Madeleines are little French butter cakes with a moist, dense crumb and crisp edges that are perfect for any occasion. They look so fancy and pretty and lend themselves really well to different flavors. You can add citrus zest to the batter, spices, rosewater, almond extract and more. Give them a chocolate twist by sprinkling chocolate chips or dipping them in melted chocolate!
I had been going back and forth, trying to decide whether buying a madeleine pan would be a good investment. My husband didn’t need to remind me that I already had a million pans! But what’s one more?! I finally caved in and bought one! And I don’t regret it a bit! But even if you aren’t ready to take the plunge, no worries! Use what you already have, such as a mini muffin pan or small tart pans.
We’ll be making today Philippe Conticini’s recipe which is amazing, as usual. Conticini resorts to three types of fat to make these little cakes very rich and moist: butter, oil and lecithin (from the eggs). Let’s go through all the ingredients used to see what role they each play. And if you just want to make and eat the madeleines, jump right ahead to the recipe!
Eggs are composed of 73% water, 13% proteins and 12% fat. The remaining 2% are minerals and other components1.
- Structure: The egg proteins will coagulate and give structure to the madeleines.
- Moisture: Composed primarily of water (73%), whole eggs will contribute to the liquid portion of the batter.
- Emulsifying ability: Egg yolks contain emulsifiers such as lecithin (about 10%) which are hydrophilic (water-loving) and lipophilic (fat-loving). This will enable you to get a smooth, homogeneous batter and will improve the texture of the madeleines, softening them.
- Flavor and color: Egg yolks contain about 32% fat which will add richness and flavor to the madeleines.
- Sweetness and flavor: White sugars (granulated or caster) are generally used although you might find some recipes that call for brown sugar, for a caramel flavor.
- Tenderness: Sugar is hygroscopic and will attract the water in the batter. This means there is less water available for the structure builders (flour, eggs) to do their job.
- Color: Sugar will give your madeleines a nice golden color once they are baked.
- Moistness: Honey is added in this recipe, which will keep the madeleines moist for longer.
- Structure: Flour will give structure to the madeleines through gluten formation and starch gelatinization, which need water to occur. The original recipe calls for French flour T55, which is the equivalent of all-purpose flour in the US. In Europe, you could use Type 0 Italian flour or Euro 550 type flour.
Butter & Oil
- Moistness, richness and flavor: A large amount of butter paired with a small amount of oil makes these madeleines incredibly rich and moist. Melted butter (as opposed to softened) is used in this recipe yielding a wonderfully dense texture. You could even brown the butter as we did when making financiers, for a more complex flavor. The oil will ensure the madeleines stay moist and tender even at cooler temperatures, and for longer.
- Tenderness: Fats weaken the structure by coating the proteins (gluten and egg) and starch granules, making water less accessible to the structure builders.
- Texture, richness and flavor: Adding milk to the recipe will yield a softer texture and more flavor.
- Moisture: Conticini recommends using semi-skimmed milk which contains more water than whole milk. I personally used whole milk as it was all I had.
- Browning: Using a little bit of milk will make the madeleines brown more.
- Leavening: Baking powder is added to this recipe to help achieve the characteristic madeleine “hump”. Not all madeleine recipes will include a leavening agent. It’s important to add the right amount of baking powder. Too much baking powder will cause your madeleine to rise too much and then collapse and could leave a bitter aftertaste.
The baking powder sold nowadays is double-acting baking powder which means it will work twice. Once when you combine the ingredients and then again when you heat the batter. This is what makes it possible to refrigerate the madeleine batter for a few hours before baking it. You wouldn’t be able to do that if you were using baking soda, which starts to lose leavening power shortly after you’ve combined the ingredients.
We will be using vanilla extract and citrus (orange or lemon) zest today to add a subtle flavor to the madeleines. But you can really use what you’d like, such as spices, tea, chocolate etc.
Why Should You Chill The Madeleine Batter?
Once you’ve combined all the ingredients, most recipes will call for chilling the batter for several hours before using it. Although you can still successfully use it straight away, here are a few reasons why chilling the batter first might be best.
- The temperature difference: Placing the cold batter in a hot oven will give rise to the characteristic madeleine hump.
- Thicker batter: Chilling will firm up the butter in the batter, making it easier to spoon into the madeleine pan.
- Proper hydration: Letting the batter rest will allow the flour to slowly absorb the water in the batter, improving the texture and also firming up the batter.
- Gluten relaxation: If you overmixed your batter, you don’t want to skip the chilling step or you might end up with tough madeleines. Letting the batter rest first will yield softer and more tender madeleines.
