Originally posted August 6, 2015. Revised and updated July 28, 2016.
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There’s nothing that epitomizes European home baking like the French madeleine cookie. Although they may have a fancy name, they are super simple to make.
“No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me… And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which … my aunt Léonie used to give me… The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.”
– Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time
Believe it or not, the 20th century French writer and critic Marcel Proust was indeed speaking about the fine sponge cookies (or “biscuits” for our European-based readers) to which he dedicated several pages of his famous novel.
While dipping a madeleine into his tea, Proust’s childhood memories overwhelmed him, and inspired him to compose a passage about his love for this type of cookie.
Flavors, odors, and sounds are linked with memory and can arouse very specific emotions. I’m sure all of you share similar memories associated with a particular food, drink, or smell.
Food is a basic human need, and it often serves as catalyst for thoughts and memories. Perhaps this beautiful madeleine recipe will someday make you remember a wonderful time as well.
The shell-shaped biscuits have their origin in France. It is said that they got their name in the 18th century and were named after a female cook at the court of the Duke of Lorraine in Commercy.
Perhaps it’s because of their shape, but I always think of madeleines as the aristocrats of cookies. They look elegant and refined, and due to the sponge mixture of the batter, they won’t crumble when you take a nibble.
Most importantly, they are quite easy to make!
Madeleines require only a handful of ingredients, and preparation is quick and easy.
The most important thing to have on hand is a suitable mold.
At first, I was hesitant to purchase one of these.
I was in a bit of a quandary as to whether it was really worth it to get an extra piece of bakeware for making one specific type of baked good.
Like many European kitchens, the space in my baking and cooking abode is limited, and all the equipment needs to have its own adequate storage space.
But at the end of the day, my wish to make these wonderful-looking (and tasting) treats at home was stronger than my perceived lack of space to keep another pan around the house.
Bellemain 12-Cup Nonstick Madeleine Pan available on Amazon
I use a heavy-duty nonstick madeleine panlike the one pictured above and my experience with this product has been very positive.
The biscuits bake with a nice color, and they are easy to unmold. The pan can be cleaned quickly so it’s ready for the next batch.
Of course, if you prefer a material other than carbon steel, you could choose a silicone mold.
Freshware 18-Cavity Medium Silicone Mold for Homemade Madeleine Cookies
If you decide to “go whole hog” with these particular cookies, why not seek out a little added inspiration at the same time? This wonderful book will not only looks great on your shelf or provide some enticing eye candy on your coffee table, but it’s also an incredibly useful cookbook.
It offers a great variety of sweet and savory, classic and modern madeleine recipes. Once you’ve mastered mine, give a few of these a try!
Madeleines: Elegant French Tea Cakes to Bake and Share
Despite all of the available spruced up versions that various recipe writers have come up with, the plain variety is still one of my favorites. I love enjoying these cookies with a hot drink.
Like Proust, you can have a cup of fresh tea in the winter, or a wonderful cold brew coffee would hit the spot in the summertime.
Or, have a whole afternoon of fancy confections, and add another treat to your baking list: such as these elaborately edible candied jelly squares, perfect for just a bit of sweetness with tea time.
- 1 vanilla pod
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 6 tablespoons plus one teaspoon butter, melted and cooled
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Powdered sugar for dusting
- Scrape out the vanilla pod and reserve the pulp.
- Beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla pulp in a large bowl until thick and creamy.
- Sift the flour and baking powder into the same bowl and stir to combine.
- Stir in the melted butter and honey, set aside in a cool place for 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 360°F (180°C).
- Fill your madeleine molds with the batter and bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Repeat the baking process until you have used up all of your batter.
- Cool cookies on a wire rack and dust with powdered sugar.
So, what to do you think? Time to get yourself a new baking pan? Sometimes nothing could be better than a short stack of freshly baked cookies.
If you loved this cookie, be sure to try these elegant oatmeal lace desserts, or European vanilla crescent cookies, which are somewhat similar.
Or, my German-style Amerikaner cookies, or these tender snowflakes cookies, may also just be a hit!
Give this recipe a try, and don’t forget to let me know how it turns out in the comments!
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Photos by Nina-Kristin Isensee, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Additional writing and editing contributed by Allison Sidhu.
About Nina-Kristin Isensee
Nina lives in Iserlohn, Germany and holds an MA in Art History (Medieval and Renaissance Studies). She is currently working as a freelance writer in various fields. She enjoys travel, photography, cooking, and baking. Nina tries to cook from scratch every day when she has the time and enjoys trying out new spices and ingredients, as well as surprising her family with new cake creations.
