Madeleines: Classic French Teacakes Made Famous By Marcel Proust
Madeleines are classic French teacakes made from simple ingredients (eggs, sugar, flour butter) and flavored with honey and vanilla. They are baked in a special pan that typically has 12 indentations in the shape of a stretched scallop shell. Ideally, madeleines should have crisp, caramelized edges and a little hump. They are famously mentioned in Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, a seven-volume novel about art, love, memory and society, and they were most likely named after Madeleine Paulmier, a pastry cook in French king Louis XV’s court.
I have maybe 200 cookbooks in my library, and at least five of them have a madeleine recipe. I have tried many of those recipes over the years, with disappointing results: too airy and spongy, not crisp enough, no hump, hard to get out of the pan. They were certainly edible and good enough as a sponge cake, but not exactly a madeleine.
Recently, though, David Lebovitz’s beautiful My Paris Kitchen cookbook landed on my doorstep and solved my dilemma. David lives in Paris and writes a popular, informative and entertaining food blog. As a former pastry chef, he knows tons about baking, so I jumped at the opportunity to try his madeleine recipe. I was super happy with the results and ate half of the cakes still warm from the oven.
The recipe is straightforward (and, heads up, slightly time-consuming—the batter needs to rest for two hours), but I want to point out a few things that’ll improve your madeleines.
Make sure every ridge and crook of the baking pan is properly buttered; otherwise, the cakes will get stuck and be hard to get out. Butter around the upper rim of the indentation, too, so that when the batter spreads during baking, it will be easier to release the baked madeleines. Do this with both nonstick and silicone molds.
To get the desired hump, try quickly opening and closing the oven door five minutes into baking. This tip isn’t part of David’s recipe, but I read it on some internet forum, and it worked for me.
If you have only one 12-piece baking mold like I do, you will have to wash it after the first batch, butter again, and fill with the rest of the batter.
Madeleines are best eaten within hours of baking. They’re okay the next day if stored in a covered container, but they are definitely not as good.
- Makes 16 madeleines
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 10 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 tablespoon honey
- In a bowl, cream the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until pale and doubled in volume, about 3–5 minutes. Stir in the flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla extract, and let rest for 1 hour at room temperature.
- Melt 8 tablespoons butter and honey in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Remove from the heat, and let cool and rest for 1 hour at room temperature.
- Whisk the butter-honey mixture and add to the batter. Stir until smooth. Cover and let rest for 1 hour at room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and use that to brush the indentations, as well as the upper rim of each indentation, of a madeleine baking pan.
- Spoon the batter into each indentation three-quarters full, spreading it evenly with the back of a spoon. Bake in the oven until the cakes spring back when touched and are golden brown, about 9–10 minutes. To give your madeleines a “hump,” quickly open and close the oven door 5 minutes into baking.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 seconds. Hold the pan upside-down over a cooling rack, and tap the madeleines out onto it. Make sure they’re cooling “hump” up; otherwise they might deflate. For best taste, eat them warm or on the same day.