I have a lot of baking gadgets, like a lot. This past Christmas, I got to add madeleine pans to my arsenal. Rather than start on my New Year’s Baking Resolutions and end my all-star career in procrastination, I made classic French Madeleines!
I’m not sure whether to call madeleines a cake or a cookie. Their texture is light and spongey like a cake, but it’s small and individual like a cookie. I think I’m going to go with cake, because a petite sponge cake that also looks like a seashell sounds classier than a regular old cookie.
Madeleines are a little snobby. [Insert bad joke about France here.] If you don’t have the scalloped pan, technically it’s not a madeleine, which is why they are more popular with professional bakers than home bakers.
I was first introduced to madeleines at my last baking job. They’re a perfect early morning dessert: not too sweet and amazing with a hot cup of tea. At work, we’d bake them off first thing in the morning and a few would always “disappear” on their way out to the front. 7AM at a bakery is where will power goes to die. Everything out of the oven smells incredible and somehow ends up in your stomach.
Most of the madeleines I’ve tried are a bit on the dry side. I mentioned they pair perfectly with a hot cup of tea, but I don’t want my madeleines so dry that I need a cup of tea to get through. To prevent my madeleines from going the way of the Sahara, I added a hefty dose of honey. I also added lots of lemon zest. This has nothing to do with keeping the little cakes moist. I just love the bright note lemon zest adds to delicate madeleines.
My only complaint about this recipe is that it only makes 12. I made them yesterday morning and they are already gone! My friends were all first-time madeleine triers, and loved them. How could you not? They’re little heavenly pillows of sponge cake with a hint of lemon and a blanket of powdered sugar. It won’t be long until I make them again!
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- zest from 2 lemons
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature, for pan
- 3 Tbs. flour, for pan
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar, for dusting
- Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Using a whisk attachment, beat together honey, sugar, and lemon zest until smooth. Scrap well to ensure there are no lumps of honey.
- Add eggs, and beat on medium-high speed until the mixture thickens slightly and turns a pale yellow color, about 3 minutes. Mix in vanilla on low.
- Fold in half of the flour mixture by hand. Fold gently and do not over mix. Add the other half and repeat.
- Pour one third of the batter into a medium bowl. Add half of the melted butter and mix until homogenous. Fold butter mixture back into the batter. Then slowly fold in the remaining butter. The final batter should be smooth, shiny, and homogenous.
- Cover the batter with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic touches the surface of the mixture. Chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour up to overnight.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Using a silicone or pastry brush, brush the second amount of butter over pan, making sure to get into all of those scalloped edges. Dust with second amount of flour and tilt pan until its completely covered. Tap out excess flour.
- Using a piping bag, fill each shell just to the top of the pan, these babies rise. I start at the bottom, go around the outline of the shell, and spiral in.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed.
- Immediately flip madeleines out on a cooling rack. Once cool, dust with powdered sugar. They’re best the day they’re made, but you can store them in a airtight container for up to three days.