These delightful French Lemon Poppy Seed Madeleines combine the perfect soft buttery sponge interior with a crisp, scalloped shaped exterior. Flavoured with zesty lemon and dipped in a tangy lemon glaze, I’ve added just the right amount of poppy seeds for some textural crunch. Packed full of flavour, these elegant little delicacies make the perfect afternoon accompaniment with your tea.
With a French Mum, I grew up knowing about these classic French beauties called Madeleines. We would often buy them from the store to enjoy at home (admittedly, they weren’t homemade, but I still loved them!) It was on trips to France to visit my Grandmother that I could truly appreciate just how delicious these traditional French little cakes actually were. Served in cafes throughout France, they are as common as a chocolate chip cookies in America.
But Madeleines do have a reputation to be tricky. Lucky for you, I've practised a lot and developed some delicious versions like my Triple Chocolate Madeleines, Brown Butter Espresso Madeleines and Classic Orange Madeleines. In addition to providing you with a delicious Madeleine recipe, I include invaluable tips and tricks to help you master these in next to no time. I've also written a comprehensive guide all about How To Make Madeleines.
For my recipe today I’ve tapped into seasonal lemons but admittedly you can use any of the citrus fruits available like orange, limes or grapefruits. I created these Lemon Madeleines with lemon zest in the batter and accompanied the zest with poppy seeds to provide a crunch. Lemon and poppy seeds pair beautifully in your bakes and in particular in these Madeleines. Once dipped in the tangy lemon glaze, your taste buds come alive when biting down into these Madeleines.
Why you'll love this recipe
- Amazing Texture. When eaten fresh, the genoise sponge has such a light, soft buttery texture that melts away in your mouth.
- Pantry ingredients. All the ingredients are pantry staples. Either use regular oranges or jazz these up with blood oranges for a pretty pink glaze.
- Prep ahead. The batter is best if left for at least two hours. I generally make the batter the night before and leave it to rest in the fridge until I’m ready to bake the next day.
The ingredients needed for these Lemon Poppyseed Madeleines are basic everyday fridge or pantry ingredients that you'll most likely have on hand. I always have lemons rolling around my fridge drawer and there's usually a half-finished packet of poppy seeds in the pantry!
- Butter: Helps add flavour and add moisture to the Madeleines. I prefer unsalted butter but if you use salted then omit the salt in the recipe. Melt the butter and set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Eggs: Use large eggs. Make sure to whip these with the sugar for a good five minutes to aerate them adequately.
- Caster Sugar: Use granulated sugar if you cannot find caster sugar. I find caster sugar dissolves that bit easier when whipping with the eggs but the taste will be the same if you don't have it.
- Lemon Zest: I add this when whipping the eggs and sugar at the start of the recipe as it helps release the oils from the zest into the batter. Go one step further and rub the zest into the sugar before adding the eggs.
- Lemon Juice: Freshly squeezed always. Hopefully that is a given considering you have added lemon zest. Fresh juice adds moisture but also the tangy lemon taste.
- Plain Flour (all-purpose): Don’t use self raising flour. The tender crumb of the Madeleines comes from the small amount of baking powder and aeration of the whipped eggs. These two plus the thermal shock created by the heat difference is enough to cause the Madeleines to rise.
- Poppy Seeds: These add the perfect amount of crunch to the delicate sponge which creates an interesting contrast. If you don't have any on hand then omit them and you'll have delicious French Lemon Madeleines.
- Baking Powder: You only need a small amount to help the sponge become light in texture.
- Salt: Use fine table salt. Only add if using unsalted butter.
- Lemon Glaze: A combination of powdered icing sugar and lemon juice, the glaze adds a sweet tangy coating to the outside of the Madeleines.
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
The technique used to make this sponge batter is unlike a regular batter where you would normally cream together the sugar and butter, then add in the eggs followed by the dry ingredients. Let me explain further and take you step by step through the process so that you can understand the exact method to make these Lemon Poppy Seed Madeleines with ultimate success.
Make the lemon madeleines batter
1. Whip the eggs, sugar and lemon zest. To create a light and airy genoise sponge - the eggs and sugar need to be whipped until pale and airy and a ribbon of mixture forms when the stand mixer whisk is lifted up. (Image 1 & 2) This is a super important part of the process, so don't scrimp on the time!
TIP: Rub the lemon zest into the sugar until the oils have been released and the sugar is moistened. Then add the lemon sugar to the eggs and whip. This extra simple step elevates the lemon flavour.
