Baking History

A Taste For The Past


Posted by bakinghistory on June 30, 2008

Traditional French teacakes baked in shell-shaped moulds

Madeleines are delicate teacakes with a velvety texture and an unmistakable shape. They originate from the town of Commercy, France, and they have been immortalized in Proust‘s “Remembrance of Things Past”.

Later versions call for baking powder in the ingredients, while the old recipe I used here does not, relying only on the air incorporated in the batter and a high baking temperature to ensure the characteristic hump on the cakes top—true sign of a well-made madeleine.

They are traditionally flavored with lemon zest and vanilla which pair well with the buttery texture, but almond extract is another well suited flavoring—and my personal favorite.

From the original recipe by Sara Van Buren Brugière

In: “Good-living. A Practical Cookery-Book for Town and Country”, 1890—USA


1/2 lb (scant 2 cups—227 g) powdered sugar

grated rind of 1 (organic) lemon

1/2 lb (2 sticks—227 g) slightly softened + extra to grease the pans

1/2 lb (2 scant cups—227 g) AP flour

4 eggs

1-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Generously grease the Madeleine pans with melted butter and set aside. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).

Cream the butter and add gradually the sugar through a strainer, still beating at high speed and taking care to scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula once in awhile.

Add the eggs but keep 1 egg white aside. Beat at high speed until the mixture is light and frothy, adding the zest and vanilla as well. Add the flour through a strainer and mix it in by hand with a wooden spoon just until incorporated.

Beat the remaining egg white until stiff peaks form, then add it delicately to the flour batter, folding it in and making sure not to deflate it.

Fill the moulds 1/2 full with the batter and bake for 10 minutes. Do not open the oven before 10 minutes are past, to check if the cakes are done a tooth pick should come out clean and dry.

They can be kept in an airtight container but they are best eaten fresh. The recipe can be halved.

7 Responses to “Madeleines”

  1. Simona said

    How very nice. As a child, I loved madeleines. Nowadays, I often see mothers give one to their children while visiting a coffee shot and I smile, thinking about their pleasure. I have never tried to make them and this recipe is a great suggestion to change this state of affairs.

  2. bakinghistory said

    @Simona: Thanks 🙂 I also used to have them often as a child and they were always almond-flavored. This recipe is rather good in my opinion because it does not contain baking powder—I do not like the aftertaste that baking powder often leaves in small cakes and cookies.

  3. Aparna said

    I have never had these though I have been seeing them on so many blogs.
    They look lovely but I don’t know if I can find the moulds.

  4. Louise said

    Of course, I like the history tidbit. I wasn’t aware of the town of origin. But, your Madeleines look absolutely delectable. I can smell the aroma of the tinge of lemon all the way from here or, is that almond I smell? I will have to try this recipe the next time I attempt baking (which as you know is rarely) I too like the idea of no baking powder.

  5. bakinghistory said

    @ Aparna: Hi! If at the moment you do not have the actual madeleines pan, you can still bake them in a mini muffins pan or tiny tartlets tins.

    @ Louise: 🙂 true, I indeed used almond extract this time

  6. kate said

    does anyone have a savoury version? i’ve lost my copy of a Sesame and Sage – leaf placed in the bottom of baking tray – very cute!!!
    I’ve always imagined the scallop Shape indicated some connection with Pilgrimages… and madeleine been the french for Magdala…

  7. bakinghistory said

    Hi Kate, there are some savory versions but they are very recent, at least I have never seen them in old cookbooks. I have never baked them, so fat i have always made the sweet ones.
    You are probably right about the shape of the madeleines as well as their name.

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