Mastering classic French cooking at home: the Madeleine

MyFrenchLife™- - Master French Classics - Collage

Oh, to have a repertoire of French cuisine classics that you can whip up at home and know that they’ll be fantastic – every time! 

Have you always dreamed of mastering French cuisine? Years ago I attended a course with Le Cordon Bleu in London and I have a very early (1978) copy of Julia Child’s ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’, now very yellow and food stained by successful and not so masterful attempts!

Like many of you, I’ve also read the book and seen the 2009 film Julie & Julia, with Amy Adams as Julie Powell and Meryl Streep as Julia Child. Upon hearing about Powell’s attempt at replicating all her recipes, Child was reported to have been unimpressed, viewing Powell’s attempt to be a stunt, and that Powell wasn’t serious about doing it.

We’re passionate about continuing the challenge of mastering classic French cooking at home without having professional training.

In this series we bring you tips and recipes from others who share our passion.

Meet Janelle

MyFrenchLife™ - - Master French Classics - Scott and Janelle Gould Janelle Gould of the Distant Francophile blog has taken us on a journey through French cuisine heaven, sharing her helpful tips and simplified recipes to show us how to master some of her favourite French classics at home, while husband Scott has always been behind the camera lens to showcase Janelle’s dishes. Very much a lover of all things sweet, Janelle is a big fan of the traditional Madeleine cake and she shares with us the one recipe that wins every time!

Janelle says: “While they don’t quite evoke deep memories for me like they did for Marcel Proust, one of my all time favourite French sweet treats is the madeleine.

Madeleines are not nearly as fancy or elaborate as some other French cakes, pastries and petits fours but they are just perfect served with a cup of tea in the middle of the afternoon. Or you might like to try them after dinner as a little alternative to dessert. Either way, I guarantee you’ll be transported to France in just one bite.

And the good news is: madeleines are extremely easy to make. No special cooking skills are necessary, although to do an authentic job of madeleines, you do need access to to a proper madeleine pan. This piece of kit will allow you to produce traditional scallop shaped madeleines at all hours of the day and night, in the comfort of your own home.

I’d be willing to bet that you can find a madeleine recipe in a cookbook you already own. If not, you’ll be able to find dozens of madeleine recipes on-line without any effort at all. But in case these two options seem way too hard, I thought I’d point you in the direction of my favourite madeleine recipe.

Regular readers would be aware that I often tweak the classic French recipes when I’m suggesting ideas to master the French classics – either to make them my own and tailor them to our tastes or alternatively, to make them simpler. However when it comes to madeleines there is absolutely nothing I can do to ‘improve’ French-Australian celebrity chef Guillaume Brahimi’s Lemon Madeleine recipe.”

The Madeleine

Apart from being very straightforward to throw together, the additions of lemon zest, vanilla bean and burnt butter add a sophistication that takes the humble madeleine to whole new level.

MyFrenchLife™- - Master French Classics - The Madeleine

You can follow Guillaume’s recipe right here.


          40g unsalted butter, chopped.
          100g plain flour.
          ½ tsp baking powder.
          100g caster sugar.
          1 egg.
          1½ tbsp milk.
          1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped.
          1 lemon, zested.
          softened butter, for brushing.
          melted butter and caster sugar for serving (optional).


        1. Melt the chopped butter in a small saucepan over high heat and cook until nut brown.
        2. Sift the flour, baking powder and sugar into a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg with the milk.
        3. Pour this into the flour mixture and whisk until combined, then add the vanilla seeds and whisk again.
        4. Gradually pour in the browned butter and whisk well, then whisk in the lemon zest. Allow the mixture to rest for 1–2 hours in the refrigerator.
        5. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Brush softened butter into the madeleine moulds, coating well.
        6. Spoon or pipe the mixture into the moulds and bake for 6–10 minutes, or until golden.
        7. Tap the madeleines out of the moulds onto a rack to cool briefly. Serve dipped in melted butter and caster sugar if desired.

My only additions are to remind you to grease the pan properly and to let you know that you can refrigerate the batter for many hours prior to baking – I rested a batch of batter for six hours recently, without an noticeable effect on the quality of the finished product.

Other than that, all you need to do is spend a few minutes in the kitchen and you’ll be well on your way to creating a little bit of French yumminess.

This recipe was originally published on Thank you for collaborating with us Janelle. Until next time – au revoir.

What is your favourite French sweet treat? Have you successfully managed to bake your own Madeleine? Share your thoughts and experiences with us below!

Indulge yourself with more delicious recipes in our series of how to Master French Classics…

Moelleux au Chocolat // French onion soup // Poule au Pot // Crêpes // Duck Confit // Bouillabaisse

Image Credits:
1. Collage of images taken by Scott Gould
2. Janelle and Scott by Carla Coulson
3. The Madeleine by Scott Gould

About the Contributor

Judy MacMahon

Experience FRANCE beyond the CLICHÉ with MyFrenchLife is for Curious Savvy Francophiles wherever you are. Meet Francophiles in France, online, and/or wherever you live. You’re very welcome to join us - Judy MacMahon -

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