French Madeleines are light, airy, and buttery mini sponge cakes with a scalloped shell shape and golden crisp edges! These cakes are sweet with a hint of lemon, perfect for enjoying alongside a cup of hot tea or coffee!
French Madeleines are such a simple and luxurious dessert. This little butter cakes are soft on the inside and have a slightly crisp outer shell. They’re buttery and delicious without being heavy!
French Madeleines taste great on their own but try dipping them in your favorite warm drink at least once! When you bite into one that has soaked up a bit of your coffee or tea with their sponginess you’ll feel like you’re enjoying them in a French Pâtisserie!
Although, if you ever do get a chance to go to France, you absolutely should go! You will not be disappointed by the sights or their incredible food that you’ll find yourself indulging in!
French Madeleines Ingredients
While this is an authentic French dessert recipe, the ingredients used in it are actually pretty basic pantry staples. This means you can easily recreate these tasty cakes right in your own kitchen without traveling to France!
Making a homemade french dessert doesn’t get easier when the ingredients list is this simple! For this recipe, you’ll need eggs, granulated sugar, vanilla paste or extract, unsalted butter, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt.
Use Irish or European butter for the best flavor. It’s richer, creamier, and has lower water content, and is worth the extra splurge at the grocery store! I prefer the Kerrygold brand, but Finlandia is good too. Butter from a local creamery or farm with grass-fed cows would also work well!
You also need pastry flour, though all-purpose flour can be used instead it will create a more dense crumb.
Lastly, powdered sugar is used to dust the cookies once they’re baked and cooled!
How To Make French Madeleines
- Beat together the eggs, sugar, zest, and vanilla for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Fold the sifted flour, baking powder, and salt into the egg mixture until the batter is smooth. Then add some of the batter to the melted butter and gently fold that back into the batter until combined.
- Chill the dough in the refrigerator or freezer. Afterward, quickly mix again to remove excess air bubbles.
- Fill each greased madeleine form evenly with batter. Keep in mind that the dough will rise a lot so be careful not to fill them too high. This is the pan I used! Then bake in a preheated oven on the middle rack until cooked and are golden brown around the edges. Then let them cool in the pan before moving them to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
- Serve warm dusted with powdered sugar! These are best within 1 hour of baking since they will lose moisture and crispness quickly.
I recommend keeping any excess batter in the refrigerator in between baking batches if you only have one pan.
For full recipe and detailed instructions, scroll to the recipe card.
According to Dominique Ansel, a famous French Baker who invented the Cronut, most of us serve Madeleine’s all wrong. They’re even wrong in most of these pictures but since this is how most people recognize them, this is how I photographed them.
Anyway, According to Ansel’s Instagram, they should be served warm with the pearl side up with the “shell” on the bottom and sprinkled in powdered sugar. See the below photo for an example of how to properly serve them.
French Madeleines Variations
- Try adding different flavors or spices like cinnamon, orange zest, or some rum extract!
- You can mix finely chopped dried fruits, chopped nuts, or even mini chocolate chips into the batter!
- Sprinkle powdered sugar or cocoa powder over the tops of them after they’re done baking!
- Dip them into melted white chocolate or milk chocolate, lemon or orange glaze. Then sprinkle them before they dry with crushed nuts, chocolate pieces, or sprinkles!
- If you want a deeper and nuttier flavor, try making these with brown butter. Simply brown your butter and let it solidify again at room temperature before using.
Cake or Cookies?
Even though their size and shape might have you wanting to call them cookies, Madeleines are actually little butter cakes.
What If I Don’t Have A Madeleine Pan?
Not a problem, you can just use a mini muffin pan instead! Do not bake them in liners, just grease the pan directly.
Baking them this way will give you the flavor of the authentic cakes but you will lose out on some of the texture.
Can I Make Them Ahead Of Time!
The batter for these Madeleine Cakes can be made and stored covered for up to one day in the refrigerator. The baked cakes can also be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
However, they are best enjoyed within an hour of baking for the best texture and flavor. They will lose the crispy edges and begin to dry out rather quickly.
Can I Freeze French Madeleines?
Absolutely! Once they’ve cooled completely wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and they’ll last up to 4 months in the freezer. Save the powdered sugar dusting for when they’re ready to serve!
This madeleine recipe reminds me of all the incredible food I devoured during my time traveling around France! I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed by a French recipe, so here are a few more of my favorites that I think you’ll love!
- Easy Chocolate Ganache – Rich chocolate filling and topping perfect for cakes, cupcakes, cookie sandwiches, and more!
- Chocolate Eclair – Hollow choux dough with a pastry cream filling dipped in a rich chocolate glaze!
- Homemade French Hot Chocolate – Cozy up with a mug full of this thick, rich, and creamy warm drink!
- French Onion Soup – Made with caramelized onions, beef broth, and spices topped with french bread and melted gruyere cheese.
- Bacon Onion Spinach Quiche Lorraine – A hearty breakfast option served in a pie crust!
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- Beat together the eggs, sugar, zest, and vanilla in a large bowl for several until pale and fluffy.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into the bowl and fold in with a rubber spatula until you have a smooth batter.
- Remove some of the batter and mix it into the melted butter, then slowly add the melted butter and batter mixture back into the rest of the batter and mix gently until combined.
- Cover and refrigerate the batter for 30 minutes or freeze for 15 minutes. You can refrigerate the batter for up to 24 hours before baking but do not freeze for longer than 15 minutes. Do not skip chilling the batter, this is what helps them rise.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and lightly grease the madeleine pan. Since the pan has scalloped edges, the best way to do this is with a pastry brush and melted butter, but you can also use cooking spray. There's no need to flour the pan, in fact, they taste better without it in my opinion.
- Take the batter out of the fridge and quickly mix again to remove excess air bubbles.
- Fill your madeleine form evenly with the batter. Don´t fill them too high, the dough will rise a lot. For me, a full tablespoon works perfectly.
- Bake on the middle rack for 10 to 12 minutes or until the centers bump up and they are golden brown around the edges. The madeleines should have a little bump on the top side, this is the desired "pearl" and what makes them unique.
- Let them cool in the pan for a few minutes then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.
- Do not put the cakes in the oven before it’s preheated, they need that shock of cold batter meets high temperature in order to bake properly.
- All-purpose flour may be used in this recipe but the cakes/cookies will be a bit denser.
- Cooling down the dough helps to keep it from overflowing the form and getting out some of the air.
- You can also use a (mini) muffin pan if you don’t own a madeleine pan If you only have one pan and need to bake in batches, keep the remaining dough in the fridge until you are ready to bake it.
- Variations/how to switch it up: You can add different flavors or spices like cinnamon, orange zest, or some rum extract or finely chopped dried fruits. Sweetness is to taste, you can add 1/4 cup more or less sugar depending on your preferences.
- Can I make this ahead? Yes, they will stay good in an airtight container for around 3 days. Right after baking, they will have a slight crisp, they will soften and moisten a bit after being stored. You can also prepare the batter one day ahead and keep it covered in your fridge.
- Can I freeze madeleines? Yes, you can! Let them cool down completely and freeze tightly covered for up to 4 months.