Sara Moraes creates French macarons in such vibrant, jewel-toned hues that a producer from The Martha Stewart Show deemed them worthy of being featured in an episode last year. It was a sweet turn of events for Moraes, who — after suffering a corporate layoff — had launched her business, Sweet Sarah Artisan Confectionery, a mere six months before Martha’s people came calling. “Pursuing my lifelong passion for baking was scary at first, and money was tight, but thankfully things just started happening,” Moraes says.
The entrepreneur bakes up a wide range of goodies, such as decadent raspberry fig sablé cookies and addictive cocoa almonds. But her Alice in Wonderland–hued macarons are rapidly becoming her trademark treat. STIR asked Moraes about the delicious art of baking up color.
STIR: How is working with color in the medium of baking different than other mediums?
Sara Moraes (SM): Baking with colors can be difficult because color can affect the taste of your final product. Too much food coloring can give baked goods an unpleasant taste and can easily ruin the flavor profile you’re trying to achieve. Also, certain food items are intrinsically connected to certain colors — for example, the flavor of orange is associated with the color orange, lemon to yellow, blueberries to blue, and so on. So, when creating a new item, it's important to stay within those color-food connections. Otherwise, it can cause a jarring and unpleasant experience for your consumer.
STIR: How do you achieve those incredible hues?
SM: You really have to understand colors and how they combine and contrast. Having an artistic background has helped me a lot in that respect. I always envision very specific colors when creating a new item. For example, I don't try to achieve just yellow or green, I aim for “mustardy yellow” or “mint-leaf green.” Getting specific helps me figure out how to get there.
STIR: Do you have a signature color palette?
SM: I try not to limit myself to a certain color palette as far as coloring actual items. However, I do stay away from very modern palettes. The look and mood of my shop is a vintage, rococo-meets-rustic one that includes mostly rosy yellows and light browns, with a few hints of blue.
STIR: Why do your colors resonate with people so much?
SM: I think it's because my colors have a certain romance to them. My products and colors bring people to a place of lavish decadence. A lot of the messages I get from customers talk about my confections reminding them of trips to Paris, romantic picnics, a 1950s chiffon dress, and so on.
STIR: Where do you get color inspiration?
SM: Shopping at a farmer's market always gives me great ideas, as I'm surrounded by colorful produce. Flowers are another inspiration for me — not only their colors, but also their lovely scents, because flavors and scents are so connected. Movies are another favorite way to get inspired. For example, Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette is a gorgeous film full of beautiful hues. Even Marie Antoinette herself is a great inspiration. It's fun to think about what she might have loved to eat in her lavish lifestyle.
STIR: What makes you so passionate about color?
SM: I love working with colors in baking because it's not easy. It's not just throwing drops of food color into batters and dough — it's way more involved than that. It's about craftsmanship and understanding what meaning color — in combination with flavor — can convey and what emotions it can evoke.
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For more information on Sweet Sarah, go to sweetsarahshop.com, find her on Etsy, or follow her on Facebook.