Madeleines are an iconic French petit-four with a distinctive shell-like shape. Made using a Genoese cake batter and a traditional madeleine pan.
Rather naively, I thought madeleines were a basic sponge cake, made using a fancy pan to elevate them from being something dull. I’d only ever had the supermarket pre-packed kind when I was in France and they were dry (despite being individually wrapped) and tasteless.
It turned out, they’re quite tricky and everyone seems to have a theory about making the perfect madeleine as they do the perfect macaron!
The recipe I used was from Patisserie at Home by Will Torrent and I had two attempts before I got this recipe looking like it did above.
My first batch I made following the recipe to the letter. I needed to make a beurre noisette (lit trans. hazelnut butter), to do this the butter needed to be heated until the fat and milk solids separated and the butter turned a golden brown colour. This is a strange process as the butter bubbles for a long time before it quickly changes colour.
If you’re not careful the butter can burn…I know this, because I burnt my first batch.
So after making a second batch of beurre noisette which was successful I left that to cool and moved on to the cake batter. This consisted of ground almonds, flour, egg whites, icing sugar, vanilla extract, honey, lemon zest and salt. This was then combined with the beurre noisette and left to rest in the fridge for 40 minutes.
After half an hour the batter is piped into the madeleine tin and placed in the fridge to rest for a further 20 minutes before baking.
Firstly Patisserie at Home didn’t advise me to grease and dust my pan with flour – however I knew you should do this for irregular shaped pans. Also the recipe quantity stated was 12 madeleines, so using my 12 hole pan I filled up the recesses completely using up all of my batter.
This was a big mistake as there was far too much mixture and my baked madeleines ended up looking like this:
As a result of this failure I took to the internet for advice. It seemed that the general opinion was to always rest your batter overnight, this helps to thicken the mixture and get the distinctive hump in the middle of the cake. She also only added around a teaspoon of cake mixture for each madeleine.
So I set about making these madeleines again, which also gave me an opportunity to practice my beurre noisette, which worked perfectly this time! I also changed the recipe, omitting the lemon zest from this batch.
I didn’t like the lemon taste as it overpowered the vanilla, also I found it upset the texture of the finished cake, making it feel gritty and not light and smooth.
The batter was mixed in exactly the same way, this time I left it in the fridge overnight, before spooning heaped teaspoons of the cake mixture into the prepared madeleine tin, the batter was much thicker this time and didn’t spread.
These are baked for 12 minutes in an oven pre-heated at 170ºC.
If your oven is anything like mine, you might have to turn the pan half-way through cooking, so that the cakes bake evenly.
Here is the finished recipe for you to try, which can also be found in my recipes section along with lots of other patisserie and viennoiserie.
- 125g Unsalted Butter
- 100g Icing Sugar
- 40g Ground Almonds
- 40g Plain Flour
- Pinch of Salt
- 3 Egg Whites (approx 90g)
- 2 Tsp Honey
- 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
- Icing sugar for dusting (optional)
- Place the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and let it melt. Get a bowl ready and stand it on a heatproof service (a trivet or towel), you will pour the butter into this bowl to stop it cooking further.
- Cook the butter until it turns golden. It will bubble up, so you need a spatula or spoon to scrape the bubbles back so you can see the colour. The butter will also start to smell nutty.
- As soon as the butter starts to colour pour it straight into the bowl to stop it cooking.
- Allow to cool completely.
- Sift the sugar, almonds, flour and salt into a bowl.
- Whisk in the egg whites, honey and vanilla extract until combined.
- Finally add the cooled beurre noisette and whisk until it is fully mixed in.
- The mixture can then be placed in the fridge overnight or for at least 8-10 hours. This helps the mixture thicken to the right consistency for baking.
- Just before baking pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees (325 degrees F), Gas 3.
- Take the madeleine pan and rub butter into the scalloped moulds, then dust the tray with flour. Tap off the excess flour and then fill each mould with a heaped teaspoon of batter.
- You may find you have batter left over, do not over fill the moulds, you can use this batter to make more madeleines after your first batch.
- Bake the madeleines in the pre-heated oven for 12-15mins, you may need to rotate the pan half-way through baking to ensure they cook evenly.
- Allow to cool slightly and then remove the madeleines from the pan, dust them with icing sugar if you wish, or have them plain.
Have you ever made madeleines? Do you have your own method of making them that differs to this one? Also do you know why they are shell-shaped? I couldn’t find this information anywhere.
Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading.