Classic French Madeleines

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Classic French Madeleines in a baking pan

Classic French Madeleines

This classic French Madeleines recipe makes the perfect mid-day treat to enjoy with tea or coffee. Even better? They’re simple to bake and you probably already have all the ingredients!

Madeleines are one of my favorite French pastries to make in my atelier and one of my favorites to teach others how to make. They’re wonderful if you want an easy, yet elegant dessert to delight guests or just munch on after a meal. 

Keep reading to learn more about how to make French madeleines at home.

Is a madeleine a cookie or a cake?

This is one of the most common questions I get about madeleines! Depending on who you ask, these delightful little treats may be classified as cookies or cakes. The truth is, they’re a bit of both…and not exactly either one.

The batter for Madeleines is similar to that of a sponge cake, but it has lots of butter in it that gives them more of a tender crumb. They develop a slightly crisp edge while baking, much like a cookie, but remain soft and moist on the inside like a cake!

Because they are traditionally baked in shell-like molds, they look more like cookies. They’re also treated more like cookies as well, typically enjoyed with coffee or tea and eaten with your hands.

So what’s the final verdict? I think of madeleines as little cakes, but the truth is they don’t neatly fit into either category. Instead, they occupy a delightful space somewhere in between. This is part of what makes them so special in the world of French pastry!

How do the French eat madeleines?

There’s really no wrong way to enjoy a French madeleine! They’re a favorite during the afternoon “goûter” (snack) time and perfect for dipping into a cup of tea. 

They’re often dusted with powdered sugar or glazed with a light citrus or chocolate coating for an extra touch of sweetness. But you can really get creative with them! In my cookbook, for example, I have a recipe for Earl Gray madeleines and milk chocolate madeleines. I also have a glazed madeleines recipe available here on my website I love!

You can also find these treats used in other desserts, like trifles and parfaits.

Molly Wilkinson and her dog look at freshly baked French madeleines

Classic French Madeleine Ingredients

One of the best things about making madeleines at home is that the ingredient list is so simple. This classic French madeleine recipe requires just a few basic ingredients:

  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Granulated sugar
  • Whole milk
  • Flour
  • Baking powder
  • Lemon zest (optional)
  • Honey

You can add additional flavoring and make these madeleines your own by incorporating different citrus zest, extracts and other ingredients.

How to Make Madeleines At Home

Making madeleines is almost as simple as the ingredient list. They’re one of my favorite French pastry recipes to make at home and are really great for beginners

Making Madeleine Batter

Melt the butter and set aside to cool slightly. Then, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well combined and then whisk in the milk. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Add this mixture into the egg and milk mixture.

Add the zest and honey to the melted butter and then slowly add to the batter, whisking together until smooth.

Baking Madeleines

You can bake the madeleines right away or, even better, cover the batter with plastic wrap touching the surface of the batter and chill for several hours or even overnight.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375F/190C and generously butter and flour a madeleine tin. Fill the molds about ¾ of the way full, either piping or spooning the batter into the center.

Place the filled molds in the freezer for 5 minutes until the pan is very cold and then place it directly into the preheated oven. Bake for five minutes and then turn down the heat to 325F/160C before baking for an additional 5 minutes. 

You’ll know your cakes are done when they spring back to the touch and are nicely browned. If you’re using a silicone madeleine mold instead of a metal one, they may need a few extra minutes. Remove the madeleines from the molds right away and allow them to cool on a wire rack.

classic French madeleines in a madeleine pan

Tips for Making the Perfect French Madeleine

1 – Rest your batter overnight in the fridge. I do this in a piping bag but you could simply put plastic wrap over the batter in a bowl.

2 – Grease your pans- no matter if it’s nonstick- with butter and flour. You can brush melted butter into the tin, or I just use a paper towel with a bit of butter on it.

3 – Chill your greased pan, pipe in the batter, then straight into the hot oven to help with lift and the signature “bump”.

What can I use instead of a madeleine pan?

If you want to make madeleines but don’t have a madeleine baking pan, you still have some options! 

