These are one of my favourite French cakes; delicate little light sponge cakes, baked in special fluted trays and sprinkled lightly with icing sugar, so elegant, light and airy! Some are flavoured with vanilla extract only, whilst other recipes suggest using lemon or orange; my recipe uses a combination of vanilla extract and lemon. These are ideal served with afternoon coffee or with a glass of dessert wine after a meal, just as the French serve them. You can also dip the tips into melted chocolate, but I prefer mine to be a little more subtle - but it is up to you!
- Preheat the oven to 190°C /375°F/ Gas mark 5. Grease and flour 24 Madeleine moulds. (Make sure that you grease and flour the moulds generously, to stop the cakes sticking.).
- In a medium bowl beat eggs, vanilla and lemon zest with an electric mixer on high speed for 5 minutes. Gradually beat in the icing sugar. Beat for 5 to 7 minutes or until thick and satiny. It can take up to 10 to 15 minutes to achieve the right consistency - this is the key to successful Madeleines, so don't take short cuts with this stage!
- Sift together the flour and baking powder. Sift 1/4 of the flour mixture over the egg mixture, gently fold together. Fold in the remaining flour by fourths. Then fold in the melted and cooled butter. Spoon batter into the prepared moulds, filling 3/4 full.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until the edges are golden and the tops spring back. Cool in moulds on a rack for 1 minute. Loosen with a knife. Invert onto a rack and cool. Sift icing sugar over the tops or melt plain chocolate and dip the tips in the chocolate. Store in an airtight container.