The finished cakes can be dipped in melted chocolate or a sugar glaze; both of which are delicious. Alternatively, they can be left plain and eaten just as they are. I love the sweet tang of oranges so I have made an orange flavoured version here where the sponge is flavoured with orange zest and each indivdual cake is covered in a Cointreau sugar glaze. As you are probably gathering by now, I love using liqueurs and other spirits whenever I can in my cooking and baking and this seemed like a great opportunity to use the wonderfully orangy Cointreau. But if you don’t have any to hand, just substitute the Cointreau for more freshly squeezed orange juice! These cakes are delicious and particularly tasty with a cup of tea or coffee.
Much of the madeleine’s allure comes from the highly evocative piece written by the French author Proust in his book In Search of Lost Time where he reminisces about eating madeleines and how they made him feel. I have to admit that reading this passage made me want to eat them to see what he was talking about.
Ingredients:3 large eggs at room temperature
130g caster sugar
175g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Zest of one orange
120g butter, melted and allowed to cool slightly
150g icing sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons Cointreau
Method:1. Brush the madeleine moulds with melted butter and then dust with flour, tapping out an excess. Place in the fridge while you get on with making the cake batter.
2. Whisk the eggs, caster sugar and orange zest with a hand-held electric mixer until doubled in volume and a light colour. This will take about five minutes.
3. Sieve the flour and baking powder together and fold into the egg and sugar mixture. Pour in the melted butter in a steady stream and fold in. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge for at least an hour but anything up to twelve hours. This is to allow the batter to rest and helps create cakes that are light but with a denser crumb.
4. To bake the madeleines, preheat the oven to 220C/Fan 200C/Gas Mark 6. Fill each madeleine indentation with enough batter to three-quarters fill. Bake for 7or 8 minutes until the cakes feel just set.
5. While the madeleines are baking make the glaze. Mix all the ingredients together to create a smooth paste. Remove the madeleines from the oven and tip out on to a cooling rack. When they are cool enough to handle, dip each cake in the glaze, turning them over to make sure that each side is coated. Leave on a wire rack to allow the glaze to set. Place some greaseproof paper underneath the wire rack to catch any drips.
Makes 24 small cakes.
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 had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. ... Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? ... And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.
—Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time