Calling all chocolate lovers! Every macaron baker needs a go to chocolate shell recipe to stack on decadent flavors and fillings. These chocolate french macaron shells have been tried and tested to get as much possible cocoa flavor, without causing structural issues by adding TOO much cocoa to the batter. Read on for chocolate shell tips and tricks, cocoa recommendations, and a silky chocolate American buttercream to fill them with.
First up, the most important part of successful chocolate shells, is knowing basic macaron techniques in general. I would suggest reading through my Basic French Macarons blog post if you are new to making macarons, and would even recommend trying out that basic recipe and getting a feel for it without cocoa powder first before diving into to flavored shells. But hey, if you’re feeling adventurous and want to go straight to chocolate, I won’t stop you!
Next, let’s talk about what type of cocoa powder to use. Macaron batter can be very sensitive, and if the cocoa powder you use has a higher fat content than most, you may run into issues such as wrinkly shells, fragile shells, or splotchy tops.
Which Cocoa Powder Is Best To Flavor Macaron Shells?
Nestle Tollhouse Unsweetened (0.5g fat per tbsp) was the cocoa powder I used for this recipe and it worked super well. My very scientific reason for starting with Nestle was…it was what I had in my cupboard at the time. I’ve also heard that Hershey’s Unsweetened (also 0.5g fat per tbsp) has a great fat content suitable for macaron batter as well, and is easily accessible in grocery stores!
Based on my research around the macaron corner of the internet, 0.5 grams of fat per tablespoon is the sweet spot for macaron batter. Feel free to explore other brands, but keep in mind anything higher than the 0.5 can cause problems because too much fat can weaken the meringue part of your batter. If you really love a brand of cocoa that has a higher fat content, you may want to lessen the amount of cocoa used.
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder Brands Plus Grams of Fat Per Tablespoon
- Hershey’s Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (0.5g fat)
- Nestle Tollhouse Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (0.5g fat)
- Ghirardelli Cocoa Powder (1.5g fat)
- Anthony’s Organic Cocoa Powder (1g fat)
- Valrhona Pure Cocoa Powder (1.5g fat)
- Guittard Cocoa Unsweetened: Organic Natural Cocoa Powder (1g fat)
Can Dutch Cocoa Powder Be Used In Macaron Batter?
Yes! BUT…you need to check the fat content just like you would with “Natural” Cocoa Powder. The biggest difference with Dutch Cocoa powder is that it’s been neutralized and isn’t as acidic as Natural Cocoa Powder, which can alter recipes that use leavening agents. However, macarons do not use any leavening agents that will be affected, so Dutch is interchangeable. Dutch is also usually darker colored, and has a darker chocolate flavor as well.
Dutch Cocoa Brands Plus Grams of Fat Per Tablespoon
- Ghiradelli Dutch Process Cocoa Powder (1g fat)
- King Arthur Black Cocoa, Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder (0.5g fat)
- NuNaturals Organic Cocoa Powder, Premium Dutch-Process (1g fat)
- Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder (1g fat)
If you’d like to learn more about the difference between Dutch Cocoa and Regular, King Arthur Baking has a great article that does a deep dive! I’ll link it below…
How To Flavor a Macaron Recipe With Cocoa Powder
As mentioned before, it’s important not to throw off the ingredient ratio of a macaron shell recipe. To balance out the grams of dry ingredients being added with the cocoa powder, subtract that same amount equally from your confectioner’s sugar almond flour blend. So for example, since I add 24 grams of cocoa powder in this recipe, I subtract 12 grams of confectioner’s sugar, and another 12 from the almond flour from my usual amounts.
How Much Cocoa Powder to Add
How much cocoa powder do you need to flavor your shells? It depends on your recipe. I ran tests with my recipe (which produces about 70 shells usually) and initially tested with 20 grams of cocoa powder per batch, 30 grams per batch, and 40 grams. Here’s what I found.
This amount produced a nice dark shell, but was fragile and soft even with baking an extra few minutes. The shells were difficult to remove from the mat and part of the bottoms stuck. The feet were also a bit ruffled!
So close, but not quite. The shells still had a nice brown shade, good chocolate flavor, but were JUST a pinch too soft for me to feel good about. The tops would dent inward with gentle pressure, and were still a bit sticky in regards to removing them from the mat. The feet were a pinch ruffled with this amount as well.
