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Madeleines Recipe

Brief History of Madeleines

The madeleine, a small, sponge-like cake known for its distinctive shell shape, holds a special place in the hearts of pastry lovers worldwide. Its origins trace back to the Lorraine region of France, specifically the town of Commercy, making it a quintessential example of French culinary heritage. The lore surrounding the creation of the madeleine is as rich and varied as its taste, with one popular tale recounting how a young maid named Madeleine first baked these cakes for Stanisław Leszczyński, the Duke of Lorraine, in the 18th century.

This petite treat has not only captivated the taste buds of many but also the imaginations of artists and writers, embedding itself deeply into French culture and beyond. Its simple ingredients—butter, sugar, flour, and eggs—belied the delicate complexity of its flavor and texture, a testament to the adage that true perfection lies in simplicity.

Madeleines in Literature and Culture

The cultural significance of the madeleine is perhaps most famously encapsulated in Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time,” where the act of dipping a madeleine into tea elicits profound, involuntary memories for the narrator. This literary moment has elevated the madeleine beyond its culinary roots, transforming it into a symbol of memory, nostalgia, and the sensory power of food. Through Proust’s lens, the madeleine transcends its role as a mere confection to become a vessel of deep emotional resonance, illustrating the profound connection between food, memory, and art.

Ingredients and Tools

Basic Ingredients for Classic Madeleines

At the heart of madeleine baking are four fundamental ingredients:

  • Butter: The cornerstone of the madeleine, imparting richness and a tender crumb.
  • Sugar: Essential for sweetness and contributing to the golden-brown exterior.
  • Flour: Provides the structure, ensuring the cakes maintain their shape while staying light and airy.
  • Eggs: Act as a leavening agent, giving madeleines their distinctive puff.

The simplicity of these ingredients allows the delicate flavors and textures of the madeleine to shine through, embodying the elegance of French pastry making.

Essential Tools and Their Purposes

The hallmark of a madeleine is its shell-like shape, achieved through the use of a specialized madeleine pan. These pans come in various materials, including non-stick metal and silicone, each featuring the characteristic shell-shaped depressions. The choice of pan can affect the baking time and the ease of removing the madeleines once they are baked.

An electric mixer is invaluable for whisking the eggs and sugar into a pale, voluminous froth, a crucial step in achieving the light, sponge-like texture of the cake. Meanwhile, a fine grater or zester is essential for adding the zest of lemons or oranges, infusing the batter with a subtle citrus aroma that complements the buttery flavor of the madeleines.

Together, these basic ingredients and tools form the foundation of madeleine baking, a process that, while simple, requires precision and care to perfect.

Making Madeleines

Step-by-Step Classic Recipe

The journey into the heart of French patisserie begins with mastering the classic madeleine. This recipe outlines the essential steps to achieving the perfect, buttery and tender madeleines with the iconic hump.


  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (130g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (120g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)


  1. Preparation: Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Generously butter and lightly flour your madeleine pan, tapping out excess flour.
  2. Whisk Eggs and Sugar: In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the eggs and granulated sugar together until pale, fluffy, and voluminous, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Incorporate Dry Ingredients: Sift in the flour and salt to the egg mixture, folding gently with a spatula until just combined to avoid deflating the mixture.
  4. Add Flavor and Fat: Fold in the melted butter, vanilla extract, and lemon zest until the batter is smooth and homogenous.
  5. Rest the Batter: Cover and let the batter rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, preferably longer. This step is crucial for developing the madeleine’s signature hump.
  6. Bake: Spoon the batter into the prepared madeleine pan, filling each mold about three-quarters full. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the centers spring back when gently pressed.
  7. Cool and Serve: Allow the madeleines to cool in the pan for a few minutes before gently removing them. Dust with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.


The classic madeleine is a canvas for various flavors, allowing bakers to experiment and tailor these little cakes to their tastes or occasions.

Lemon Madeleines

Enhance the lemon flavor in the classic recipe by increasing the lemon zest to the zest of 2 lemons and adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to the batter. This variation offers a brighter, more pronounced citrus note, perfect for those who enjoy a tangy twist.

Chocolate Madeleines

For chocolate lovers, substitute 1/4 cup (30g) of the all-purpose flour with cocoa powder to create chocolate madeleines. Incorporate 1/2 cup (90g) of finely chopped dark chocolate into the batter for an extra chocolatey experience. The result is a deeply rich and indulgent treat that pairs wonderfully with coffee.

Almond Madeleines

To make almond madeleines, replace 1/4 cup (30g) of the all-purpose flour with ground almonds (almond flour) and add 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract to the batter. This variation imparts a nutty flavor and a slightly denser texture, making for a sophisticated and flavorful twist on the classic.

Each variation of the madeleine offers its own unique appeal, allowing the baker to explore and enjoy the wide range of flavors and textures that can be achieved with this versatile French pastry. Whether sticking to the timeless classic or venturing into flavorful variations, the joy of baking madeleines lies in both the process and the delightful results.

Baking Techniques and Tips

The art of baking madeleines is steeped in tradition and technique, with each step in the process contributing to the creation of these delicate French pastries. Two crucial aspects of this process are the resting of the batter and the methods used to achieve the madeleine’s characteristic hump and texture.