How To Get The Madeleine Hump
- Chill the batter: For the best results, chill the batter for 24 hours before filling the pan. Then refrigerate the filled pan for one hour, before baking the madeleines in a hot oven.
- Use a madeleine pan: The curved cavities of the madeleine pan will facilitate the formation of a hump.
- Spoon the right amount of batter: Fill the madeleine cavity about 90% of the way. If you fill it to the top, the batter will just spill over. Finding the correct amount of batter for your pan might take a few trials.
- Experiment with the oven settings: The oven should be as hot as possible without overbrowning your madeleines. You’ll have trouble getting a large hump if the oven temperature is too low. I wouldn’t recommend baking the madeleines at a temperature lower than 190°C (374°F). You should also ensure your oven is properly preheated before baking the madeleines, using an oven thermometer. You can read more about this in the oven settings section.
- Don’t leave the oven door open for too long: Try to quickly place the tray into the oven to keep the oven very hot.
- Use a leavening agent: This is optional and some bakers prefer not to use any. But using baking powder will make the batter rise. Keep in mind that baking powder will lose its effectiveness with time. According to David Lebovitz, you can test if baking powder is still good by mixing 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder with 60 ml (1/4 cup) of boiling water. If the mixture reacts and bubbles up a lot, the baking powder is working. If not, you might need to use another batch.
- Make sure the madeleines are fully baked: If you take the madeleines out of the oven too soon, the hump might not have had a chance to form fully, leading to a smaller hump. You might also notice the madeleine deflating if it’s not properly baked.
How To Bake Several Batches Of Madeleines
Most recipes will yield too much batter for one pan. In this case, once the first batch of madeleines has fully baked and cooled down in the pan for a few minutes, unmold the madeleines. Place the empty pan under cold water and then dry it well. Grease the pan once more then fill it with batter and refrigerate it. I usually refrigerate the second batch just for 15 minutes but you can refrigerate for longer if you have time.
Even if you have two pans, it’s best not to bake more than one batch at a time. You don’t need to use up all the batter in one go. You can refrigerate the remaining batter for up to 2 days.
Okay, let’s make madeleines!
Making Madeleines, Step-by-Step
Make orange/lemon sugar
This step is optional but I’d recommend doing it if you’d like to get more flavor out of the citrus zest. If you don’t have 10 minutes to spare, you can simply mix the sugar and zest with the eggs straight away as explained in the next section (or in the recipe card).
- Place the sugar in a mixing bowl.
- Wash and dry the oranges (or lemons) then grate the top layer of the peel over the sugar. Don’t grate the pith (white part) which is bitter. Use organic oranges/lemons if possible, to avoid any pesticide residues.
- Rub the sugar and citrus zest with your fingertips to release the essential oils. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes.
Melt the butter
- Melt the butter in the microwave (or on the stove) and set aside to cool down slightly, to about 30-35°C (86-95°F).
Make sure the butter isn’t too hot when added to the batter as you don’t want to activate the baking powder too early. We will be chilling the batter first so we need to retain the leavening power until we bake the madeleines.
Make the madeleine batter
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder and set aside. You can simply use a fork or a spoon instead of the whisk.
- Add the eggs to the orange/lemon sugar one at a time and briefly whisk between each addition.
- Add the salt and honey and mix until the mixture lightens in color and slightly thickens. You can mix by hand using a whisk or a hand mixer. This step will take about 3 minutes, if using a hand mixer on low speed.
- Mix in the oil.
- Sift the flour and baking powder over the batter and whisk just until combined. It’s best to add the flour mixture gradually (2-3 additions) and to mix with a whisk or a spatula and not a hand mixer from this point forward. Once you add the flour, you should mix as little as possible. Overmixing might cause too much gluten formation which would lead to tough madeleines.
- Pour the melted (and slightly cooled) butter in three additions, gently mixing between each addition.
- Add the milk and vanilla extract and whisk just until the batter looks smooth.
Refrigerate the batter
- Place a piece of parchment paper or cling film straight onto the surface of the batter and refrigerate for 24 hours. The madeleine batter should be cold when placed into the hot oven to get the characteristic madeleine hump. If you are in a rush, refrigerate the batter for at least an hour. Philippe Conticini recommends chilling the batter for 24 hours every time for consistent results.
Skipping the chilling time: It is possible to bake the madeleines straight away, if you really need to. They will still taste great. But there are a few things to keep in mind: 1) The batter will be quite runny and harder to use. 2) The madeleines will take less time to bake since they aren’t cold. So it’s best to check on them 1-2 minutes before the recommended baking time. 3) You might not get a large madeleine hump.
