Madeleines come in a palette of flavors, ranging from traditional lemon zest to orange-flower water, familiar vanilla, fashionable green tea, and, my favorite, honey. I have even come across savory herb or cheese versions. The sign of a fine madeleine is a little hump, created by leaving the batter to chill and stiffen for at least two hours, and by baking in a hot oven. The batter has a tendency to stick to the traditional shell-shaped metal molds, so they should be buttered twice. The cakes also turn out fine in nonstick silicone molds, but they will never color to a crisp golden brown. For a Proustian moment, savor madeleines as he did with a cup of tisane.

Makes about 18 medium madeleines

  • 1 cup/125 g flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup /110 g butter, melted, more for the molds
  • 1/2 cup/100 g granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon/15 g dark brown sugar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon honey
  • Grated zest of l/2 lemon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk

Metal madeleine plaques with 18 medium molds

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl.  In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, honey, lemon zest, eggs, and egg yolk. Whisk the ingredients together by hand or with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until very smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the flour and continue whisking for 1 minute. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours. Brush the molds with melted butter, chill in the freezer until set, and butter a second time.

Heat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Spoon the batter into the molds, filling them almost to the rim. Bake the madeleines until they are puffed, golden brown, and just starting to pull from the sides of the molds, 8 to 10 minutes. Note that the peaked centers will be lighter than the rest of the cakes. Turn them out on a rack to cool. They are best eaten warm from the oven, though they may be stored in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days.

photo by France Ruffenach
by Anne Willan, Chronicle Books, 2007.