Next, add in the flavouring. In our recipe today the flavouring is freshly squeezed lemon juice. (Vanilla extract, orange blossom water or orange juice are alternative flavourings). Also, add in the poppy seeds and give the mixture a stir until combined. (Image 3 & 4)
2. Sift dry ingredients into the batter. I'm all about shortcuts and sifting the dry ingredients into separate bowls feels like dirtying another bowl for no reason. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt directly over the top of the whipped eggs. (Image 5) Gently fold the dry ingredients into the whipped eggs until a few streaks remain.
3. Pour in the melted butter (Image 6) and fold it in so as not to knock out all the lovely air incorporated earlier on.
Once the batter is made, cover the bowl with cling wrap and refrigerate. The flour is able to hydrate and the butter has time to chill. Between 1-2 hours is ideal. When the cold batter hits the warm oven, steam is created which helps the batter to rise resulting in fluffy madeleines with a signature hump.
TIP: Want Madeleines for breakfast?! Yes, please!! By preparing the batter the day before and refrigerating overnight the next day, you'll have fresh madeleines in 15 minutes or under! A great option for breakfast or quick afternoon tea.
TIP: Step closer to achieving that hump. Place Madeleines pans in the refrigerator along with the batter. Cold pans help with the 'hump’ formation.
Prepare the madeleine pan for baking
4. Prepare the Madeleine pans. Melt a tablespoon of butter and use a pastry brush to work that butter into all the nooks of the shell mould. (Image 7) Then dust lightly all over with flour and tap out the excess. (Image 8) This helps give the outside of the Madeleines a crispy exterior but also stops them from sticking. Very important!
Spoon batter into pans. Once the batter has chilled for the required amount of time, remove the batter from the fridge and give it a quick stir. Divide the batter into the deepest part of the 12 large shell moulds. (Image 9)
Once in the mould, don’t flatten out the batter or tidy it up. (Image 10) The heat of the oven will allow the batter to fill each depression in the mould and allow the signature ‘hump’ on the back of the madeleine to rise.
Now bake and decorate!
5. Bake the madeleines for 10 to 12 minutes- but everyone's oven runs differently so keep an eye on them. My oven has a hot spot, so I tend to rotate the pans at the 8-minute mark. They are done when the middle is puffed up and springs back when gently pressed.
6. Turn out onto wire rack. Once baked, set the madeleines pan onto a wire rack for two minutes to cool slightly, then tap the pan to dislodge the madeleines. This usually does the trick to release them. If you find they need a helping hand, then run a butter knife around the edge and this will pop them right out. (Image 11) You'll see your madeleines have amazing humps - this is totally normal and the signature 'look' - they are meant to be there! (Image 12)
7. Dip in the lemon glaze. Make the lemon glaze by sifting the powdered icing sugar into a bowl and adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. (Image 13) Whisk it together until smooth. The glaze should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Once the Madeleines are cooled, then dip the scallop side into the glaze and lift it out letting any excess drip off. (Image 14) Set onto the wire rack or baking paper and leave for the glaze to set...or just tuck in right away!!! Repeat with the remaining Madeleines— alternatively, dust with powdered icing sugar. They really are best eaten as soon as possible!
The options are endless when making madeleines! Here are some of my favourite flavour options.
- Raspberry Madeleines- adding fresh raspberries to the batter and crushing the raspberries into the glaze. Spring magic!
- Brown Butter Madeleines: Beautiful in their simplicity, brown butter madeleines rely on the flavour of browned butter for a subtle nutty sweetness.
- Lemon Almond Madeleines: Follow this recipe omitting the poppy seeds. After coating the madeleines in the glaze, dip them into finely chopped toasted almonds.
- Vanilla Beans Madeleines. Like with my French Yogurt Cake, sometimes going with the pure and simple taste of vanilla is a refined option.
- Weigh your flour. Use digital scales for an accurate measurement. Too much flour will lead to a dry sponge.
- Slowly pour in the melted butter. Adding the melted butter too quickly into the whipped eggs will cause them to deflate.
- Refrigerate the madeleine pan. Doing this helps the madeleines rise in the oven.
- Don’t overbake the sponge. If you do, you’ll end up with dry little rocks!
Frequently asked questions
Usually, they are served warm, not long out of the oven, either dusted in powdered icing sugar or dipped in a thin glaze. Many markets sell them throughout France and the French enjoy them primarily at two times during the day, either for breakfast dunked in their coffee or for ‘goûter’, their afternoon tea.