Success! The shells were strong and smooth, the feet were successful and not ruffled, the insides had plenty of fluff, and the chocolate flavor was there. The only bummer was the shade was not quite as dark as I personally prefer.
Final Cocoa Powder Amount Chosen
After running tests, I decided to try 24 grams of cocoa powder per batch to see if I could get away with just a pinch more than the successful 20 grams per batch test. It ended up working great after trying it out multiple times, so that was the winning number! I was super happy with the visual appearance of the shells, the structure, and the flavor. I still wish it was a deep brown, but I’d rather have the texture and structure be strong. If your preferred brand and amount of cocoa powder does not product the depth of brown you prefer, you can always add brown gel food coloring to deepen the shade.
Some recipes may not hold up as well with this amount of cocoa powder. If you’re starting from scratch, I recommend testing your recipe with 5 grams of cocoa per dozen individual shells produced, and going from there! Remember to subtract whatever gram amount you use from your dry ingredients to balance out the dry ingredients.
Brown Shell Coloring Tips
- Dutch Cocoa can produce darker shades of brown in your shells
- Some bakers use Black Cocoa to produce rich brown shells
- If your preferred brand and amount of cocoa powder does not product the depth of brown you prefer, you can always add brown gel food coloring to deepen the shade.
When To Add The Cocoa Powder
Sift the cocoa powder together with your almond flour and confectioner’s sugar, and whisk the three ingredients together well before folding into the meringue.
Macaronaging Chocolate Shells
I’m sure this depends on the recipe, but I’ve noticed when I make chocolate shells, my batter behaves just a bit differently. The batter seems to be a bit thicker overall, and produces a few less shells.
The important thing with my recipe (and any for that matter) is to notice how the batter settles. My recipe tends to stay a little thicker than most (even without chocolate), so instead of looking for flowing ribbons of batter, I scrape all the batter to the bottom of the bowl, jiggle it several times, and then study the texture. If the batter has mostly settled back into itself with just a few minimal lines remaining (but not completely smooth and level), it’s ready.
Another note, I also added a pinch more sugar than I normally do to help strengthen the meringue and shells. Chocolate shells are notorious for being fragile and wrinkly, and I noticed the sugar seemed to produce stronger shells that could hold up to more cocoa powder.
Baking Chocolate Shells
Chocolate shells can be baked at the same temperature as regular macarons, but they may need an few extra minutes to ensure fully baked and crisp exteriors, and fluffy full interiors. I recommend increasing your bake time by 2-4 minutes. And hey! They’re already brown, so browning won’t be as noticeable, making it easier to get away with extra time in the oven.
While the shells are baking and cooling, whip up this 10 minute silky chocolate American buttercream. Whipping low and slow once the buttercream is finished can help work out air bubbles, along with mixing by hand at the end.
My favorite way to get all the air bubbles out of a buttercream are to make it in advance, chill completely in the fridge, and then rewhip it until smooth. This method creates a smooth, beautiful texture to work with and pipe.
Once shells have been filled, top with it’s partner shell and gently press together until the buttercream is almost to the edge.
Once macarons have been filled, allow them to mature in an airtight container in the fridge for 24 hours to develop the ideal texture and flavor. Or eat them now. I won’t judge!
I hope you enjoy this recipe! Chocolate macarons can be a bit of an adjustment and can take some trial and error, but the flavor impact and options it opens up are worth the effort. Thanks for stopping by today!
Double Chocolate Macarons
Chocolate Macaron Shells
- 130 grams egg whites (Approximately 4 large eggs, use scale to measure)
- 130 grams granulated sugar
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- 188 grams almond flour (Preferably Kirkland Brand)
- 188 grams confectioner’s sugar
- 24 grams unsweetened cocoa powder (Nestle or Hersheys, any brand that has 0.5 grams of fat per tablespoon)
Chocolate Buttercream Filling
- 6 oz butter
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 oz powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1-2 pinches of salt to taste
- 2 tbsp heavy cream
Chocolate Macaron Shells
- Line 2 upside down baking sheets with a silicone mat (circle template optional but recommended).
- Place a medium sized round piping tip (like a Wilton 2A) in a large piping bag. Twist the bag right behind the tip and add a clip to seal off the opening. Place the bag tip down into either a clean tall cup with the edges folded over the rim to keep the bag open, or clip it into a bag holder.
