the temperature of the oven. Ovens can bake unevenly, some bake at higher temps than what it is set to and others lose heat, so if you make adjustments for other baked goods like flipping or turning it halfway through, then you will want to do the same with these macarons.
Also, if your oven tends to not hold the temperature, you might want to invest in a couple of oven thermometers. Ovens will hold an average temp and may osculate to reach that average.
I found that using thermometers was a great way to test the temperature of my oven before writing about it here.
You may need to make minor adjustments depending on how your oven functions. This all takes practice and patience but ultimately means success!
Why are my macarons spreading out too much?
If you find that the macarons are spreading out too much, then the meringue was not stiff enough. You may have overmixed the batter.
On your next batch, be diligent about folding the ingredients until you get that perfect figure 8.
Why are the shells grainy with pointy tops?
The almond flour was too coarse and not sifted thoroughly. You want the flour to be fine and sifting 3 or 4 times will help get the right consistency of the dry ingredients.
Why are the shells cracked?
This is a tough one. There could be many reasons for a cracked shell: too much air in the shells, not enough rest, a weak meringue or the oven temperature was too high.
You really need to tap the baking sheet with the batter on the counter once you piped the shells. It’s strange with such a delicate cookie, but I suggest doing it a couple of times – not just once. This ensures there will be no air bubbles which would most often cause cracking.
It could also be an indicator of too much food coloring which puts too much moisture into the batter.
Why do I have bulging feet?
The feet of the cookie should be flat with a smooth rounded top. If the feet are bulging, it is because the oven temperature was too high. Or the silicone mat was too thick, which is another reason I like parchment paper better for these cookies.
Why are the shells lopsided?
It’s possible that your oven isn’t circulating the air properly, that the forced air in a convection oven is too strong or you have hot spots. If this is the case, flip the baking sheet, use only one baking sheet at a time, and set the oven to a conventional baking setting where the heat comes from the bottom and the top (but then you need to reduce the temperature by 25 °F) .
These are only a few mishaps that are most common when making macarons, but there are many online guides to help troubleshoot. Remember, practice makes perfect!
The most important thing to consider when making macarons is that if you have some cracks, or they’re hollow, or have pointed tops or weird shapes, it’s ok!
Enjoy the process, you are learning more about baking, and that’s a success! With each and every mishap, you have rewarded yourself with knowledge.
Besides, I’m sure no one will gasp in horror if these pumpkin spice macarons have a few flaws.
Other Halloween treats:
If you’ve gotten this far, hurray! I hope you’ve been inspired to make these pumpkin spice treats. Here are a few of my other favorites for Halloween.
- These cute mummy Halloween Hot Chocolate Bombs are a cozy treat, and they make great party gifts for the young ones.
- These Whole Wheat Witch Fingers are bewitching and fantastic. With a gluten-free option.
- These Creepy Whole Wheat Spider Chocolate Chip Cookies are soft and chewy and perfect for the season.
- These spooky Eyeball Cupcakes for Halloween are the scariest homemade treat on the block. They’re a moist chocolate cake base with cream cheese frosting and eyeballs made of canned lychees and blueberries.
- Or for a cake version, try this Halloween Cake with Eyeballs. Both have gluten-free options and the cake has an egg-free option as well.
- Get the punch bowl ready for this Halloween Punch with Eyeballs. It’s made of fruit juice with no added sweeteners and is spooky and terrific! It can be made with or without alcohol.That’s it for me! I hope everyone has a safe and fun Halloween! If you make these macarons, please take photos, I so want to hear how they turned out! If you share the pics on social media tag #fooddoodlesrecipes so I can be sure to see them. Have a spooktacular time!
Pumpkin Spice Macarons
For the Shell
- 90 grams egg whites
- 90 grams granulated sugar
- 95 grams powdered sugar
- 95 grams blanched almond flour
- 1/2 teaspoon Wilton orange gel food coloring
For the Filling
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup (120 grams) powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the shells
- Start by placing a heatproof bowl over a small pot of simmering water.
- Add the egg whites and granulated sugar to the bowl.
- Whisk until the sugar has completely dissolved. This will take about 2 minutes.
- To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, transfer the egg whites.
- Whisk at medium speed until stiff peaks form. This will take about 3-4 minutes. Don’t rush with this step - you really need stiff peaks.
- Then place a fine-mesh sieve over the mixing bowl with the egg whites.
- Add the powdered sugar and almond flour. Give it a few stirs so it's combined a little better.
- Sift half of the powdered sugar + almond flour into the egg whites.
- Carefully fold the sifted powdered sugar + almond flour into the egg whites by making a J shape with your spatula.
- Carefully fold, about 25x, in the dry ingredients until no large lumps remain.
- Then, sift in the second half of the powdered sugar + almond flour and the food coloring.
- Continue folding until the meringue reaches the lava stage, after about 1-2 minutes. The lava stage means the meringue is thick and flowing slowly and resembles lava. You’ll know the meringue is ready to be piped once you can draw a figure 8 without the stream breaking.
- Transfer the meringue to a piping bag that has been fitted with a small round tip.
- Pipe 1” circles, making sure to pipe them at least 1.5” apart on a parchment- or silpat-lined baking sheet.
- After you’ve piped a full tray, hold the tray 6” off the counter and drop it straight down to release any air bubbles. Do this about 4-5 times, or until it looks like any large air bubbles have popped.
- Let the macarons dry at room temperature for 30 minutes, or until they have developed a skin. While the macarons are resting, preheat your oven to 325 °F (163 °C).
- Bake the dried macarons in the preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, or until the macarons are just starting to turn golden brown around the edges.
- Remove the tray from the oven and allow the macarons to cool fully on the tray.
- Once the macarons have completely cooled, place them in similar-sized pairs and prepare the filling.
For the filling
- To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter.
- With the mixer at low, gradually add in the powdered sugar.
- When the sugar is fully incorporated, add the pumpkin spice and vanilla.
- Turn the mixer to medium-high speed and then beat until the icing is totally smooth and fluffy.
- Transfer the icing to a piping bag fitted with whatever tip you'd like.
- To the center of one of the macaron shells, pipe a small dollop of filling. Place the other macaron shell on top. Repeat with the remaining macarons shells and filling.
- Store the macarons in an airtight container and place them in the fridge to age overnight.
- Before serving, bring the macarons to room temperature. No more than 2 hours before serving, decorate the macarons.
- Draw on the jack-o-lantern faces or whatever you'd like. Remember, it can only be done up to 2 hours before serving. This is because they'll start to bleed.
- Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to three days.