Honey Madeleines

This recipe is from Simply French by Patricia Wells and Joel Robuchon. This little, shell-shaped cake was made famous by Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. After reading his description, the reader is powerless to resist the small confections. "She sent for one of those squat plump little cakes called "petites madeleines," which look as though they had been molded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell ... I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure invaded my senses ... And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine..." This recipe is a combination of browned butter, honey, lemon zest and almond meal, which make an incredibly rich cake that's soft on the inside, crisp on the outside and worthy of the shuddering Proust describes. The key to the success of this recipe is to use really flavorful honey, chill the batter before baking and make sure your scalloped madeleine pans are really well buttered.
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 3 hr 25 min
  • Prep: 35 min
  • Inactive: 2 hr 20 min
  • Cook: 30 min
  • Yield: 24 madeleines
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13 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 2/3 cups confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar), plus more for dusting

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 cup finely ground almonds (almond meal)

6 large egg whites

1 tablespoon strong-flavored honey

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 lemons, zested - optional

Unsalted butter, softened, for greasing the pans


  1. To make the madeleines:
  2. In a saucepan heat the butter over medium-high heat. It will bubble, then foam and finally the solids in the butter will brown and smell nutty.
  3. Strain the browned butter into a bowl and allow it to cool. It shouldn't be solid, but no longer hot. Sift together the sugar, flour and almond meal.
  4. Beat the egg whites until foamy, but still very soft, so they run off the beater when it is lifted. Whisk in the dry ingredients. Add the brown butter, honey and vanilla. If you want a lemon-scented cake, then stir in the zest.
  5. Place the batter into a container, cover and chill for at least 2 hours, but this can be done a day or two ahead.
  6. To bake the madeleines:
  7. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  8. Generously grease the pan with butter. (I highly recommend getting a nonstick madeleine pan).
  9. Fill the pans about 3/4 of the way with the chilled batter. This may require you to wet your finger tips to spread the sticky batter evenly in the pan.
  10. Bake the cakes for about 18 minutes or until they are golden brown on the edges and pale, but firm on the top.
  11. The cakes will dome on the top and that is part of their signature look.
  12. Dust with a little confectioners' sugar and serve warm or allow to cool.