France’s entry for the European cake contest: the Madeleine

Originally from the Lorraine city of Commercy and made famous by Marcel Proust, the Madeleine is France’s most typical tea cake. So much so, that when during the Austrian presidency of the European Union in 2007 it was decided to organize a series of discussions, literary activities and culinary events in 27 cafés in 27 European capitals, called the Café de l’Europe, the Madeleine was chosen to represent France… a kind of Conchita Wurst of French pâtisserie, alongside Germany’s Streuselkuchen and Portugal’s Pasteis de Nata. Wikipedia has the complete list of the 27 representatives.

To be honest, it’s a glorified sponge cake that tastes pretty much like plain cupcakes. But the kids love them and their size and paper-cup-less state makes them easier for children to eat and generate less garbage.

My Mum used to call them “cats’ paws”. I like that.

OK, I’ll admit it: straight out of the oven, they’re pretty darn unbeatable.

What you need:

2 eggs

150g sugar

1 lemon zest (grated)

1 orange zest (grated)

160g flour

1 level teaspoon baking powder

1 pinch of salt

150g butter (melted)

How to make the batter:

  • With an electric beater, mix the eggs and sugar until they are fluffy and light in colour
  • Wash the the lemon and orange and grate the zest into the mix
  • Stir the baking powder and salt into the flour, then add it to the egg mixture and incorporate with the electric beater
  • Melt the butter and mix into the batter
  • Refrigerate (important)

I use a piping bag to fill my silicone madeleine tray. You can, of course, do it with a spoon. No problem.

Bake at 210ºC for 15 minutes.

Madeleine 1  Madeleine 3

Sometimes I make one batter with vanilla extract instead of the zest, and another with some melted chocolate, then fill each cell of the baking tray half-half with chocolate and vanilla.

You can powder them with icing sugar or make some liquid icing with a few drops of lemon juice in icing sugar and zig-zag across the Madeleines for decoration.

For dinner parties, sometimes I make an ice-cream or a fruit mousse and serve Madeleines on the side. I prepare the batter in the afternoon and bake them just before people arrive, or, if the oven is free, while we’re having the main course. It makes the whole house smell divine!

By the way, the ones I made this morning? They’re gone.

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