My First Madeleines

Madeleines on Plate

I have a confession to make.  Before making them myself, the only madeleines I had ever tasted were from Starbucks.  No one had ever made them for me, I’d never had a special pan to make them myself, and somehow I managed to spend a weekend in Paris once without tasting either a madeleine or a macaron—sad, but true.

I’ve always been curious about madeleines.  I mean, is there really anything special about them other than their shape?  Obviously Proust thought so.  But what makes them so magical?  And the big question—are they cookies or tiny little cakes?  Well, curiosity got the better of me one day so I bought a little package of madeleines at Starbucks.  And even though I knew that what I tasted out of that little plastic package was probably not a great representation of the classic French cookie (or is it cake?), I fell madly in love with the madeleine.

So now I can tell you why madeleines are such a big deal:  butter.  Oh, and let’s not forget the lemon.  Have I ever mentioned that butter and lemon are pretty much my two favorite flavors?  Madeleines can also be flavored with orange, and I’m sure that orange-scented madeleines are wonderful, but it’s definitely the butter and lemon that sold me.  And if you ask me, they are miniature cakes, not cookies—little lemon butter cakes from heaven.

I knew I had to get my hands on some special equipment so that I could try making the little scalloped cakes myself, so I ordered a couple of madeleine pans from Amazon.  After they arrived, I let the gorgeous shiny things sit on the counter for a few weeks—promising myself daily that I would make madeleines soon—but eventually I tucked the pans away in a kitchen cabinet where I promptly forgot about them.  That was a few months ago.  Well, a new year is upon us and I’ve decided to start crossing some things off my baking to-do list.

There are tons of recipes floating around for madeleines, but I settled on one I remembered seeing at 101 Cookbooks a couple of years back.  Heidi’s photos always draw me in, and somehow I knew I could trust the recipe.  I followed the recipe to the letter, taking special care to thoroughly coat my madeleine pan with butter to ensure an easy release.

Buttered Madeleine Pan

However, Heidi mentions in the recipe that although she uses butter and flour on her pans, the friend who taught her how to make madeleines uses cooking spray with flour.  Since I had two pans, I decided to experiment.  I thoroughly buttered and floured the first pan, but sprayed the second with Baker’s Joy—a nonstick baking spray that contains flour.  I knew in my heart that the buttered and floured pan would work better, but curiosity won out over gut instinct in this case.

Butter vs. Cooking Spray

Filling the pans with batter was a little intimidating.  I had read that the batter spreads in the oven, and not to overfill the molds, but I had a hard time judging whether they were 2/3 – 3/4 full (as the recipe instructed).  My method of transferring some of the batter to a measuring cup and trying to pour it into the mold didn’t work out so well for me.  Next time I’ll probably just spoon it in, or pipe it in using a bag.

Madeleine Batter

But it turns out I had no reason to worry about whether they were filled properly.  The batter spread evenly and a beautiful batch of madeleines emerged from the oven.

Baked Madeleines

The pan pictured above was the one that was buttered and floured, not coated in baking spray.  It turns out that there was a pretty big difference between the two.

Butter vs. Cooking Spray:  The Result

The madeleines in the pan coated with Baker’s Joy (on the right) didn’t rise like their butter-coated siblings.  And though they all released from the pan without too much effort, the butter-coated ones were much easier to pop out.  All in all, the butter-coated madeleines had a better shape, better color, and released from the pan better than the other ones.  From now on, I will use nothing but butter to grease my madeleine pans and I suggest you do the same.

Madeleines Out of the Oven

The little cakes are best eaten on the first day while the edges are still crisp, so I suggest inviting a few friends over the day you decide to make them.  But if you do have leftovers, they are perfectly fine the next day—especially dunked in your morning coffee.

Madeleines Dusted with Powdered Sugar

If you’d like to try this recipe for buttery, lemon-scented madeleines, head over to 101 Cookbooks and let Heidi show you how.  I ended up with exactly 24 regular-sized madeleines using her recipe.

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  1. Maria

    They look perfect. So pretty to serve with a cup of tea.

    10:41 am  Jan 7th, 2010
  2. sarah @ syrupandhoney

    I’ve been wanting to make madeleines too, so this was very information! I also always have success with Heidi’s recipes.

    11:00 am  Jan 7th, 2010
  3. My Year on the Grill

    Oh… great post, VERY well written, and I am in love with your photo skills

    11:35 am  Jan 7th, 2010
  4. Krystal

    Wow…these look beautiful. It’s so true about what they say about butter…it’s makes everything better!

