Madeleines, either plain or chocolate madeleines, are small shell shaped French buttery sponge cakes. They were first seen in the Lorraine region in the mid 18th century. The French eat madeleines in the morning for breakfast with coffee or tea and in the afternoon as a “gouter” or snack.
Typically, the batter, also known as a genoise, is composed of flour, eggs, sugar, butter, and baking powder. I added cocoa, coffee, and rum to these chocolate madeleines to get a different result. Chocolate always makes life better or so it seems! Generally the madeleines are plain and may have a touch of vanilla, or the recipe may add ground nuts, especially almonds, or a teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest.
Marcel Proust, a french novelist in the 1920’s, made madeleines famous in his book “Remembrances of Things Past.” In the autobiography, Proust relates how biting into the petite madeleine flooded him with memories of his childhood. Proust describes the madeleine as ” looks as though they had been molded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. ” he continues to describe the experience as ” an exquisite pleasure that invaded his senses.”
I couldn’t agree more. Madelines are delicate and light and only need a sprinkling of powdered sugar after baking before serving. If you make plain madeleines, you may also choose to dip them in a little melted chocolate to give them a chocolate tip.
You will need a special metal pan that has 12 shell shaped indentations for each small cake. This is a traditional french cake batter but if it is not baked in this shell shaped pan, then they are not madeleines! I urge you to order a pan to add to your cooking and baking equipment. Madeleines are perfect with tea or coffee like my iced Hong Kong style coffee, yuanyang. If you can’t eat them all, they also make lovely gifts when bagged and tied with a bright ribbon. Happy Easter!