For a season so synonymous with boxes of truffles and chocolates, the sight of a duck egg blue box of macarons is enough to make anyone with sweet fatigue smile.
For Almondine’s beautiful Italian-style meringue shells, sandwiched with jam, ganache and buttercream and arranged in a rainbow of patisserie perfection has proved to be one of Aberdeen’s real independent success stories.
But as enticing as their array of pastel and berry-hued buttons of beauty are, the Williamson family consisting of mother Susan and daughters Jenny and Suzanne have been surprised at how popular their pastries and patisserie have been since opening their first shop on Thistle Street a year ago.
"What we have found is as the weeks and months have passed, more and more customers were actually looking for patisserie items as well, whereas we thought we would solely be about the macarons," Suzanne said.
"It’s really not, and even having the French patisserie up the road, people are looking for something that is completely handmade which they know they can get here."
A knack for self-taught success, with Jenny introducing her sister and mother to macaron making in 2012, the past year has seen all three teach themselves the ways of French pastry making to stock the glass front counter with handmade croissants, pain au chocolate and delicate tartlets.
Now, as the shop celebrates with the sing-song of joyeux anniversaire, Suzanne reminisces that it is incredible to think how far the business has come over the past two years, from their home kitchen to supplying weddings, events and parties across Aberdeen and Shire.
"The whole year has just been so exciting, my sister Jenny and I were both working full time before we opened the shop in December and even then I was working through December in my other job as well as doing this.
"I think that has just been the biggest highlight, just to leave my full-time job and do this. To work with your family as well, it’s just so exciting."
Despite working in such close proximity with each other, Suzanne said the Almondine family gels well together just like their perfectly sandwiched macarons – although there have been a few family clashes along the way.
She explained: "I suppose like any family you have your moments anyway, and it’s probably just the same when you are in business together - you are going to have a few mishaps and misunderstandings in the beginning, but it’s amazing how quickly you smooth them out."
Growing the business in the small but perfectly formed Thistle Street patisserie has afforded the trio the chance to expand their original line of macarons, which they initially sold on weekends in adjacent florist David’s.
Although the Thistle Street site is all about folding laminated pastry dough and creating crumbling shortcrust, a kitchen a few miles away houses an industrial oven which is where the macaron magic now happens.
It’s a far cry from whipping egg whites in the family kitchen, but the space has allowed Almondine to experiment with unusual flavour combinations such as Jenny and Suzanne’s favoured pink peppercorn.
Suzanne explained: "Because macarons are so new for Aberdeen you can be so creative and wild and wacky with flavours, but they are not necessarily going to be that popular so it’s about finding that balance between offering something a bit quirky and different for the more experienced palates, but also offering the classic plainer ones for people who are just being introduced to macarons.”
Traditionally French, the trio use the Italian macaron method which makes a shiner macaron.
Still the best seller since Almondine first folded ground almonds into pillows of whipped egg whites is salted caramel and Susan’s favourite flavour.
Suzanne added with a laugh: "It’s really popular, sometimes people come in and want a box full of salted caramel. I don’t think we would be too popular if we got rid of that one."
Over the past year, the patisserie itself has changed slightly, wicker chairs replaced with sofas and chairs in that familiar hue of blue, and the family have stretched themselves to start offering larger tarts and Fraisier cakes alongside their popular macaron towers as gifts and last minute dessert fixes.
And Almondine has even been offering customers a little refreshment stronger than teas and coffees during December, with glasses of prosecco and mulled wine available to sip as a respite from Christmas shopping fatigue.
And the compliments from customers have continued to roll in, with Suzanne adding that the patisserie’s French roots seem to have taken hold with Aberdonians.
"Some of the comments have been that it’s like a little bit of Paris and the fact that you have created that is just really exciting and a nice feeling."