These scallop-shaped sponge cakes go way back to the 1600s, a time where butter, white flour and sugar were harder to come by (meaning that such a cake was highly revered). It's said that a cook named Madeleine Simonin, from Commercy in France's Lorraine region, invented the little cake, and after a century of being forgotten, a Staninslas Leszcynski relaunched the madeleine back into circulation.
The madeleine is also known for its literary ties to legendary French writer, Marcel Proust. Apparently he made several references, but this one, which explores the ties between memory and smell, is the most well-known.
Enjoy madeleines with tea (I like them with a cup of milky earl grey) as an afternoon or mid-morning snack.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Rest time: 3 hours
Cooking time: 9-11 minutes
Makes approximately 18x7cm madeleines.
For the madeleines:
- 100g caster sugar
- 125g plain flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
- 5g baking powder, sifted
- 40g milk
- 140g unsalted butter
- 1 tsp salted butter, softened
- 2 eggs
- 1.5 tsp vanilla essence
For the icing:
- 100g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
- 30g orange juice
- madeleine tin (to make approximately 18 madeleines)
- basting brush
- medium mixing bowl
- small pan
- In a small pan, melt the unsalted butter until it very lightly browns.
- Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the caster sugar into the eggs, vanilla essence and milk.
- Add the baking powder and flour, mixing until just combined.
- Add the butter when it's ready (it shouldn't take long), and combine well.
- Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge to rest for 3 hours.
- Preheat your oven to 210 degrees Celsius.
- Grease the madeleine tin with the salted butter, then, with your fingers, sprinkle a fine coating of flour on the tin, focusing on lightly coating the madeleine molds.
- Spoon in the batter, and be careful not to overfill - the batter should line up with the rim of each mold.
- Place the filled madeleine tin on your oven's middle rack and cook for 9-11 minutes or until the madeleines are a deep gold to nutty brown at their edges. The core of the madeleines should bubble up to form a shapely, lighter coloured lump.
- Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
- Put the icing sugar and orange juice in the small pan and, over a low heat, mix until a light syrup is formed.
- Use a basting brush to brush both sides of the madeleines with the syrup.
Serve at room temperature. Dust with icing sugar just before serving.
- Lightly browning the butter is what adds a subtle nuttiness to the madeleine's flavour - just be careful not to brown the butter too much. Aim for a light, golden-brown colour and then remove from heat immediately.
- Stores well for several days in an airtight container.
- Option: dip the madeleines in melted cooking chocolate (white, milk or dark) or throw a handful of berries into the batter. You could also sprinkle them with coconut or eat them with a dollop of jam.