Madeleines. Those perfect little buttery shell cakes made by French grandmothers for the delight of hungry grandchildren since time immemorial. And still so sought after. Crisp and golden on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside, they’re the perfect size for small fingers, though you’ll see them in endless variety these days in gleaming patisserie windows, from giant to mini, with a thousand enticing flavour combinations depending on the season. Hunting for a wintry version for the festive period, we think we’ve landed on just the one.
Too many recipes disappoint, so we were thrilled to come upon this little treasure of a recipe – a simple vanilla classic with a cinnamon twist and sticky toffee for dipping. Whether serving friends for coffee, in need of a pretty dessert or seeking out mini bites for baby fingers, they just won’t fail you.
Madeleine recipe adapted from James Martin and toffee sauce pinched from Delia Smith as used in our Sticky Toffee Puddings
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
Equipment: Madeleine tin (Available here if you haven’t yet got one).
Oven: Pre-heat oven to 170°C, gas mark 3, (325°F).
Makes: Up to 30 large madeleines
For the madeleines:
- 225g (8 oz) lightly salted butter, plus extra for greasing
- 1 vanilla pod
- 250g (9 oz) caster sugar
- 250g (9 oz) plain flour
- 2 tbsp clear honey
- 3 large free range eggs
- 75g (2 ½ oz) icing sugar
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- Optional: 25g (1 oz) pecan nuts, crumbed using a pestle and mortar, with 2 tsp icing sugar mixed in
- 175g (6 oz) light soft brown sugar
- 110g (4 oz) butter
- 175g (6 oz) double cream
- Optional: ½ tsp ground cinnamon
For the madeleines:
- Preheat the oven to 170°C, gas mark 5, (325°F) and lightly grease your Madeleine tins to prevent sticking.
- Place the butter in a small saucepan on low heat until just melted and set aside to cool.
- Take the vanilla pod and slice open down the seam. Using a knife, scrape out the seeds.
- Place the sugar and flour in a medium size mixing bowl (or alternatively into the bowl of your Kitchenaid or electric mixer), then mix through the vanilla seeds, honey and eggs. Next whisk in the melted butter for a smooth batter.
- Spoon the batter into your tins, half filling each mould – you’ll grow more confident with this step the more times you make them, but in the beginning it’s a learning curve and a little trial and error working out what’s right.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Mini ones may only take 8-10 minutes or less even, so watch carefully until you’re secure about your timings for the size.
For the dusting:
Mix the icing sugar and ground cinnamon in a shallow dish, then roll the madeleines in the sugar until coated thoroughly.
For the toffee sauce:
Pop all your ingredients for the sauce in a saucepan on low heat and stir now and again until the mixture is fully homogenised and the sugar crystals are dissolved. Make sure you are using soft brown sugar, not white – all sorts of bizarre things can happen with the white using this method!! It should only take about 10-15 minutes. The sauce, once cooled completely, can be put into an airtight container and will last for weeks if not months. Store in a cool, dark place.
You can either prepare your little cakes in advance by dipping each madeleine in the toffee sauce and rolling them through your pecan crumb to present prettily on a plate. Or why not pour the toffee straight into a small bowl still hot, pop it in the middle of the table along with your pecan crumb in a dish, and let friends dip their cakes themselves. Perfect served with a cappuccino or as mini treats for little ones.
Now wait and see how many hours you can make these beauties last. Since they don’t keep too well – they’re always best fresh and only last a few days – you may as well get stuck in. No better excuse for a fiendish feast!