- Using a kitchen scale, carefully weigh out and sift the confectioner’s sugar, almond flour, and cocoa powder into a medium mixing bowl. Whisk well to fully blend the three together.
- Place egg whites, granulated sugar, and cream of tartar into a large mixing bowl, and begin beating with a whisk attachment using either a handheld mixer or a stand mixer for 2 minutes on a medium low speed (Kitchen Aid Speed 4).
- Turn up the mixer to a medium speed (Kitchen Aid Speed 6) and beat for an additional 2 minutes.
- Add brown gel food coloring if desired (optional)
- Turn mixer up to medium high speed (Kitchen Aid Speed 8) and beat for 3 more minutes, or until peaks are very stiff and the meringue clumps up in a ball in the center of the whisk. Test stiffness by removing whisk and pointing it upward. (See photos in Basic French Macarons post) Once the peaks can hold their shape flipped upright, your meringue is ready.
- Pour half of your almond flour/confectioner’s sugar/cocoa powder mixture into the bowl with your meringue, and fold 15 times. One fold is scraping all the way around the edge of your batter in your bowl, and then dragging your spatula through the middle. Be sure to scoop around the bottom of the bowl as well so you don’t miss any dry ingredients.
- Pour in the second half of the dry ingredient mixture, and continue folding (approximately 30 more folds) until dry ingredients are fully incorporated, and your batter is no longer super clumpy. Do not overfold. Please note this recipe stays a bit thicker than most, and should not be folded to the traditional figure 8 test consistency. Start checking your batter’s readiness every 5 folds or so at this point by scraping all batter down to the bottom of your bowl, and then wiggling your bowl back and forth several times. If the batter levels out with few peaks and lines remaining, it should be ready. (See photos in post for reference.)
- Pour batter into prepared piping bag, and twist the opening off. Hold your bag at the twist between your thumb and pointer finger. Remove the clip.
- Holding the piping bag straight up and down, apply pressure to begin piping your batter in the center of your circle templates, releasing pressure once you are a few millimeters short of your desired size. After you release pressure, use a small quick circular flick to release your tip from the piped macaron.
- Once you’ve piped a full tray, firmly bang the tray on the counter a few times to pop any air bubbles and smooth out shells. Pop any remaining large bubbles with a toothpick. Repeat with the second tray.
- Begin preheating your oven to 300 degrees, using an oven thermometer ensure accurate temperature readings.
- Set aside shells to dry until they form a skin and are no longer tacky to the touch. Once you can gently run a finger over your shells, they are ready to bake. Use a fan to speed up the process, rotating the tray every few minutes to ensure even drying. This usually takes at least 16-20 minutes for me even with a fan.
- Once shells are dry, and the oven has fully preheated to 300, place one tray in the center of the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 18 minutes.
- Quickly open door to check the shell’s doneness by gently pressing on the side just above the feet to see if it’s firm. If it moves at all, rotate the tray and bake for another 2 minutes.
- Check shells by performing the same test, pressing on the side. If they are still unstable, bake for one more minute, and check again. Repeat until shells are firm, and then add 1 extra minute to ensure shells are fully baked.
- Allow shells to cool completely, and the carefully remove from silicone mat or parchment paper by gently peeling them off.
Chocolate American Buttercream
- Place butter, salt, and vanilla extract in mixing bowl, and beat until light and fluffy.
- Add powdered sugar, and beat until frosting starts to come together. Mix for 2 minutes, and then scrape down the bowl and beater. Mix for an additional 2 minutes.
- Pour in heavy cream, and beat on low speed until heavy cream is fully combined and the buttercream has minimal air bubbles. Mix by hand to press out any remaining air bubbles.
- Match each shell with a partner shell of equal size.
- Use a large round piping tip (Ex. Wilton 1A) to pipe buttercream in to the center of one shell, leaving at least 1/4 inch of space around the edge.
- Gently sandwich the partner shell on top to complete your macaron.
- Refrigerate in an airtight container for 24 hours to allow the macarons to “mature” and fully develop their flavor and texture.
- This recipe can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Take macarons out of the freezer 20-30 minutes before eating to allow them to come to room temperature. Enjoy!
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