Nearly two decades ago, I worked at a Fortune 10 company. Working there truly spoiled me. Not only because of the income, benefits and the job itself; but because of the people I was able to work with.
When you work for a world-wide corporation you are able to travel on business trips that take you around the country and overseas. Or that bring overseas people here. That’s how I met Ter’esa from Ambeau France, which is a little town outside Lyon.
During her 6 months here in the states, she and I hit it off quite well. We had a great time taking in the sights and visiting places that tourists don’t usually see in the outer realms on the beaten paths of the countryside.
On Sunday’s however, it was her practice to have a relaxing day in town for tea and a visit to the art museums. A truly wonderful tradition that I do miss on occasion.
Near the end of her time here she wanted to do something special for me, to say thank you for the friendship, the adventures and for making her feel at home here in America. On her last Sunday, she invited me to her apartment for tea and cakes. She had made a special cake she called Madeleines, also known as a Sunshine cake or the American name French Butter Cakes. Made me feel like Americans take all the fun and poetry out of the name. So I like to call them Madeleines, since that’s their proper name.
Preparation time: 45 minutes or so. This isn’t a recipe to rush through!
This recipe makes 1 dozen cakes.
- 2 eggs
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- ¼ cup butter or margarine (frankly butter is better for this recipe)
- Butter for greasing the cake molds
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1⁄8 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄3 cup white sugar
- 1⁄3 cup granulated sugar for decoration
- You will need:
- Electronic mixer – to mix the batter
- Plastic cake spatula – to fold ingredients into the batter
- A gravy ladle – to pour into cake forms
- A sea shell molded baking sheet
Remember, sea shells come in different shapes and sizes, so don’t be afraid to find a unique molded baking sheet.
- Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C).
- Grease and flour 12 (3 inch) molded baking sheet and set it aside.
It’s best to use butter to grease the pan, after all this is a butter cake. And be generous with the butter in greasing the forms. The worst thing you can do is under grease the mold and have your cake stick to the pan.
- Melt the ¼ cup butter and set it aside to cool to room temperature.
This really makes a difference in this recipe, so don’t cut corners. You don’t want the butter to be boiling hot when you add it to the mixture.
- In a small mixing bowl, beat eggs, vanilla and salt at high speed until light.
- Reduce the blender speed to medium and gradually add in the sugar
- Once the sugar has been completely added, increase the speed to high and beat for 5 to 10 minutes. You want the mixture to become thick. And it should be somewhat pale as well. When you see a ribbon pattern from the beaters, you know you’re there.
- Using a plastic Cake Spatula, fold in the flour to the batter.
Take your time, don’t dump the entire ½ cup of flour in all at once. You’ll create chunky batter and no one wants that.
- Add lemon zest and fold it into the batter.
- Gently pour melted butter around the edge of mixture.
Not the edge of the mixing bowl. Quickly but gently fold butter into batter until it’s thoroughly mixed.
- Use a ladle to pour the batter into the molds. The batter will rise up when baked, so don’t over fill the mold. Generally filling the mold about ¾ full is enough.
- Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until cakes are golden and the tops spring back when gently pressed.
- Remove from oven when done and carefully dump the cakes onto a cooling rack.
You can use the tip of a knife to loosen the cakes from the pan if necessary.
- Immediately sprinkle the warm cakes with the granulated sugar.
There are many variations you can put into and onto these little cakes.
- For Chocolate Madeleines:
- Omit lemon zest.
- Increase sugar to 1/2 cup.
- Substitute 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder for 2 tablespoons of the flour;
- Sift into batter with flour.
- Everything else is the same.
- Add Alternative Flavors:
- Replace vanilla extract with orange extract, or any fruit extract you like.
- Add chopped fruit to the mix, such as cut strawberries or blueberries. Make sure they are finely chopped, but don’t puree the fruit.
- Decorate your cakes:
- You can decorate the outside of the cakes any way you desire.
- Dip them in chocolate.
- Dip them in chocolate and nuts.
- Sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar.
- Dribble chocolate or white icing glaze over them.
- Be creative!
They’re a fantastic little cake that goes wonderful with fruit jam. Especially strawberry, but I’m thinking that’s a personal favorite. Any jam or jelly will do, even apple butter! And they are best served warm, but isn’t every cake or biscuit better that way?
Leftover Madeleines are often served the day after baking for dunking into coffee or tea. Something that’s NEVER done during a tea party. Such dunking activity is left for private time or with immediate family only.
I hope you enjoy baking these special cakes and eating them up too.