Trying to decide what cake to bake for someone’s birthday is almost an impossible task with me. What are they going to enjoy the most? What type of cake feels special enough to be a worthy birthday cake candidate?
When I asked my Mum what she might like for her birthday cake last week, she pondered it for a while, decided she quite fancied something citrusy, and then eventually pulled the idea of madeleines out of the air. And as soon as she got to thinking of madeleines, she began reminiscing about the ones she used to eat for ‘le goûter’ as a child growing up in Belgium. The little, ridged cakes she loved so much, despite their relative plainness. And that was that, a craving was awoken and it just had to be madeleines, regardless of their lack of birthday cake characteristics. We weren’t going to be getting anywhere near a three tier celebration cake covered in butter cream this time around.
Now, the problem with madeleines, which is probably the same problem preventing many people from ever making madeleines, is the need for a madeleine tin. Do I really want to invest in a tin that just makes madeleines? Am I ever going to make madeleines that much to warrant the purchase?
I thought just this. But sensing my Mum’s intent on madeleines, I decided I would make the investment for her sake. It was her birthday after all, and with her feeling particularly age-concious about it all, I thought a little opportunity to revisit her childhood would be fitting.
Having bought a madeleine tin and made madeleines, I do not, for one second, regret the purchase. Because these are absolutely the type of cake I like: small, simple, delicate. I want to make madeleines again and again. I want them to be my go-to baked good when I want dinky, no-faff cake.
My aunt and uncle popped over for tea and the madeleines seemed to please. While my aunt cooed enthusiastically over their lightness and honest, straightforward cakeyness, my uncle ate one, and then two, and then possibly a third when no one was watching.
The recipe I used was this one from David Lebovitz’s blog. I halved the recipe (yes, including an egg) to make enough for just one madeleine tin. My madeleines came out brilliantly – the recipe is definitely a good one! (Not that you’d expect anything less from David Lebovitz). I made lemon flavour madeleines with a lemon glaze as per the recipe, but if you wanted the more traditional vanilla ones, I’d substitute the lemon zest for 1 tsp vanilla extract and either skip on the glaze (and eat as many madeleines warm, straight from the oven, as your stomach will allow you to) or make a plain glaze by replacing the lemon juice with more water.
If you’re tempted to try making madeleines but are reluctant to fork out for the tin, I’d say go for it, the tin is worth it. These little cakes are perfect!