35 thoughts on “Madeleines: The Aristocrat of Cookies”
Oh my gosh, those cookies look delicious. I’ve never heard of them before but I’m so intrigued. Are they more like a cookie or a cake in texture? I’m thinking about giving them a try but I definitely need to pick up that baking pan. They look like they’ll taste nice with some warm chamomile tea, ugh. I don’t know why I do this to myself because now I’m so hungry.
I would say they are actually a bit more related to a small cake then to cookies. The consistency is rather soft as if you bite into a piece of sponge cake. This makes them a really fantastic companion for tea or coffee, I could eat quite a bunch of them with their subtle honey and vanilla flavor 🙂 So have fun baking them some time and good luck choosing the right mold for you.
Madeleines are definitely among my preferred coffee or tea cookies as I adore their buttery flavor and soft texture. I aspire to make them one day, although I too am unsure as to whether I should go through with purchasing a specific mold in order to create a batch. In the meantime, I enjoy buying them from Publix whenever I want to entertain my guests. However, I’ll bookmark this page for future reference. Thank you for the recipe!
I never knew these cookies were named after someone. I love how I get a recipe for this and a sweet history lesson. In the past I have bought these types of treats for myself. Whenever I’m in the store, I tend to find regular cookie sheets, not the kind I see in the photos here. I might want to try finding it online before trying out this recipe.
Yum, I love Madeleines. I haven’t had them in a quite a while, and have never made them. I did look at the pan, and it’s a deal at around $10, so I think it’ll be worth the investment, so then I can make these for myself, as well as for gifts for the holidays.
I made these for my step-mother when I used to live with her and she LOVED it. And if I had to add, I’ve always been a little iffy about whether or not a silicone mold is safe to use but I tried it once and the they came out delicious!
I understand your thoughts about silicone, sometimes one can’t find any information about the origin and the processing of it. However, some products have quality-seals to be food-safe e.g. I always try to look out for things like that.
I’m happy that you’ve found a perfect mold that also works out great with the cookies!
You are absolutely right about the deliciousness of these spongy cookies/biscuits/cakes (or whatever definition these fall in), and I completely agree with your take on the pan. In my cupboard I have so many different pans that buying a new one seems kind of like a waste of space. I do really want to try the recipe, so now I am seriously considering buying one. Let’s just say your blog is also a great marketing tool for companies!
Don’t worry, I am not trying to start a new salesman-career 😉 But sometimes there are several products that make baking or cooking easier or – in this case – fancier and I think this could be one of those things.
So I hope you might find some place for the pan if you’re going to get one.
I now use my oven as a storage opportunity when it’s not in use. All my muffin-molds, this one and some of my baking equipment could be stored between the baking trays in there.
I love cookies. I think I’ve heard of this kind but I’ve not tried them. Sounds like these would be a favorite. I stopped making cookies years ago because they kept coming out wrong.These look so perfect I think I will leave it up to the experts.
Well do you have any idea what went wrong? The thing about these ones is that they won’t become so good-looking without the mold. But you shouldn’t be too hard on your baking skills even if some things do not look the way they are supposed to look in the first place. The main point is that they taste great 🙂 And if they don’t look perfect, it’s one more reason to nibble them right away! 😉
I haven’t tried baking these because I don’t have the right baking tray or molds for them. The recipe does look simple and easy so if I do see a baking mold that isn’t too expensive, I may just try them.
I like eating them regardless, but home baked ones would be better, and would add more butter and lemon in mine.
I haven’t thought about these for many years! I had an aunt who made them for us when I was a small child, and I loved them! I agree with the author about one- purpose utensils, but if I can find a Madeleine pan, I will buy one, just so I can have these wonderful cakes again!
I love Madeleines, but I tend to only have them in the prepackaged variety, which is obviously never as good as having them made at home. I’m going to give this recipe a shot, because I haven’t had a good, good cookie in a long time for whatever reason. I’ve been trying to stay away from the sweets, but this sounds and looks too good to pass up.
Was anyone else dangerously obsessed with madeleines when they had their first bite? I can distinctively remember getting them at a coffee shop back in Taiwan when my mom and I were just hanging out and shopping…the spongy texture of the cake, the buttery sweetness all leaves you wanting more after the first bite. While I consider these to be a rare dessert (since unfortunately they are a bit high in fat content), they are quite popular now and so it’s hard to avoid temptation!
However, I wonder…if one was to make their own version of this elegant treat, would one be able to cut down on the butter and sugar content in order to lower the caloric level? What would that do to the wonderful texture and softness that we all love?
By the way, love the silicon molds. SO handy and makes things so much easier after the cake is done baking 🙂
I completely agree with you! It is tough to resist once you have tasted this buttery and soft goodies.
Well I think if you want to cut down calories, you could try using low-fat margarine or just reduce the amount of sugar about 1/3.
I am not completely sure about other kinds of sweeteners, like vegetable options (stevia) because I have not enough experience with them. Should be worth a try!
