Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Comfort Food - Madeleines

As far as I can remember, my grandma and my mum had fed me a steady diet of the simplest sponge cakes bought from the neighbourhood bakery called kuey neng kueh (literally "egg cakes"). It was made of nothing but flour, eggs, sugar and lots of fat - the type mothers use to placate the mouths of greedy children like me and actually... the best my mum can afford back then.

Of course, I had tasted a wide variety of baked desserts since but simple "egg cakes" will always be the one I love most and make whenever I need something to feel good about. And there is nothing simpler than the French madeleines which uses the same core ingredients but adds a couple of cheap but very amazing tricks that can bring up the level of the humble kuey neng kueh.

Madeleines (Makes ~30)


4 eggs
175gm caster sugar
175gm cake flour
125gm butter (melted)
10gm baking powder
1Tbsp honey
Few drops of vanilla essence
Zest of 1 lemon or orange


1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius
2. Whisk eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy (resembling "sabayon" or as Rick Stein calls it, "moussey"). The mixture will become thick and viscous and you will be able to see all the wonderful little air bubbles up close.

3. Whisk in lemon zest

4. Sift in flour + baking powder and then gently fold them into the mixture - the batter will become very thick. **NOTE: I will usually first sift the powders into a bowl and then sift again into the mixture before folding. Sifting does not just remove lumps inside the powder but it aerate the flour and introduces tiny air pockets between the layers of powder which will help to make the final cake product light and fluffy.

5. Add vanilla essence (I used 3 drops), butter and and honey and gently combine

6. Chill in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes then pipe or spoon them into greased/buttered madeleine moulds, filling about 2/3 of each cavity. **NOTE: The chilled batter will have the consistency of double cream - very think and viscous! Begin by filling a spoonful into each cavity but do not be too concerned with how much you put in each time - when you had done all the cavities on a tray, then adjust the volume of batter of each cavity with a small spoon (adding or removing).

7. Lower the temperature to 170 degrees Celsius and bake for 10-13 minutes (for each batch if you have insufficient moulds). Poke a tooth pick into the centre of one cake and if it comes out clean, it's done. If it's still wet, leave it in for another minute and check every minute after that.

8. Turn out onto a rack to cool immediately, resting each cake on the "shell" side.
9. The cakes will be sticky so it will be a good idea to dust them with some sugar (caster, fine or powdered depending on your preference) so they do not stick to each other when stored in a box.

* Traditional madeleines are made in moulds that resemble sea shells. They look very cute and lovely when held and eaten by anyone, especially children. However, you can use this batter in any kind of cup cake moulds and they will still turn out well.

* I think vanilla essence will be enough but if you want to bring it to another notch, you can always use 1 vanilla pod's worth of seeds.

The cakes will stay fresh up to 3 days and up to 5 if refrigerated. Of course, best eaten the day they are made. Goes VERY WELL with Earl Grey!

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