A Madeleine is classic French Genoise-style sponge cake that is the size of a large cookie. Miniaturizing the cakes has the desirable effect of increasing the crust to internal volume ratio. At the same time Madeleines are characterized by a moist centre with a unique rich nutty-buttery taste, although my particular version has a strong citrus kick to it as well. You can recognize a Madeleine easily because of its iconic shape, an elongated scallop shell with a ‘hump’ below. Madeleines are best served any time you are drinking coffee or tea.
- Eggs (3)
- Butter (130g)
- Flour (1 cup)
- Plain Sugar (1/2 cup)
- Icing Sugar
- Lemon (1)
- Orange Marmalade (3T)
- Bicarbonate of Soda
- Vanilla Essence
This recipe does not require, but is best made using special scallop shell pans.
- Start by browning 130g of butter. Melt the butter in a small pan on low heat. After a while white particles will appear on the surface of the liquid butter. Next the butter will start to froth. At this point immediately pour the melted butter into a second pan to prevent it from going from browned to burnt. Allow to cool.
- Spoon 3T of marmalade into a bowl to allow it to warm to room temperature.
- Grate the skin of 1 lemon to get 1t of zest.
- Whisk 3 eggs with half a cup of sugar, the lemon zest, 1t vanilla essence and a pinch of salt. Keep whisking until the mixture thickens and is foamy. This should be about 5 minutes by hand or 1 minute with an electric hand blender.
- Mix half a flat t of bicarbonate of soda into 1 cup of plain flour. Sift the flour into the egg mixture, folding the flour regularly into the mixture to prevent lumping.
- Cut the zested lemon in half and squeeze it to obtain 3T of juice. Combine the juice with the marmalade and then stir the resulting citrus syrup into the batter.
- Reserve 3T of the melted butter and add the remaining butter to the batter 1T at a time, fold each time to incorporate the butter into the batter before adding more. Rest the batter in the fridge for a minimum of one hour, covered with cling film.
- Mix 1T flour into the reserved butter and brush your Madeleine pans with this. Place the pans into the fridge as well, for a minimum of ten minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 160oC (320oF).
- Take the batter and pans out of the fridge. The batter should be the consistency of a thick milkshake. Spoon 1T of batter into the centre of each mould in your pan. Do not fill the moulds all the way to the rim (see photo above) as you need room for the batter to expand without spilling out.
- Place the pan in the oven for about 8 minutes. The time will vary slightly from oven to oven, and it will take more time for multiple pans and less time for incomplete pans, so you need to keep watch as they bake. The first sign to look out for is when the characteristic camel humps develop (see photo on right) on your madeleines. Soon after the edges will start to brown. Take them out one minute after this.
- Flip your madeleines onto a cooling rack and dust lightly with icing sugar while they are still hot. This icing (i.e. powdered) sugar will eventually dissolve in the butter of the madeleine to form a glaze so do not skip this step.
- The Madeleine was popularized to the world by the French writer Marcel Proust who wrote about eating it and the memories it triggered. Despite its simple look, this little cake is one of the quintessential petit fours, of equal standing with the Canele and the Macaron.
- The ribbed side (facing down in the pan) will tend to darken faster than the hump side, which is the biggest challenge in Madeleine making. This is why the pans must be chilled beforehand, to help counteract this. Supplementary techniques you can try would be using the top rack of your oven or placing a (metal) baking sheet below the Madeleine pan. All this will alter the baking time, so rely on your eyes and not the clock.
- If you don’t get the camel hump, then your oven is not hot enough – or you didn’t chill your batter. If there is no hump, its not a real Madeleine.
- You probably cannot make all 30 Madeleines in one go so plan ahead to split the baking into 2 or more equal batches.
- The bicarbonate of soda is a raising agent. If you are using self raising flour, skip the bicarbonate of soda and use only half the lemon juice.
- You can stack 2 buttered madeleine trays by turning one of them ninety degrees.
- Replace the Marmalade with soft brown sugar to make ‘regular’ Madeleines.
- If you don’t have Madeleine pans, you can use mini-muffin trays, though you will end up with round cakes. Do not spoon more than 1T of batter into each depression even though they are deeper.