    11:38 am  Jan 7th, 2010
  5. amanda

    mmmmm. little scalloped lemony cakes from the heavens is right! the only thing WRONG with these was the fact they they were served to me directly after i had eated a quarter of your rich luscious quiche and before i would chow down on pulled pork sandwiches, beans and greens! i’m pretty much trying to say there was nothing wrong with them!… just with my excessive eating that day. 🙂

    12:02 pm  Jan 7th, 2010
  6. Leesa

    Hey there San Diego!!

    I have been checking your blog since last year I think and I think this may be one of the few if at all times I’ve left a comment– Such a lurker, I am!!
    Anyhow… I have been in France for over 3 years now and I haven’t made a single Madeline– and this post just inspired me to give it a go. I DID make choc. mads when I lived in San Diego– but about 6 or 7 years ago… and they were yummy!
    Thanks for your tips about greasing and comparing the non-stick vs. the other pan.. Very helpful! I will go out and buys some moules à madeleine….
    Thanks again and I really do LOVE your blog!
    Take care,

    12:11 pm  Jan 7th, 2010
  7. amy

    those madeleines look so delectable! love that it has a citrus taste:)

    12:41 pm  Jan 7th, 2010
  8. Alta

    Gorgeous photos! These look delicious.

    1:06 pm  Jan 7th, 2010
  9. pam

    I finally got around to buying some pans a couple of months ago, but haven’t gotten around to actually using them. Yours sure are pretty!

    1:24 pm  Jan 7th, 2010
  10. Katy

    They are beautiful. I have often pondered the nature of madeleines and am thrilled to see your investigation. I am inspired.

    1:26 pm  Jan 7th, 2010
  11. Jennifer S

    These look amazing! I’ve been wanting to make them for a while but haven’t had the extra cash to buy a madeline pan. Now I want one more than ever. Congratulations on your delicious-looking treats!

    3:15 pm  Jan 7th, 2010
  12. Jill

    I recently added your blog to my feed reader, and I’m really enjoying your posts. I love your photos and your writing style.

    4:44 pm  Jan 7th, 2010

    Beautiful. Great pictures.

    Next: Macarons.

    4:52 pm  Jan 7th, 2010
  14. The Teacher Cooks

    These are really beautiful! You are killing me though. I cannot keep buying new equipment. First it was the individual cheesecake pan now this! By the way the pumkin cheesecakes were a hit for Thanksgiving!

    5:00 pm  Jan 7th, 2010
  15. Madeleine @ Notes On A Page

    I love madeleines. They are definitely little cakes — perfect with tea. My mother always used to make homemade ones for me because of my name. So glad you finally tried the real thing!

    5:03 pm  Jan 7th, 2010
  16. cheffresco

    Oh wow! I’ve never actually had madeleines before – yours look like they turned out so perfectly! i love 100 cookbooks too 🙂

    5:09 pm  Jan 7th, 2010

    Impressive! These are a lot harder than they look. I remember in culinary school they used to make us do them over and over again and they were hard to get truly right.

    6:23 pm  Jan 7th, 2010
  18. Cristie

    I love these little cakes, but never tried to make them. Yours are beautiful. I love everything about your blog!

    6:35 pm  Jan 7th, 2010
  19. linda

    have been reading your blog for some time now…lovely site… very enjoyable.

    i have baked your spaghetti squash gratin (yum! & have given the recipe to many friends)…your apple cin buttermilk cake is pretty terrific as well…i am going to try your apple galette this weekend.

    nicole, thank you for the butter vs spray tip…i am going to use this “lesson” on my madeleines from now on…do you think it holds true for mini muffins as well?

    next time you have the wonderful opportunity to go to paris…laduree is fabulous!

    all the best in 2010!

    7:03 pm  Jan 7th, 2010
  20. Dominic

    These look AMAZING. I had some delicious Madeleines at a French bakery here in Pittsburgh. If these were Pittsburghian, I can’t imagine how good a real French one is! Nom!

    10:00 pm  Jan 7th, 2010
  21. Charles Thompson

    Madeleines are little pieces of heaven. I think it’s their simplicity that makes them so special and of course all that butter. Really enjoyed reading this post. I’ve eaten a lot of them including in France but I’ve never tired to make them – I think I’ll give it a try. You’ve inspired me. Thanks, Nicole.