If you don’t have a madeleine pan on hand, fear not! There are a few alternatives you can use to still achieve that classic madeleine shape and texture:

  • Mini or Regular Muffin Pan: While the shape won’t be exactly the same, a mini muffin pan can work well as a substitute. Grease the muffin cups generously and fill them about two-thirds full with the madeleine batter. Keep in mind that the baking time may need to be adjusted slightly.
  • Mini Tart Pan or Molds: Mini tart pans or tart molds can also work well for madeleines. These often come in a variety of shapes and while they won’t be the traditional shell shape, they’ll still help you achieve the right texture and taste!
  • Free-form: If all else fails, you can simply drop spoonfuls of the madeleine batter onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, shaping them into ovals with slightly pointed ends. While these won’t have the traditional shell shape and may not get as crisp around the edges, they’ll still taste delicious! I’ve also seen people do this with cupcake liners on a baking sheet, using the liners to help make a madeleine-like shape.

Regardless of the method you use, keep an eye on the baking time and adjust it as needed to ensure your madeleines are perfectly golden brown and cooked through. And remember, while the shape may vary, your madeleines will be just as delicious!

Madeleine Variations to Try

There are so many flavors to try when baking madeleines. I love chocolate madeleines, but you can also use citrus and other fruit flavors, flavor with nuts or try other toppings. One of my favorite ways to make madeleines is by adding a simple glaze made with powdered sugar, lemon juice and water.

Madeleines usually dry out within a day. The glaze acts as a protective coating helping these little cakes keep from drying out. I just dunked the top of the madeleines pictured below, but you could absolutely glaze the whole cake. On top, I sprinkled my favorite mix of dried culinary flowers from Aromandise.

glazed french madeleines

Storing French Madeleines

Madeleines are best enjoyed fresh out of the oven when they are still warm. But if you can’t eat them right away or simply want to enjoy them for a few days, here are some helpful storage tips.

How long do madeleines last after baking?

If stored in an airtight container at room temperature, madeleines can stay fresh for about 2 to 3 days. Their texture may become a bit drier over time. You can also keep madeleines for about 5 to 7 days in the refrigerator. I recommend allowing them to come to room temperature before serving.

Can you freeze madeleines?

Yes, you can! Place your madeleines in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until firm. Once they’re frozen, you can transfer them to a freezer-safe bag or container. Make sure to remove as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn.

Madeleines can last about 2 to 3 months in the freezer. When you’re ready to eat them, let them thaw at room temperature or gently reheat them in the oven.

Classic French Madeleines

Ingredients

  • 200g (14 tbsp) butter, melted and cooled
  • 3 large eggs
  • 130g (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) whole milk
  • 200g (1 ½ cups) flour
  • 7g (1 ½ tsp) baking powder
  • 1 lemon, finely grated zest only (optional)
  • 15g (1 tbsp) honey
  • 1/4 tsp of salt

Instructions

  1. Start by melting the butter. Then set aside to cool slightly.
  2. In a big bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar well. Whisk in the milk.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Then whisk this into the egg/milk mixture in two additions.
  4. Add the zest and honey to the melted butter, and then pour into the batter in two additions, whisking together until smooth.
  5. These can be baked right away, or even better, cover with plastic wrap touching the surface and chill for several hours or overnight. The batter will become thicker and be easier to put in the molds.
  6. When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375F/190C (convection or standard). 
  7. Butter and flour the madeleine tin generously. Fill the molds ¾ of the way full, either piping or spooning the batter into the center. 
  8. Place in the freezer for 5 minutes until the pans are very cold and then put directly into the oven.
  9. Bake for 5 minutes, and then turn down the heat to 325F/160C. Bake for an additional 5 minutes. If using silicone or non-convection, they might need to bake 2-3 more minutes. The cakes should spring back and they should be nicely brown as well.
  10. As soon as they come out of the oven, de-mold the madeleine by turning over the pan onto a clean kitchen towel, tapping the end if necessary.

Notes

If using silicone or non-convection, they might need to bake 2-3 more minutes. You can also bake these in mini muffin tins or in cupcake liners on a baking sheet.

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Classic French Madeleines in a baking pan

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