Concerning the flavor and consistency, I think this will have an influence (fat can work as a flavor carrier). But if you then just feel better eating them, you should be fine.
If you have tried, you are welcome to share your experience. 🙂
These are my go-to cookies whenever I feel like eating something sweet. Not only they’re pretty easy to make but they’re also pretty tasty. My husband loves whenever I cook them for him!
These sure do look lovely and I bet they taste even better! This is the ideal recipe to add to my list for Christmas baking. I am sure everyone will love these and I have been looking for a new idea.
I have never heard of these cookies but they look absolutely mouth watering. This is my next cookie recipe to try. The ingredients are simple. I wonder though if would find the right mold.
I’m happy to hear that. I’m sure you will love them, they taste like a little sponge cake, moist and soft. And the dash of honey provides a nice, sweet touch. You might have a look for the mold in special stores that sell kitchen equipment or you can find different versions online, we collected some ideas and links in the article. Enjoy!
Figures they would be french. They look absolutely delicious, thanks for sharing! They look like a great addition for a sweet breakfast with milk, or just generally to use it around during the holidays.
Definitely! I think, too, that they are wonderful seasonal treats. I don’t know why exactly, but I always think they perfectly belong to the cold season and into Christmas time. It’s like you say, as a breakfast addition or with some milk or even hot chocolate, they make a perfect impression.
Thanks for the recipe! I have a madeleine mold that I bought on a whim but never used because I forgot what it was called 😛 I hope I’ll be able to do a good job with it, then I’ll share it with my family on Christmas eve 🙂
Ha ha, what a great coincidence 😉 And just in time for holiday season. I wish you good luck and that you can enjoy a batch of delicious madeleines on Christmas eve. Happy Holidays!
I haven’t ever tried them, but they certainly do seem good from the article. I think my kids would probably love them. I’m all tired out from baking though after the holidays. I may just find some from a bakery and shop to try and save the recipes for later when I’m up yo baking some more.
Oh yes, I can understand that. After all the baking and nibbling, one needs a little break, right? I hope you find some nice ones in a bakery and prepare some by yourself when the time for homemade goodies has come again 😉
Does anyone know where I might find a madeleine pan? This seems like such a wonderful recipe to try but I’m not sure where I might be able to get the mould for them.
A practical way is to order one online. You can find some suggestions in the article above 🙂 But if you have a specialty store around that sells kitchen or baking products, you might find one as well. Stores like this exist here in Germany, so I hope you’ll be lucky and find a way to get yourself a nice new pan for these litle treats!
This is my first time to hear of such-named cookies. While the biscuit name sound so fancy, I can’t help but think of its Filipino equivalent. I don’t know if they’re even the same, but looking at the pictures, they appear to me like toasted ‘mamon’ famous in the town of Bacolod. This is like a favorite biscuit to give to friends and family when visiting Bacolod. Anyhow, I think these biscuits are something I would enjoy munching with my very favorite ‘sikwate’ (local chocolate drink made of pure cacao beans!)
Thanks for that info, I haven’t heard about those Filipino biscuits before, but as I’m always interested into new and foreign recipes, I will for sure do some research! And may I add that a chocolate drink like that sounds perfect to have with the madeleines. Enjoy 🙂
It’s great that you mentioned how we associate flavors with memories, and I have a bunch of them, especially on the little town that I go every summer since I was a little boy, the food is just unique there.
I actually have tasted this recipe without really knowing its origins! In my country they are called Magdalenas, and they come in a lot of presentations, I also think that they come in little muffins, so I never really going to get bored of them.
Thanks for this one!
I’ve heard of “Magdalenas” before, it’s great that one kind of treat can be varied in so many ways! I always enjoy to try out new ingredients or extras and create new versions of cakes and cookies 🙂
It is really interesting that food can influence our memories like this, right? I also have lots of those, it’s not only the flavors one remembers, but often also smells, textures etc. It is miraculous how our brain works here 😉
I have never had these, but I sure would like to try them. Are they crispy? They appear to have a nice, light texture. They sound really tasty as well. Perfect with a hot beverage.
They certainly do sound simple enough to make, and I generally have most of the ingredients on hand. Thanks for sharing this special treat with us. I bet my little darlings would like some of these. We could have a regular tea party with this recipe.
Thanks, they are not too difficult, exactly. The texture is soft (comparable to sponge dough) and light, not crispy, right. And when they are still fresh and warm, there is no chance of resistance for me – I hope for you and your family neither 😉 Enjoy
In Venezuela, we actually have some cookies that are quite similar to these you’re sharing, however, the name is different, we call them “Catalinas” here. These are a little bit different in some way, but I’d like to try these for the first time just to compare. Thank you for sharing this.