A slice of cake is not my favourite naughty nibble but offer me a freshly baked, warm Madeleine with my cuppa and you won’t hear me say no. Perhaps it’s because they were first baked in the region of Lorraine! Really, they are a small cake but there is something about the light, warm centre and slightly crisp “shell” that ticks all the boxes for me.
Unsurprisingly there are a number of claims for the origins of the Madeleine. My favourite version is what the people of Lorraine believe, in that this delicious little cake is named after Madeleine Paulmier. in 1755, Madeleine was a young servant of the Duke of Lorraine who resided at Château de Commercy. During an elaborate dinner, there was an incident with the chef who hung up his apron and left the Château…with dessert! To save the absolute embarrassment of the Duke if no dessert was served, plucky little Madeleine cooked up some little cakes from her grandmother’s recipe. The cakes were well received and the Duke promptly named them after Madeleine for saving his reputation amongst the other nobles. What a heroine.
Of course I can’t help but wonder how she managed to create the classic Madeleine shape without the help of a Madeleine pan…and also, where did her Grandmother get the recipe from? We shall never know….
Madeleines are wildly popular here in France and you find poor versions everywhere. The absolute worst are the ones to be found on the biscuit aisle of the supermarket – whilst they resemble these pretty cakes, they taste like stale, shop bought cake with too much rising agent in them (that strange metallic taste). If you find yourself in a French tea shop or beautiful patisserie, look out for the real McCoy…or just make some yourself and eat them warm.
I tried a few recipes for Madeleines before I found the combination I particularly liked and here is my Honey Version, also found in our cookbook. For the honey, you want to use a really full flavoured honey so that the honey flavour and not just a sweet taste comes through to the final cake. I like to use Australian Leatherwood when I have it or a chestnut flower honey from Italy. You will need the special pan to create the classic Madeleine shape, I like the Masterclass Madeleine pan
This recipe makes about 20 Madeleines. I think they are best served straight from the oven but they can be reheated in the microwave for 10 seconds too
90g unsalted butter
3 tsp good quality honey
10g brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tsp baking powder
Melted butter for greasing the tin
Prepare the batter…
Melt the butter and honey in a small saucepan over a low heat. Once melted, remove from the heat.
In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs, sugars, salt and vanilla extract on high speed until it has approximately doubled in volume (around 3-4 minutes).
Using a metal spoon, gently fold the flour and baking powder into the egg mixture. Do not mix vigorously as you want to keep the volume you have created when mixing the eggs and sugar. It will be quite dry.
When the flour is just incorporated, pour in the warm honey and butter down the side of the bowl so that it sits on the top. Gently fold this into the batter and when fully combined, cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rest for a minimum of 1 hour and up to 6 (do not put in the fridge).
When ready to bake, heat the oven to 220˚C and brush your Madeline pan with a little melted butter.
Transfer the batter into a piping bag, fitted with a 10mm nozzle and pipe your mixture into the Madeline pan slots so that each one is ¾ full. You can just pipe in a straight line – the mixture will fill the shape correctly when it is in the oven.
Bake for 5 minutes until they have fully risen and are golden brown. If they appear soft or pale, cook for another 30 seconds.
Gently remove using a spatula to a wire cooling rack, rest briefly then eat! With a cuppa or with ice cream for dessert.