    P.S. I hope I remember to butter not spray when I do. Thanks for that tip.

    10:47 pm  Jan 7th, 2010
  22. faithy

    Your madeleines look awesome! i’ve been wanting to bake these since i bought my pans but have been procrastinating to do so.

    1:19 am  Jan 8th, 2010
  23. mahek


    3:00 am  Jan 8th, 2010
  24. Patricia Scarpin

    I’m a sucker for madeleines and you have just reminded me of how long it has been since I last baked them – yours are precious, Nic! I love how delicate they look.

    5:36 am  Jan 8th, 2010
  25. Ivete

    Oh wow those look amazing! I absolutely love madeleines and as usual your gorgeous pictures make everything look even better! I have a recipe for olive oil madeleines that I’ve been meaning to try . . . and you’ve just inspired me to dig out that pan sooner rather than later!

    7:14 am  Jan 8th, 2010
  26. Valérie

    They are perfect, so impressive given that it’s your first try (I never would have guessed)! And yes, I’m not surprised that butter won over cooking spray…

    I would say that madeleines are cakes, rather than cookies, because of the texture. Although I guess we would call them “petits fours” in French (rather than “biscuits”)…

    9:48 am  Jan 8th, 2010
  27. Stephanie

    I LOVE madeleines! They are so worth the effort of making them at home.

    11:35 am  Jan 8th, 2010
  28. Sara

    You are not the only one….I’ve never tasted a madeleine or a macaron either, I’m somewhat shamed to admit, not even on my one visit to Paris that lasted two whole weeks! However, your description of madeleines has convinced me that I MUST find some and eat them! Thanks for widening my horizons…

    12:21 pm  Jan 8th, 2010
  29. Ashley

    Beautiful!!!! Can’t wait to try them!! This might be sacrelig to even suggest, but would honey drizzle be delish on top? Maybe when they are day or so old?

    1:25 pm  Jan 8th, 2010
  30. Daily Spud

    Just gorgeous Nicole! You’ve inspired me to go looking for some madeleine pans so that I can make my own 🙂

    5:16 am  Jan 9th, 2010
  31. Laura

    Time to get my pan out and try them too. I wonder whether the recipe calls for resting the batter in the fridge, I will have to check it out.

    6:35 am  Jan 9th, 2010
  32. Laura

    I just checked and noticed that the batter is not rested in the fridge, which I have heard is essential for this recipe, any idea?

    Obviously this recipe worked, but I wonder why some recipes call for resting the batter.

    6:39 am  Jan 9th, 2010
  33. Nicole

    Laura: I’ve read conflicting things about the batter having to rest in the fridge. Some people say it’s essential, some say it’s unnecessary. Just like baking powder…some recipes include it, some don’t. After doing lots of research, I’m just as confused as ever 🙂

    7:13 am  Jan 9th, 2010
  34. Laura

    Okey, we’ll have to test a recipe and leave half in the fridge to test the difference. I will try the recipe my friend Miya gave me and yours as well.


    8:42 pm  Jan 10th, 2010
  35. Michelle

    These are perfect. Thanks for the info. on greasing your pans too. I don’t have the right pan for these, but I look at them all the time. When I finally do, I’ll take your advice!

    7:33 am  Jan 11th, 2010
  36. Rachelle @ "Mommy? I'm Hungry!"

    They look beautiful!
    I love madeleines and have made a few batches before. Lemon lavender is probably my fave. =)

    The recipe I use says to let the batter sit in the fridge (overnight), it helps give them their characteristic hump.
    I have made them once before and not letting it sit in the fridge and they did not get much of a hump.

    11:38 pm  Jan 11th, 2010
  37. Jenny

    Are those two pans different colors? One dark and one not?
    Cause if that is the case, that might be your reason for one not rising as much, and sticking, more than the butter vs spray.
    What you might want to experiment with is making a new batch, and with each pan spraying one half and buttering the other and seeing if it is the pan that makes the difference. I have muffin pans like that and it really does make a difference.
    Either way, they look beautiful.

    3:08 am  Jan 12th, 2010
  38. Nicole

    Jenny: It’s hard to tell in the photo, but the pans were brand new and identical. You’re right, the type of metal, as well as the finish on baking pans makes a huge difference! 🙂

    10:39 am  Jan 12th, 2010
  39. Wendy

    That post has justified my decision to get a madeleine tin and make them for afternoon tea… you have photographed everything so beautifully, as well!

