Have a French Cookie to Welcome Spring

March 19, 2014 Updated: March 20, 2014

NEW YORK—March 20th is not only the first day of spring in New York City, it is also “Macaron Day.” For one day only, 15 bakeries with over 24 locations will give away free macarons to customers who mention “Macaron Day” at the counter. 

However, say the wrong name and you might not get anything.

French pastry chef and owner of Éclair Bakery, Stephane Pourrez clarified, “It’s not ‘Macaroon.’ ‘Macaroon’ is the American coconut cookie. ‘Macaron’ is the French cookie.”

Crisp and airy on the outside and gooey on the inside, the macaron comes in many exotic flavors and colors. While they can be coconut flavored, it bears no resemblance to the coconut ‘Macaroon.”

Macarons for Everyone

Participating bakeries are required to make a minimum of 1,000 for the big day but many bakeries go above and beyond that requirement. Cecile Cannone, chef and owner of Macaron Café says she has been preparing since last week. Her biggest fear, she says, is that she will not have enough.

“We are going to go until we have no more macarons, and the previous years, that’s what happened,“ said Cannone. “We had, like, two flavors left and that was it.”

She has 24 flavors in her main store on Third Avenue, and on Macaron Day she recommends trying the flower flavors like Cassisviolette, Lychee Rose, and Honey Lavender. After all, she says, spring only comes once a year, and since it is free, why not try a more unusual flavor?

Macarons for Charity

While the participating bakeries are giving away one macaron per customer, they hope customers will buy more to support a good cause. Participating bakeries will donate a percentage of their profits from macaron sales to City Harvest, a non-profit food gathering agency.

At Sugar and Plumm Bakery in Greenwich Village, the assistant manager says they already donate their leftovers to City Harvest, but this is a good way to showcase their baked goods and do some good at the same time.

“The owner here, she’s a pretty fair person and she’s into giving back, so this was her way of giving back to the neighborhood,” said Carmen Riviera.

At Sugar and Plumm, she warns, customers need a coupon from the macarondaynyc.com website to get a free macaron. She added that the owner would probably be lenient if someone mentioned Macaron Day without a coupon, but she preferred coupons to avoid people asking for handouts for friends and family.

Macaron Day History

It all began in 2010 when French Pastry Chef Francoise Payard, the owner of Francoise Payard Bakery, started it in New York. Canone speculates that it was to familiarize New Yorkers with the French cookie at a time when it was almost unknown. Payard sits on the Food Council of City Harvest and this might have led to the charity aspect.

Macaron Day in New York City falls on the same day as ‘Jour du Macaron’ in Paris, where the event originated. The Parisian celebration was started by French bakery La Maison Pierre Hermé nine years ago to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. 

Holly Kellum is a special correspondent in New York.

Follow Holly on Twitter: @HollyGailK