Classic French Madeleines – exquisite small, buttery cakes (with a hint of lemon) that are slightly crisp on the outside and spongy and soft on the inside. Almost too pretty to eat but they’re also too good not to eat!
I first learned how to make Madeleines in pastry school and, at first thought, they look quite intimidating to make. The scalloped shells dusted with powdered sugar are so pretty, much like a jewel actually, but I can assure you, they are worth the effort.
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve made madeleines after being introduced to it, with each try using a different recipe and/ or adjusting the ingredients and other baking variables. In my opinion, this recipe which I’m sharing today yields the best classic French madeleines and it deserves to be in your arsenal.
The Classic Madeleine Shape
To make madeleines you need a specific pan. They’re not madeleines if they don’t have the scalloped shell shape and the hump. The small hump at the back is actually called “the pearl” and, according to Dorie Greenspan, is the “holy grail” of Madeleine bakers.
The hump is achieved through the use of baking powder which gives rise to the center of the madeleine when heated. The natural convex shape of the pan also promotes doming.
Tips for Making Perfect Madeleines
Here are some important tips I’ve learned to successfully make madeleines:
- It is important to use room temperature ingredients so they will combine easily. especially the eggs. Eggs act as binders or emulsifiers that marry fat and liquid into a smooth mixture. When you use cold eggs there is a possibility that the melted butter will re-solidify once it is mixed in the batter, which could break the emulsion and lead to a greasy batter.
- The madeleine batter is made by beating the eggs and sugar until the mixture is pale yellow, thick and forms a ribbon. Aka the ribbon stage. To test if you have reached the ribbon stage, lift the beaters to allow a bit of the mixture to fall from it. If it forms a ribbon which slowly dissolves on the surface, then you have reached the ribbon stage (yay!). See step-by-step photos to see how a ribbon stage looks like.
- Madeleine batter needs to be chilled before baking them. Allowing the batter to rest helps you achieve taller and fluffier madeleines. I’ve tried chilling the batter from 30 minutes to up to 12 hours, and I discovered that the most ideal time is 30 minutes up to a maximum of 1 hour. Why? Beyond that time, I find that the butter has started to solidify which makes it harder to pipe them into the molds. I also noticed that the madeleines didn’t rise up as tall, which defeats the purpose of chilling them in the first place.
- Madeleines are best eaten when they’re fresh from the oven. They tend to get dry quite fast. However, with this recipe, I’m able to keep them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days and just reheat them in the microwave (in batches of 3) using defrost mode for 1 minute. I find that the very low heat revives the softness of the madeleines.
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What You Need:
Classic French Madeleines
- 150 grams (2/3 cup) unsalted butter
- 15 grams (1 tablespoon) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 grams (1 tablespoon) freshly grated lemon zest
- 150 grams (3/4 cup) white granulated sugar
- 150 grams (3 eggs) large eggs, at room temperature
- 19 grams (1 egg yolk) egg yolk from a large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 190 grams (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
- 5 grams (1 teaspoon) baking powder
- confectioner's sugar, for dusting
- PREPARATIONMeasure all the ingredients. About 1 hour before baking, let the eggs come into room temperature. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Let it cool slightly, then coat your madeleine pan with butter using a pastry brush. Dust the pans with flour, tapping out any excess, then refrigerate the pan. Add the lemon juice into the cooled melted butter, then set aside as you prepare the rest of the batter.
- MAKE THE MADELEINE BATTERIn the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine sugar and lemon zest and rub them together using your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add in the eggs, egg yolk, and salt. Beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is pale and thick and has a ribbon-like consistency when the batter is picked up with a whisk, about 5 minutes.Sift the flour and baking powder into the egg mixture and use a rubber spatula to gently fold until just combined. Slowly drizzle the melted butter into the batter, folding gently until fully incorporated.
Transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a large plain piping tip, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes up to 1 hour.
- PIPE AND BAKE THE MADELEINESPreheat the oven to 375 F (190 C) and set a rack in the upper third of the oven. Get the madeleine pan and the batter from the fridge. Holding the piping bag at a 90-degree angle about 1⁄2 inch (1.25 cm) above the pan, pipe the madeleine batter into the cavities so that it fills each about three-quarters of the way to the top. No need to spread it to the edges. If you don't have a piping bag, then spoon the batter into each mold.Bake in the upper third of the oven until the madeleines are set, about 7-8 minutes. They are done when the tops spring back after lightly pressed with your finger.
- SERVING AND STORINGUsing a small sieve, sprinkle confectioners’ sugar evenly over the fresh-baked madeleines, before serving. Madeleines are best enjoyed right after baking. But if there are leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Reheat in the microwave using LOW heat (I use defrost mode) for about 1 minute.