French madeleines are buttery, delicious, and so easy to prepare at home! These cookies are slightly crisp on the outside, but soft and cakey inside.
What Are Madeleines?
Madeleines are kind of like a cross between a cookie and cake. While they are often referred to as cookies, they are technically mini butter cakes.
Madeleines cookies are made with a light sponge cake batter with melted butter folded into it, known as genoise. The batter is chilled then baked in a madeleine pan, which gives them their elegant, shell-like shape. The end result is slightly crisp on the outside, but soft and cakey inside.
While these may seem like a fancy or difficult dessert to make, I can assure you that they are actually pretty easy! This French treat is perfect with a cup of tea or coffee, but tastes delicious on their own with just a simple dusting of powdered sugar.
Ingredients for This Recipe
No special ingredients are required to make this easy recipe for madeleines! However, you do need to have a madeleine pan on hand. I’ve provided a full list of measurements in the recipe card below, but I’ll quickly review the key ingredients needed for this recipe.
- Unsalted butter: The butter adds richness and moisture to the batter. If you only have salted butter on hand, omit the salt called for in the recipe.
- Sugar: Granulated sugar sweetens the batter, and a couple extra tablespoons of brown sugar add flavor and moisture.
- Eggs & Egg Yolks: The extra egg yolk adds more fat and richness. Make sure to bring the eggs to room temperature before beginning the recipe, so they whip up properly.
- Flour: To achieve light and airy madeleines, you need to spoon the flour out of the bag and then add it to your measuring cup. If you scoop the flour out using the measuring cup, you’ll compact the flour and end up measuring out too much.
- Vanilla extract: This recipe uses 1 tablespoon of vanilla, I promise it’s not a mistake! While this may seem like a lot, it’s needed to flavor the madeleines. I highly recommend using pure vanilla extract for best results.
- Lemon zest: Adds depth of flavor to the batter and a light lemon flavor.
How to Make Madeleines
These French madeleines require a few extra steps to achieve their signature airy texture, but are still fairly easy to make! Here’s an overview of the recipe steps:
- Melt the butter: I like to do this in a saucepan over the stove, but the microwave method works just as well. Set the butter to the side to cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the batter.
- Beat the eggs, egg yolk, and sugars together: This will take about 5 to 7 minutes on medium-high speed. It may seem like a while, but this incorporates air into the batter and helps the madeleines rise properly. The mixture should thicken and lighten in color. When you lift your beaters up, you should see ribbons of the mixture as it’s falling back into the bowl (like the picture above on the left).
- Add the lemon zest and vanilla: Stir until just combined.
- Add the dry ingredients: Sift just half of the flour, salt, and baking powder into the batter and fold it in. Once combined, sift and fold in the remaining half of the dry ingredients. Make sure to do this in two increments to avoid deflating the batter.
- Fold in the melted butter in two additions: Fold in half of the melted butter to help lighten the batter, then gently fold in the remaining butter.
- Chill the batter: Cover the batter before chilling in the fridge for 30 minutes. While you can technically skip this step, it does result in fluffier madeleines.
- Prep the madeleine pans: Once the batter has chilled, brush each cavity of the madeleine pan with melted butter.
- Scoop the batter into the pan: Spoon a heaping tablespoon of batter into each cavity. No need to spread out the batter in the pan, it will spread out more in the oven as it bakes!
- Bake: The madeleines need just 8 to 10 minutes in the oven. You’ll know they’re finished when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool slightly before serving: Carefully invert the madeleines onto a wire rack to cool sightly, then dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!
Can This Recipe Be Made in Advance?
To be completely honest, madeleines are best enjoyed fresh. If needed, you may store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one day. Just keep in mind that they will dry out over time and won’t taste quite as good.
Can This Recipe Be Made Without a Madeleine Pan?
The scalloped cavities of a madeleine pan is what transforms the batter into French madeleines. However, I understand if you don’t want to buy a special pan just to make this recipe.
If you don’t have one, you can use a mini muffin pan instead and increase the baking time slightly. Obviously the shape will not be traditional, but the texture and flavor will be similar enough!
- If you forget to set your eggs out ahead of time, simply place them in a bowl of warm water for 5 to 10 minutes.
- I prefer to use lemon zest in this recipe, but orange zest would work wonderful as well!
- It’s very important that you add the dry ingredients as well as the butter to the batter in increments. You don’t want to knock any air out of the batter otherwise the madeleines won’t bake up light and fluffy.
- I highly recommend chilling the batter before baking it! This creates fluffier madeleines.
- You may use non-stick cooking spray to grease your pan, but I find that melted butter works best!
- I prefer dusting the madeleines with powdered sugar for a little extra sweetness, but this step is optional.
More Delicious Desserts to Make!
- ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick; 115 grams)
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk at room temperature
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
- 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar (28 grams)
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (15 ml)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 cup all-purpose flour spooned & leveled (125 grams)
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- Optional: Powdered sugar for dusting
- Slice the butter into tablespoon-sized pieces. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat or in a large bowl in the microwave in 20-second increments. Set aside to cool slightly while you prepare the batter.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the eggs, egg yolk, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium-high speed for 5 to 7 minutes or until thickened and light in color. When you lift your beaters up, you should see ribbons of the mixture as it’s falling back into the bowl.
- Mix in the vanilla extract and lemon zest until just combined.
- Sift half of the flour, baking powder, and salt over the wet ingredients and fold it in until just combined. Then, sift in the remaining half of the dry ingredients and gently fold it in.
- Carefully pour half of the cooled melted butter over the batter. Fold the butter into the batter until just combined. Add the remaining melted butter and fold it in until just combined and no streaks remain.
- Cover the batter and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes. This will result in a fluffier madeleine, so don’t skip this step!
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Brush each cavity of a madeleine pan with melted butter. If you have two pans, you will want to grease 20 cavities with melted butter.
- Scoop a heaping tablespoon of the batter into each greased cavity. No need to smooth the batter out, it will spread in the oven as it bakes.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the madeleines comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and carefully invert onto a wire cooling rack to cool slightly.
- Dust with powdered sugar right before serving.