Spring Spark: An Encore Performance with PNB

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s spring fundraiser pairs ballet dancers with pastry chefs to create unique desserts.  

One of the tastiest fundraisers in town is back for an encore performance this Saturday, May 11, at the Francia Russell Center in Bellevue. Pacific Northwest Ballet’s (PNB) Spring Spark is a one-night event where ballet dancers, local distilleries, and Seattle’s dessert virtuosos collide in a night of celebration and support. Guests will have the pleasure of sampling and voting for their favorite desserts and signature cocktails. 

Last year, we collaborated with Lucien Postlewaite, and our Oberon’s Rose Pavlova won the playful competition for best dessert. We’re honored to be invited back for another pas de deux! This year, our dance partner is Leta Biasucci, a principal dancer at PNB. “I’ve long been a huge fan of Macrina’s pastries, and since the opening of the Maple Leaf location, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing regular Cornetto dates with my 17-month-old daughter, Alma,” says Leta. “So when I had the opportunity to work alongside the individuals behind Macrina’s magic, I was so excited!” 

After weeks of auditioning ideas and refining them, Leta and our pastry team have a winner: The Earl of Puff, an airy pâte à choux filled with an Earl Grey Bavarian cream and rhubarb raspberry compote.  

Our pastry team is composed of Leslie Mackie, Macrina’s founder, Katarina Ducharme, our Retail Production Manager, and Sam Stout, our Retail Pastry General Manager. “We had the pleasure of talking favorite pastries with Leta,” says Leslie. “She’s a brilliant dancer and lives a demanding life performing, traveling, and being a mother. When she gets a break, she enjoys a warm cup of tea and her knitting or a good book. It restores her.” 

Leta also mentioned that her dessert preferences run toward rustic Italian. With those factors in mind, we set about experimenting, going in several different directions, and ultimately landing on our variation on the cream puff. Pulling in Leta’s love of tea, we came up with the Earl Grey pastry cream filling and the seasonal touch of the rhubarb.  

At our final tasting, Leta suggested refinements and our pastry team set to work. We’re happy to announce that The Earl of Puff is ready for its debut on Saturday night! And for those of you not attending the Spring Spark, the dessert will be available in our cafés over the Mother’s Day weekend from May 10–12.  

“Sam, Katarina, and Leslie are such masters of their craft,” says Leta. “Having a front row seat to Macrina’s creative process has been such a privilege and wonderful experience. I am so excited to share this special dessert at Spring Spark!” 

We, too, look forward to the playful competition at the Spring Spark and tasting the many other fine desserts and libations. “This is such a fun and privileged project to work with Leta and PNB,” says Leslie. 

Celebrating Mothers!


Tramy Thi Le, our GM of Wholesale Pastry, raised two daughters while managing a large team at Macrina. 

Penelope Phan is set to graduate with honors from Smith College, one of the nation’s best, on May 19, 2024. She has been accepted into a master’s program and dreams of becoming a university professor. No one is prouder than her mother, Tramy Thi Le, our GM of Wholesale Pastry, and a working mom. Her younger daughter, Paulina, a high school senior, will attend Bryn Mawr College in the fall — another prestigious school. 

“My goal was to have both daughters get their bachelor’s degrees,” says Tramy. “I’m so proud of them. God keeps us in his good hands.” 

Originally from Vietnam, Tramy moved to Seattle with her then-husband in 2000, seeking a fresh start and a better life. Three months after arriving, she began working at Macrina. Following a divorce in 2012, she faced the challenges of being a single working mother. “Macrina was very supportive,” Tramy recalls. “They offered me flexibility when I needed time off for my daughters’ appointments.” 

Tramy’s mother also played a crucial role in raising the girls, traveling back and forth from Vietnam over eight years to provide support.  

“Tramy has two wonderful daughters and still maintains a demanding work schedule with us at Macrina,” says Leslie Mackie, Macrina’s founder. “I attribute our success in wholesale pastry to her. She worked in retail pastry for four years and learned our foundational recipes and more detailed finishing with cakes and tarts, which helped us develop more wholesale pastry offerings.” 

