Lemon Madeleines

If you’re wondering if madeleines are worth the effort, the answer is “yes.”

If you’re wondering if madeleines are a ton of effort to make, the answer is “no.”

If you’re wondering what the devil a madeleine is, read on. I won’t be long.

I hadn’t eaten a madeleine until last year, when my best friend mailed me a madeleine pan for my birthday. Since then, I bought another pan, and have baked literally hundreds of madeleines for sale and for my own devious purposes. They are, as I describe to anyone who comes to my booth, like a cross between a cookie and a cake, a two-bite melt-in-your-mouth delight. (Hey, that rhymed!)

There are a few characteristics of madeleines that make sense of the steps in the recipe:

  1. Madeleines tend to be shell-shaped, thanks to the madeleine pan. However, you can make madeleines in a mini-muffin tin, with similar results as far as texture, so I’m told.
  2. Madeleines have a characteristic “hump” that appears during baking. Fluffy! 
  3. Madeleines have a bit of a…not quite crispy, but definitely crisp outer layer (thanks to the butter) in the first few hours after baking.

So, if you want these things (and you do) it’s super important to make sure that:

  1. Your pans are well-buttered and cold (not cool) before putting the batter in and baking. Some recipes call for buttering and flouring, or using baking spray. The former, in my experience, gave my madeleines an unpleasant floury layer after baking, and I’m never really a fan of the latter. Brush melted butter liberally in your baking pan, and freeze the pans while you make and refrigerate the batter.
  2. Your ingredients are well-mixed and well-sifted. Sift and weight your flour, and sift your dry ingredients. Beat the eggs until they’re frothy so they give the cakes more height. Mix in your butter gradually so you don’t lose too much air.
  3. Your batter is well-chilled (but not too well-chilled) before baking. Chilling the batter lets it rest so all of the flour is absorbed and the ingredients meld, but letting it sit too long can mess up the texture and the rise. Chill for no less than 30 minutes (I prefer an hour) and no more than 8 hours, tops.

Lastly, as with any cake, there are tons of flavor variations. I’ve made lemon, chocolate, hazelnut, pumpkin, and others. However, my favorite is still the original – lemon. And I give that to you today.

Making madeleines require a bit more effort than making say, a brownie, but no more than a frosted layer cake.

Let’s go!

Lemon Madeleines

  • Servings: 24 cakes
  • Print

Light, fluffy, and lemony, these are a delight to eat. Feel free to leave plain, or dip in melted white chocolate. These are best made in madeleine pans, but can also be made in a muffin tin, although they won’t have the characteristic shell shape.

you will need:

  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus more for greasing pans
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅔ c granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 large lemon (about 1 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice


  1. Grease two madeleine pans liberally with melted butter (I like to use a pastry brush to make sure I get the cups fully greased), and store pans in the freezer until needed. (If you only have one pan, you can also bake in batches – just make sure your pan is cold and buttered before baking again!)
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar, mixing well. In a separate small bowl, beat the eggs, vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest until frothy and very well mixed, about 3-5 minutes. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, then fold in the melted butter, about 1-2 tablespoons at a time, until incorporated. Refrigerate the mixture for at least an hour and up to 8 hours.
  3. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Remove your buttered pans from the freezer and madeleine batter from the fridge. Fill madeleine cups with about 1 tablespoon of batter each (a tablespoon cookie scoop works great here) – do not spread the batter or be tempted to use more than a tablespoon in each cup. Bake for about 10 minutes, until set in the middle and very lightly browned on the edges (they should each have a beautifully little puffy lump in the middle). Allow to cool for about 5 minutes in the pan, then remove cakes to a cooling rack to cool completely. For best texture and flavor, eat within a day of baking.

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