Madeleines are very petite spongy mini cakes baked in a distinctive shell shaped pan and are traditional cake from Commercy and Liverdun, two communes of the Lorraine region in the northeastern France. It is considered to be one of the classic French cakes and is very easy and quick to make. Madeleines look cute and attractive and quite effortless to prepare.
Usually a genoise cake batter (a combination of butter, sugar, eggs, flour and traditionally flavored with lemon or orange flower water) is used for making the madeleines. The flavor is similar to a somewhat lighter sponge cake. Traditional recipes include very finely ground nuts and almonds. A variation also uses lemon zest for a prominent lemony taste. Génoise is a basic building block of much French patisserie and is used for making several different types of cake. The batter is usually baked to form a thin sheet.
Some sources say that the Madeleine may have been named for a 19th century pastry cook namely Madeleine Paulmier but other sources have it that Madeleine Paulmier was a cook in the 18th century for Stanislaw Leszczynski, whose son-in-law, Louis XV of France, named them for her. Madeleines were chosen to represent France in the Café Europe initiative of the Austrian presidency of the European Union, on Europe Day 2006.
What make these cute little Madeleine cakes attractive and enticing is that the batter is poured into a special oval shaped mould with ribbed indentations that gives them their classic shell shape. These cakes can be enjoyed eating plain or dipped in your tea or coffee. They make a perfect afternoon or evening snack. The taste and zest of lemons add wonderful flavor and aroma to them. You can either make plain Madeleine or lemon Madeleine. Many people also dip these tiny cakes in tea or milk, dip in chocolate cream, drizzle with glaze or dust with icing sugar.
The procedure for preparing this marvelous tiny pretty shell shaped Madeleine is quite easy. Firstly beat the eggs in a large bowl and add sugar. Using a whisk or an electric mixer beat until it turns lemon in color. Add the zest. Fold in the flour and then ¾ cup melted butter. Refrigerate this batter covered for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 degrees C). Grease the Madeleine tins with butter and then spoon in the batter filling each well about three-fourths full. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the Madeleine are golden brown in color. Once done, remove the Madeleine from their tins and cool them on a wire rack.
Note: Wash the tins immediately with a stiff brush and hot water but no detergent so that they retain their seasoning. The Madeleine are best eaten as soon as they are cooled. They may, however, be stored for several days in an airtight container. This recipe makes 36 (3 inch – 8 cm) Madeleine. This is really and truly a typically French tea cake and it wouldn’t be French without butter.
Do try this incredibly popular scallop shaped tea cake which is buttery, yellow cake and their uniqueness is mostly in their shape. Kids would be the first to grab these tiny bite size yummy butter cakes.