It’s cake week in my Puff the Bakery course, and whilst the Opera cake might have to wait a little while until I can skilfully master multiple layers, I couldn’t wait to try the much more straightforward Madeline.
The madeleine is a shell-shaped, airy sponge, made with brown butter and honey, similar in taste to the Financier, just minus the nuts. These little French cakes are famous for being writer Marcel Proust’s favourite, and the scene in Ratatouille where the food critic tastes the titular dish and is transported back to childhood comes from a moment in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.
The batter is a simple one featuring the usual players: flour, eggs, sugar, but the addition of the brown butter, honey, and a little demerara sugar, gives it a nutty and elegant taste. I’d read about people going crazy for madeleines before but dismissed them as simple cakes. Why make them when I could try and make a lemon meringue pie? When my MasterChef friend started raving about them I listened a little closer, but still didn’t turn my head in their direction. It wasn’t until I fell head over heels in love with the financier that I started to become excited.
It’s hard to overstate how good these are – I heartily encourage you to find a tin and try them for yourselves. The joy of eating a warm madeleine is unparalleled, something I’d never fully understood until today. The simple sponge is subtle and sophisticated, and a little bite of heaven. These are something I would have likely ignored if I went to a patisserie, opting for a flashier tart or cake instead, but these simple, crisp and light beauties have got my attention now.