Madeleines remains one of my favourite French “snack cakes” (for want of a better term). Small and light, they are the perfect accompaniment to your morning or afternoon espresso and the perfect “goûter” (after school snack) for small hands. Mostly I enjoy them plain – a light, buttery sponge cake doesn’t need much more than a hint of vanilla to shine – but the recent warm weather here (finally!) has me craving bright flavours to match the sunny days. Enter: lemon.
Here, I’ve used lemon zest, rubbed into the sugar before it’s beaten into a thick, creamy, pale mixture with egg and a touch of vanilla. The batter has an extended rest in the fridge (4ish hours or overnight) so the flavours have a long time to develop.
Wait, what, there’s an extended chill time in the fridge?
Yup. There is. I’ve spent the last few weeks experimenting with different methods for making these (starting with the recipe in In the French kitchen with kids where the pan is buttered, floured and frozen for about 30 minutes before it’s filled and the cakes are baked more or less straight away.
For today’s version of the recipe, I’ve found the rest in the fridge helps ensure you get the coveted hump on the top of the cake – my “quick” method will most often produce these but this version seems pretty foolproof.
How can they be a “quick” recipe if they need a rest in the fridge?
Actually, this recipe could not be easier, despite the chill time. It’s all about timing. Make the batter the night before if you want morning madeleines. Make it early in the day if you want afternoon madeleines. The batter comes together in a few minutes – the fussiest part is getting the batter into the buttered, floured and chilled pan but a small cookie scoop will help you here. the quick bake time means that if you’ve prepped the batter in advance you can get these baked and served pretty quickly once you decide you want them! That’s another change I made – baking them at a slightly higher temperature which seems to help “shock” the batter into forming a hump too!
Now, I love lemon so I’ve given the option of a lemon glaze as well but that is totally optional. It uses the juice of the lemon you’ll already have zested though so I say why not! A note that if you’re going to glaze these, you’ll need to eat them the same day!
Otherwise, a dusting of icing sugar is the perfect way to serve these…
Check out the height of these – and the light fluffy interior! I’m SO pleased with this version. Proof that a little bit of patience goes a long way, right?
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 9 minutes
Chill Time 1 day
Total Time 1 day 24 minutes
for the madeleine batter
- 1 tablespoon (14 g) unsalted butter, melted, for greasing the pans
- All-purpose flour, for flouring the pans
- 1/4 cup (57 g/ 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar
- zest of 1 lemon (approx. 1 tablespoon)
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon (58g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
for the glaze (optional)
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/3 - 1/3 cup icing sugar
The day before or morning of baking - prepare the madeleine pan
- Brush the madeleine pan with the melted butter, making sure to get the butter into all the grooves, but don’t let it pool there (if necessary turn the pan upside down over a paper towel to drain out).
- Place a large pinch of flour in each cavity and shake the pan to coat the butter with the flour. Turn the pan upside down over the sink or over some paper towel to catch the flour, and tap to remove any excess.
- Place the pan in the freezer.
The day before or morning of baking - prepare the batter
- Melt the butter either in a small pot on the stovetop over medium heat, or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave for about 1 minute. Set aside to cool.
- Rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingers until it’s mixed through and the sugar is yellow. This helps release the oils and flavour.
- Beat the sugar with the egg and vanilla with handheld electric beaters on high speed for 3 -4 minutes, until thick, creamy and slightly pale.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet and use a rubber spatula to gently fold them in until the dry ingredients are just combined.
- Add the cooled, melted butter to the batter and use a rubber spatula to gently mix until the butter is completely incorporated. The batter will be a little runny.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge 4 hours or overnight.
When you’re ready to bake (either later that day or the next day)
- Remove the madeleine pan from the freezer and fill each cavity about three-quarters full. It’s easiest to use a small spoon or 1 tablespoon cookie scoop to fill the cavities. Do not spread the batter out, it will settle when it bakes. Once you have filled all the cavities, place the tray in the fridge or freezer while the oven pre-heats.
- Preheat the oven to 425˚F (220˚C). When the oven is at temperature, remove the madeleine pan from the fridge and then bake for 8-10 minutes. Your madeleines should be golden around the edges and may have a bump on top—it can be quite pronounced. Don’t worry, that bump is meant to be there!
- Remove the pans from the oven. Immediately remove the madeleines from the pans (use a small knife or spoon to coax them out if they don’t just pop right out) to cool on wire racks. Madeleines are best the day you make them, but they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days. If you glaze them (see below), they are definitely best the day you make them!
- Sprinkle with icing sugar when cool and serve immediately.
Make the glaze and glaze the cakes
- Mix the lemon juice and icing sugar together until there are no lumps and it's a syrupy consistency.
- While the madeleines are still warm, dip one side of the cake into the glaze. Let the excess drip off and allow the glaze to set on the cakes. Enjoy the same day you glaze them.
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What about you – what flavour screams “spring” to you?
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