Food & Drink

French flavors: Macarons are center of baker's home business in Cedar Rapids

Sandrine Wallace pipes batter to make macarons at her home in Cedar Rapids on Monday, March 25, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Sandrine Wallace pipes batter to make macarons at her home in Cedar Rapids on Monday, March 25, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Sandrine Wallace started baking when her children, now ages 20 and 21, were small. But she never thought of her desserts as a potential business until she moved to Iowa from France in November.

“In France we bake on a daily basis, so I have always baked,” she said.

She moved to Cedar Rapids in November to be with her husband. The two met through a mutual friend who had traveled to France to participate in an arts event Wallace organized there.

Though Wallace and her husband married two years ago, she wasn’t able to get a visa to move here until last fall, instead relying on short visits.

Once she moved to Cedar Rapids, she started baking, at first just for fun, then for neighbors. Someone suggested she turn her hobby into a business, and soon she was taking orders for cakes and desserts from neighbors. Then her husband reached out to NewBo City Market about being part of its guest vendor program. In February, she participated in her first pop-up market there under the name Authentic French Pastries by Sandrine. That first market, she sold out of macarons.

Since then, she’s continued expanding her reach, selling her pastries at coffee shops and taking orders for catering — she advertises a macaron tower for weddings, a colorful sculptural pile of the cookies.

French macarons are not to be confused with macaroons, which are made with shredded coconut instead of the ground almonds used in macarons.

“Macarons are something very famous about France. Many people know the word but have never tried them,” Wallace said.

She also bakes other things, such as lemon meringue pie and chocolate cake.

“I think everyone loves dessert, more or less,” she said.

And she loves making it.

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“I don’t think it’s like a job at all,” she said. “I love seeing the faces of people who taste what I make.”

She envisions expanding her business in the future and said she may like to open her own shop some day. But for now, she’s enjoying focusing on pop-ups and selling her baked goods through other businesses.

“I want to expand, but not something crazy,” she said. “It could be good to have my own shop, but I want to see how this business does, first.”

Working for herself lets her manage her own schedule and frees up time for her other passions of photography and painting.

She said cooking is another form of artistic expression. She likes trying new recipes and then tweaking them, playing with flavor combinations and colors — her macarons are brightly colored, two round cookies sandwiched with filling in between, with flavors that she adjusts for the seasons. With spring in the air, she’s now focused on fresh, fruity flavors like strawberry and citrus.

In addition to trying different flavors — her repertoire includes around 40 varieties — she has had to adjust her recipes for Iowa’s humidity and even for her specific oven. She recently moved into a new house and had to adjust the cooking time again with the new oven. Getting macarons just right is tricky, she said.

“It took me, really, three weeks of baking them and failing to get them right,” she said, before she found her perfect recipe. But when it works, she added, it’s so satisfying.

“There are so many possibilities with different flavors, colors, decorations,” she said. “When it goes well, it’s nice. I like it.”

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• What: Authentic French Pastries by Sandrine

• When and where: Look for her at NewBo City Market, 1100 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids, on March 30, April 13 and August 31; at the Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers’ Market May 25, June 15 and July 20; and at the Marion Farmers’ Market June 8, July 13 and August 10.

• Details: (319) 350-8962, facebook.com/French-pastry-by-Sandrine-266187417379146

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