Importance of Resting the Batter

Resting the madeleine batter is a step that should not be overlooked. This rest period allows the flour to fully hydrate and absorb moisture, which contributes to a more uniform texture in the final pastry. Additionally, resting helps to develop the flavors of the ingredients, particularly the butter and any citrus zest or extracts used. Most importantly, a chilled batter is key to achieving the distinctive hump on the back of the madeleine, a hallmark of proper technique. The cold batter hitting the hot oven leads to a rapid rise in the center of the cake, creating the iconic bump. For best results, the batter should be rested in the refrigerator for at least an hour, though some recipes recommend an overnight rest for even better flavor and texture.

Tips for Achieving the Perfect Hump and Texture

  • Proper Pan Preparation: Generously buttering and lightly flouring your madeleine pan not only prevents sticking but also aids in the even browning and rising of the cakes. Ensure your pan is well-greased in every crevice to support the batter as it expands during baking.
  • Temperature is Key: The contrast between the chilled batter and a preheated oven is crucial for the development of the madeleine’s signature hump. Make sure your oven is properly preheated to the recommended temperature before baking. Placing the cold batter into a hot oven causes the outer edges to set quickly while the center continues to rise sharply, creating the bump.
  • Do Not Overmix: When incorporating the flour and melted butter into the egg mixture, fold gently and only until just combined. Overmixing can deflate the batter and affect the rise and texture of your madeleines, leading to denser cakes without the desired light and airy crumb.
  • Fill Molds Correctly: Filling the molds three-quarters full is the sweet spot for ensuring that the batter has enough room to rise without overflowing. This precise filling helps in achieving both the shape and the hump characteristic of perfect madeleines.
  • Watch the Baking Time: Madeleines are best when they are lightly golden and just set. Overbaking can dry them out and make them dense. Start checking for doneness a few minutes before the recipe’s suggested baking time to catch them at their peak.

By adhering to these techniques and tips, bakers can elevate their madeleine baking game, ensuring each batch yields beautifully shaped cakes with the desired texture and that quintessential hump. Whether enjoying them as a delicate treat with tea or as part of a larger pastry assortment, madeleines baked with these principles in mind are sure to delight.

Serving and Storage

How to Serve Madeleines

Madeleines are best enjoyed fresh, ideally within a few hours of baking when their texture is most delicate and their flavor most pronounced. They can be served as is, with a light dusting of powdered sugar, or alongside a cup of tea or coffee. The warmth of the beverage pairs perfectly with the buttery richness of the madeleine, enhancing the overall experience.

Storage Tips to Maintain Freshness

If you have madeleines left over, store them in an airtight container at room temperature. They will keep for up to two days without significant loss of quality. For longer storage, wrapping them individually in plastic wrap before placing them in the container can help retain their moisture and texture.

FAQs Section

Why do my Madeleines not have a hump?

The iconic hump of a madeleine is often achieved by chilling the batter before baking and ensuring your oven is properly preheated. A sudden blast of heat causes the batter to rise quickly, creating the hump. If your madeleines are flat, consider resting the batter in the fridge for longer and checking your oven’s temperature.

Can Madeleines be frozen?

Yes, madeleines freeze exceptionally well. Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet to freeze individually, then transfer to a freezer-safe bag or container. They can be stored for up to a month. Thaw at room temperature or briefly warm in the oven to restore their texture.

Are Madeleines better with butter or oil?

Traditionally, madeleines are made with butter for its rich flavor and tender crumb. While oil can make the cakes lighter and keep them moist for longer, it lacks the depth of flavor that butter provides. For authentic French madeleines, butter is the preferred choice.

Madeleines Recipe

Delve into the art of French baking with this classic madeleine recipe. These small, shell-shaped sponge cakes, known for their delicate texture and distinctive hump, offer a taste of French elegance. Perfect for tea time or as a refined dessert, madeleines will transport you to the charming streets of Paris with each bite.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Rest Time: 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 27 minutes
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine French
Servings 24 madeleines
Calories 100 kcal


  • Madeleine pan
  • Electric mixer
  • Mixing bowls
  • Sifter
  • Spatula
  • Zester


  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup 130g granulated sugar
  • 1 cup 120g all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 cup 115g unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Powdered sugar for dusting optional


  • Prepare the Pan: Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Butter and flour the madeleine pan, tapping out excess flour.
  • Mix Eggs and Sugar: In a bowl, beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
  • Incorporate Flour and Salt: Sift flour and salt into the egg mixture, folding gently to combine.
  • Add Butter, Vanilla, and Lemon Zest: Fold in melted butter, vanilla, and lemon zest until the batter is smooth.
  • Rest the Batter: Cover and refrigerate the batter for at least 1 hour.
  • Bake: Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until edges are golden.
  • Cool and Serve: Cool madeleines in the pan for a few minutes, then unmold. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.


  • Resting the Batter: For the best texture and the characteristic hump, resting the batter in the refrigerator is crucial. Overnight resting can enhance the flavor.
  • Baking: Madeleines are best enjoyed the day they are baked, as they lose their delicate texture over time.
  • Variations: Feel free to add your twist by incorporating different flavors like orange zest, almond extract, or cocoa powder for chocolate madeleines.
  • Storage: If needed, madeleines can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or frozen for longer storage.
Keyword French Pastry, Madeleines, Shell-shaped Cake, Sponge Cake, Tea Time Treat