    5:04 pm  Jan 16th, 2010
  40. Di

    Ooh, pretty. =) Now you’ve got me wanting to make madeleines again. It’s been quite a while since I’ve baked any. The pans are calling me… =)

    8:37 pm  Jan 18th, 2010
  41. Avanika (Yumsilicious Bakes)

    I want a madeleine pan oh so bad! They look so good, I feel like I’m missing out. Thanks for the step-by-step, as soon as I am fortunate enough to own a pan, I’m coming back to this post!

    3:38 am  Jan 24th, 2010
  42. alison

    we used mini madeleine pans and made them for petits fours trays in culinary school (a
    traditional french pastry program) and they were so good and beautiful. as a fellow lemon lover, i’ve glazed them with a 10x sugar and limoncello mixture and it was just delicious.. i’ve used it on several types of madeleines–lemon, orange, green tea.. pairs so well

    to highlight a few points and questions mentioned:

    buttering and flouring the pan is key–allows you to just pop them right out and makes clean up easy.

    you get much more oven spring if you chill your batter (even just for a bit..) and that gives you a beautiful bump–we were always taught to display them with the bump side up because that was what showed the skill/nuance of madeleines. you’d be amazed at how much of a bump you can really have!

    i think the absolute best way to fill the pans (especially neatly if you are making a few batches and need to reuse pans and want to reduce on clean up time) is by using a piping bag (no tip needed and just toss it back in the fridge between batches).

    7:19 pm  Jan 29th, 2010
  43. Marcos

    Another lurker popping out of the woodwork to say how I appreciate you writing up making these. I also had stumbled on Heidi’s recipe last fall, and while I will admit to having made them in mini-muffin pans instead of Madeleine pans, the taste was still wonderful. And now that you’ve reminded me, I need to head over to Amazon so I can do these a bit better justice. Yum!

    2:23 pm  Feb 17th, 2010
  44. More Madeleines — Pinch My Salt

    […] my first madeleines from the beginning of the year?  Well, I decided to give them another try – this time with a […]

    3:11 pm  Mar 3rd, 2010
  45. monica

    J’adore madeleines!

    3:44 am  Apr 8th, 2010
  46. swati

    I liked the way you explained your experience of making it first time. Before last couple of weeks ,I made madelines for first time too. As I was reading your post i found it so similar to my experience .

    Thanks for your suggestion to use butter.

    1:12 pm  May 14th, 2010
  47. Around The Internet Kitchen: The Code of It All | Macheesmo

    […] My First Madeleines.  Not my first ones obviously.  I’ve never tried them.  But Nicole’s first ones.  I must say I would have to give her a grade of A+ based on photos only.  If I had one of those nifty madeleine trays, I’d be making these suckers. (@ Pinch My Salt) […]

    8:55 am  Jul 16th, 2010
  48. Mmmmadeleines « Butterstruck

    […] I’ve been wanting to have a go at making madeleines ever since I saw them on Pinch My Salt. (I have to stop talking about this blog, it’s getting ridiculous). You can find the recipe, along with pictures etc, here: […]

    9:37 am  Mar 14th, 2011
  49. Grace Pedde

    just bought a pan over the weekend…not gonna lie, but I’m kinda excited 😀

    11:02 am  Jul 10th, 2012
  50. Medallion

    Pretty! They look divine. I just made a batch of madelines myself this evening, and wanted to see whether you had ever made ’em–looks like you have! Anyway I posted some pictures on my little baking journal @ TY! 😉

    12:16 am  Feb 5th, 2013
  51. Anaïs

    thank you so much for all your recipes (once I have bought american spoons and cups it has been so easy and pleasant to follow them !).
    I’m french, and I cook madeleines very often (even if there’s a lot of butter inside…) and I can’t see on your photos (that’s original to show them upside down !) but they don’t seem to have this “hump” on top of their own. If you want I could give you a french classic recipe, just for fun ?
    I almost forget : you can use orange-flower water instead of lemon, it’s an other classic madeleine !
    And don’t worry : Madeleines are from Commercy, a little town two hours far from Paris (in the East) and Macarons are more from the West coast (where I live, and we have lots of macarons shops everywhere !) so it’s not a typical parisian migniardise 😉
    And now I’m going to do your Velvet red Cake again, so wonderful !!

    9:56 am  Mar 4th, 2013
  52. RR

    Which company’s pan do you use? I want one that can give good ridges.

    4:11 pm  Feb 14th, 2016
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