Baking The Madeleines
Filling the madeleine pan
The first thing you need to do before filling the pan is to generously grease it, even if it’s a non-stick pan. The madeleines should release easily from the pan once baked, so you don’t miss out on the pretty pattern!
- Melt a little bit of butter then generously grease the madeleine pan cavities using a pastry brush.
- Take the batter out of the fridge and mix it with a spoon once to loosen it.
- Fill each cavity with about a tablespoon of batter. I used about 25 g (0.9oz.) of batter/cavity. The madeleine pan I use has 12 cavities, with a capacity of about 1 oz. each. Refrigerate for an hour.
How much batter should you use per madeleine? You should fill each cavity until it is about 90% full. If you fill more than that, it might spill from the sides or the hump formed. The edges will also be more pronounced and brown faster (see picture). Test it out: Try different amounts on your first attempt until you are happy with the result. Write down the weight of batter used each time and the shape of the resulting baked madeleine.
Time to bake our madeleines!
Oven setting for madeleines
Finding the correct oven setting is the trickiest part of making madeleines. Unfortunately, there isn’t a foolproof setting as you might have noticed from all the different recommendations online. There are two main ways to go about it.
- Bake at a high temperature (around 220°C/428°F) for a few minutes. Then lower the temperature and continue baking for a few more minutes. Some will temporarily turn off the oven as well.
- Bake at a constant temperature, around 190°C (374°F).
The higher oven temperature will help you achieve the madeleine hump. But it will also brown your madeleines much faster. The key is to find the right temperature (or combination of settings) to get the madeleine shape without browning the outside before the inside has fully cooked.
The best thing to do is test it out. Simply fill one to two cavities with batter and keep the remaining batter in the fridge. Bake the madeleines at different oven settings and write down your results such as:
- Does the madeleine have a hump?
- How much batter did you use per cavity?
- What color is the madeleine? Are the edges too brown?
What worked best in my oven was preheating the oven to 210°C (410°F) then reducing the temperature to 170°C (338°F) as soon as I placed the pan in. The edges of the madeleines were crispy, golden and not burnt. And the hump was quite pronounced.
Baking at a constant temperature of 190°C (374°F) for 9 minutes also worked quite well. The hump was slightly less pronounced but not having to change the oven setting was more convenient.
At 180°C (356°F), only the madeleines at the edges of the pan (closer to the hot oven walls) got a proper hump.
Time for a troubleshooting section. Hopefully you won’t need it but it’s always good to have it! We already discussed the most common issue in the section “How to get the madeleine hump”. In case you missed it, scroll back up.
Let’s talk about two more issues you might encounter: dry madeleines and brown madeleines.
Why are my madeleines dry?
If your madeleines are dry from the moment they come out of the oven, you most likely overbaked them. Solution: Try baking a few minutes less next time or at a lower temperature.
Wrong proportions or recipe used
It’s best to weigh the ingredients (even the liquids) to get consistent results that are closest to the original recipe. Some recipes will also have less butter than others, leading to madeleines that are drier. It’s best to use approximately equal amounts of flour and butter for a moist madeleine. If you are using a different recipe than the one shared in this post, you could try replacing a small amount of butter with oil, as Philippe Conticini does in his recipe. Honey will also add moistness to your madeleines and increase shelf time.
Stored for too long
Madeleines are best eaten the day they are made and will have a tendency to dry out. It’s best to refrigerate the batter (for up to 2 days) and bake the madeleines before serving them. Store the baked madeleines in an airtight container once they have cooled down.
Why did my madeleines brown so much?
Baked at a high temperature or for too long
If the madeleines are browning too quickly, before the inside has fully cooked, you probably need to decrease the oven temperature. If the oven temperature is already low, you might be baking them for too long. Solution: Try decreasing the temperature next time or baking for less time.
Dark metal pan
Dark pans heat up faster and more than light colored pans and you might find that your madeleines brown too quickly. If that’s the case, try lowering the temperature a little and baking for less time. I’m using a dark colored pan myself. At the other end are silicone pans, which usually yield a pale color.
And that’s it! I really hope this post was helpful and that you’ll love the madeleines! They’re really fun to make and you’ll start thinking about all the variations you can make!
I’m thinking chocolate! Yes, I’ve always got chocolate on the brain! I’ve already tried dipping them in chocolate. Milk chocolate was amazing! And I coated them with chocolate. I was so proud of the the chocolate shell I created! I thought it would be much harder to make! I’ll share it with you in a future post if you’re interested!
You Might Also Like
- Hazelnut financiers
- Marble cake
- Genoise (Sponge cake)
- Chocolate lava cake
1Gisslen, W. (2005). Professional Baking (4th ed.). Wiley