Since 2013, Tramy has been the general manager of our wholesale pastry team, which now includes over 50 people, mostly Vietnamese immigrants. Tramy, who studied English at Seattle Central Community College, is fluent in both English and Vietnamese. With 24 years of professional baking experience and a background as a teacher in Vietnam, she effectively trains new hires as our department continues to grow. 

Reflecting on the dual challenges of being a primary caregiver and having a demanding career, Tramy emphasizes her continuous learning journey. “When my daughters were teenagers, they had changing needs, and I had to adapt my parenting style to support them better,” she explains. “I worked on controlling my emotions and staying calm.” 

Remaining positive is a hallmark of Tramy’s leadership at Macrina. She is an effective communicator who leads by example and listens carefully to her crew — usually with a smile on her face.  

“I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to grow myself at Macrina,” says Tramy. “Balancing motherhood and managing a team hasn’t always been easy, but my daughters appreciate very much all I do for them. I’m incredibly proud of them.” 

Recipe of the Month: Mother’s Day Cake

This cake is inspired by the Norwegian cake known as verdens beste, “the world’s best.” The story behind it is almost as good as the cake itself. In the 1930s, Hulda Ottestad, a café owner in Harstad, a town on Norway’s largest island, Hinnøya, bought two recipes from a Danish pastry chef. She transformed one of them into what’s known today as Kvæfjordkake. Over the years, the cake’s popularity surged, and in 2002, it was crowned Norway’s National Cake. I’d never baked a sponge cake and meringue in the same pan and was intrigued. I tried several variations, settling on the following recipe, which uses sweetened whipped cream in place of custard. The luscious combination of sponge cake, almond meringue, berries and cream comes together with surprising ease, making it a great addition to any Mother’s Day brunch!

Printable PDF

Makes 8 servings.

Cake Layer
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar 1
tsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup King Arthur cake flour (or a gluten-free equivalent like Bob’s Red Mill GF One-to-One Baking Flour)
1 tsp baking powder
4 egg yolks (reserve egg whites for the meringue)
1/3 cup milk

Meringue Layer
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
2/3 cup sliced raw almonds

Cream Filling
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, 1/2-inch dice

2 Tbsp powdered sugar
12 whole strawberries

Cake Layer
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Prepare a 9-inch square baking pan by brushing it with neutral flavored oil and lining it with a 12-inch square piece of parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together for 3 to 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest and vanilla extract, mixing well to combine.

Sift together the flour and baking powder. With the mixer running at low speed, gradually add the sifted ingredients to the butter mixture, mixing until you have a smooth paste.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and milk together. With the mixer set to medium speed, gradually add the egg yolk mixture to the batter in three additions, mixing for 30 seconds after each addition. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl, ensuring all ingredients are well combined.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking pan.

Meringue Layer
Clean and dry the mixer bowl. Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed. Sprinkle in the salt and cream of tartar. Once the egg whites become foamy, gradually add the sugar, and continue to whisk on high speed for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the meringue becomes shiny and holds firm peaks.

Scoop the meringue onto the top of the cake batter, smoothing it so it covers the cake. Sprinkle the sliced almonds evenly over the meringue.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the meringue is dry to the touch and almonds are golden brown.

Let cool for 15 minutes. Run a paring knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake. Carefully lift the cake out of the pan using the overhanging parchment paper and place it on a wire rack to cool completely.

Cream Filling
Clean and dry the mixer bowl. Fit the stand mixer with the whisk attachment and whip the heavy cream on medium-high speed. Gradually add the sugar and continue to whip until the cream is firm but not curdled in texture.

Fold the diced strawberries gently into the whipped cream. Keep the mixture chilled until you’re ready to assemble the cake.

When the cake has completely cooled, remove the parchment liner and cut the cake in half, to make two 4½-inch x 9-inch pieces.

Place one piece of the cake, almond-side down, on your serving plate. Spread the strawberry whipped cream evenly over this layer. Top with the second cake half, almond-side up. Chill the assembled cake for 30 minutes to firm it up for slicing.

Using a serrated knife, gently cut the cake into 1½-inch slices, taking care not to squeeze out the filling. Before serving, dust the top of each slice with powdered sugar and garnish with fresh strawberries. Enjoy!