These spongy, moist cakes are easily recognisable by their characteristic shell-like indentations and a “hump”. Madeleine was apparently a name of a woman who cooked for Stanislas Leszczynski, a Polish king in exile, at the time Duke of Lorraine. One night, while entertaining his guests in the castle of Commercy, he asked his cook, Madeleine, to prepare a new dessert. Delighted by the discovery, he sent some of the cakes to his daughter, Marie Leszczynska, king Louis XV’s wife. Thanks to the queen’s and court’s appreciation the cakes became one of the most famous French pastry.

Even though the batter is very easy to make, it should be made at least 12 hours in advance and the baking process must be carefully watched. Otherwise madeleines may come out heavier, without the famous hump and they may not rise as much as they should (I have tested this quick and lazy option).

Since it’s a national classic, every French cookery book has a slightly different recipe version. I have tried several of them but my favourite is the one by Alain Ducasse, a famous French chef,  (taken from “Le Grand Livre de Cuisine d’Alain Ducasse: Bistrots, Brasseries et Restaurants de Tradition”). Just like all his recipes, this one never lets me down.

Preparation time: 25 minutes (+ 12 hours in the fridge)

Calories (the whole batch): about 1300 kcal

Ingredients (around 30-35 madeleines):

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

65g sugar

60g flour

1/2 tablespoon baking powder

75g warm melted butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 vanilla pod or zest grated from one lemon/small orange

butter and flour for the forms

Mix the eggs and the yolk in a food processor.
Add the sugar and mix until it whitens and becomes very foamy.
Add the salt, the baking powder and the flour. Mix again.
If using vanilla pods, split them lengthwise and scrape all the grains into the batter. If you prefer lemon madeleines, just add the zest.
At the end pour the warm butter, mix a bit, put into a container, cover it and leave in the fridge for at least 12 hours.

Preheat the oven at 210 ° C.

Grease madeleine forms with butter and sprinkle with flour. Shake off the excess flour, fill with the cold batter up to 1/2 height, (they will rise a lot)  and put into the oven.

Now you should observe the cakes carefully. As soon as the borders rise and madeleines become hollow at the centre, switch off the oven (without opening it) and wait till the “humps” are formed. As soon as they form, switch on the oven to 190°C and cook until golden. Take them out very carefully as they are quite soft and delicate.