A madeleine recipe to take you right to France.
This French madeleines recipe makes a tender, elegant sponge cookie that tastes lovely on its own or with a cup of good tea or coffee. Plus: Learn the trick for how to get those classic humps on your madeleines.
What Are Madeleines?
Madeleines are simple little French sponge cake cookies baked in a scallop mold and usually served with tea or coffee.
Madeleines were perhaps made most famous by Marcel Proust’s 19th-century, seven-volume novel Remembrance of Things Past. In his first volume, Swann’s Way, the author writes:
[My mother] sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called “petites madeleines,” which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell. And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake.
It goes on and on, but suffice it to say: These little cookies are a major life moment for the young man, and he writes that they give him a sense of “all-powerful joy.”
What Makes a Good Madeleine?
Madeleines taste best very fresh. The cookies become dry fairly quickly, so you will want to make sure to eat them as soon as possible after baking, or freeze them and defrost them to order.
To make this recipe for French madeleines:
- Beat the eggs and sugar very well in a mixer until the batter is lightened in color and has thickened a bit into a nice ribbon.
- Sift your flour and baking powder, and fold them and the melted butter into the batter as gently as possible. Do not overmix the batter or it will become tough.
- Chill the madeleine batter and the pan fully. This allows the gluten to relax, and also helps get those pretty madeleine humps–the sign of a truly French madeleine.
- Make sure to grease well the madeleine molds and dust with flour. Those grooves are a recipe for sticking, so you want to avoid that.
What Makes a Hump on a Madeleine? Is a Madeleine Bump Good?
Yes! The madeleine bump is the sign of a very authentic madeleine cookie. Of course, your madeleine will taste just as good without the hump, but the hump is the more French way.
A madeleine hump results from having a chilled pan and batter, placed in a hot oven. When you chill the batter, it takes longer for heat to begin baking the center of the cookie.
The oven spring caused by the hot oven pushes the center of the batter upward before it can bake and set. The hump will usually form toward the end of baking.
To get a madeleine hump:
- Chill the greased and flour-dusted madeleine molds well. You may even want to freeze them.
- Chill the batter for at least one hour, or up to 12 hours. The batter will thicken.
- Use a hot oven. I bake the madeleines at 425 degrees Fahrenheit (about 220 Celsius). You can also place your filled madeleine mold on top of a hot sheet pan for extra oomph.
Enjoy these lovely little cookies on their own, preferably warm from the oven, with a cup of tea or coffee.
More French Desserts to Love:
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- Zest of one lemon, optional
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- Powdered sugar to garnish, optional
- Grease well and dust with flour your madeleine mold or molds. Chill in the freezer or refrigerator until ready to use.
- Beat the eggs, sugar, salt, lemon zest (if using), and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high until light and somewhat thickened. PRO TIP: Need to bring your eggs to room temperature in a hurry? Place them in a bowl of very warm water for about 10 minutes.
- Sift in the flour and baking powder, and stir in by hand or with the mixer on low, until mostly mixed in. Add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, adding the next addition when the previous butter is incorporated. Stir just until fully mixed. Cover and chill for 2 hours, or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. If desired, stick a half-sheet pan in the oven to preheat. (You will place the madeleine mold on it to help the madeleine hump form.)
- Spoon the chilled batter into each of the madeleine mold shells about 3/4 full. TIP: Do not fill the cookie batter to the rim, or they will overflow.
- Place the filled madeleine molds in the oven (on top of the sheet pan, if using) and bake for 9 to 11 minutes, until they turn a light golden brown, especially at the rims.
- Cool in the shells for a few minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack.
- Dust with powdered sugar and serve slightly warm. PRO TIP: Madeleines are best the day you bake them--the sooner out of the oven, the better. Freeze your leftover madeleines, and let them come to room temperature as desired.