This is open to deliberation! Cookie or cake - it's up to your own interpretation. They are a baked sponge which technically makes them a cake. Even if they are just tiny little cakes! However, many (mostly Non-French) call them a cookie. Why? Well, because of their small size, crispy sides and because they are amazing dunked in your coffee! Cake or cookie, traditional French Madeleines served for breakfast, in the afternoon or as an after-dinner treat, are delicious.
If you prefer not to glaze the Lemon Poppy Seed Madeleines then you can simply dust them whilst still warm with powdered icing sugar.
Firstly, you may not have whipped the eggs and sugar enough at the start.
Secondly, you may have knocked out too much air when mixing in the flour or folding in the butter. Or lastly, you might have flattened out the batter when you filled the moulds.
If this happens, then don’t worry, you haven’t ruined them – they will taste the same, just possibly a little denser. More reason to try them again!
If you are unable to get your hands on a madeleines pan then you can at a pinch use a cupcake pan. Ensure that you go through the same process of preparing the pan by greasing each mould well, dusting them with flour and refrigerating. I have never tried baking them in a cupcake tin so I cannot guarantee the signature hump, but if the lack of Madeleines pan is what is stopping you from trying these out, I say GO for it. The taste will identical! Let me know how you go if you do
How to store and freeze
To Store: The Lemon Poppy Seed Madeleines are best eaten the same day that they are made, ideally within a couple of hours. They are at their freshest and fluffiest and melt in your mouth this way.
You can store them in an airtight container for 2-3 days at room temperature. Wait for the glaze to set before placing them in the container.
To Freeze: Yes, they can be frozen if need be. Wait for them to cool fully, wrap in baking paper and then place in an airtight container and freeze for up to 1 month. To thaw, place in the refrigerator overnight, then allow to come to room temperature prior to glazing and serving.
I tested freezing these and found that the sponge does become a bit denser after it defrosts. A quick blast in the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds warms them up which makes a difference. To be honest, Madeleines don’t last long enough to be frozen in my household. With three children they are gone overnight!
Equipment you’ll need
- Madeleines Pan: To get those signature shaped design.
- Stand mixer with whisk attachment: The eggs and sugar need a good amount of whipping to increase their volume, and a stand mixer does this effortlessly. Handheld beaters can be used if necessary.
- Pastry brush: To be able to get melted butter into all the nooks of the Madeleine pan. It will save you later when they haven't stuck to the base...trust me.
More Lemon recipes that you may like
If you tried this Lemon Poppy Seed Madeleines Recipe or any other recipe on my website, please let me know how you go in the comments below. I love hearing from you. Also, please leave a star rating whilst you're there!
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Lemon Poppy Seed Madeleines
Lemon poppyseed madeleines
- 115g g unsalted butter, melted and at room temperature. Plus 1 tablespoon extra for preparing the madeleines pan.
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 100 g caster sugar
- 1 lemon, zest
- 15 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 6 g poppy seeds
- 110 g plain flour (all-purpose), plus 1 teaspoon extra for preparing the madeleines pan.
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon fine salt
- 150 g powdered icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
- 30 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
Lemon poppyseed madeleines
- Whip the eggs, sugar and lemon zest. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, place the eggs, sugar and lemon zest and whip on medium for 5 minutes until pale and thick. (Tip: rub the sugar and lemon zest together to release the zest oils, before adding them to the eggs and whisking)Add in the flavouring. Decrease the speed to low and add in the lemon juice and poppy seeds and mix until combined.
- Sift dry ingredients into the batter. Sift into the mixing bowl the flour, baking powder and salt, and mix on low until a few flour streaks remain.
- Pour in the melted butter. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and slowly pour in the melted butter. Gently fold in the butter with the rubber spatula ensuring that you don't knock out all the air.Refrigerate. Cover the batter with cling film and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or overnight.
- Prepare the Madeleine pans and fill with batter. 30 minutes before baking, pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Melt the remaining butter (15g / 1 tablespoon) and, using a pastry brush, grease all the moulds of your Madeleines pans. Lightly dust with flour and tap out any excess. Place the pans in the refrigerator until the oven has come to temperature and you are ready to fill them with the batter.Spoon batter into pans. Once the oven is at temperature, remove the batter and pans from the fridge and scoop one level tablespoon of batter into the mould's deepest part. Repeat until all the shell moulds are full. Make sure that you don’t level off the batter in the pan. Scoop it in and leave it.
- Bake. Place the Madeleine pans in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes. I turn them at 8 minutes to ensure they brown evenly. Bake until golden on top, browned along the edges and risen in the middle.
- Turn out onto wire rack. Remove the pans from the oven and set them aside to cool for ten minutes. Give the pan a jiggle, and they should pop right out. Use a butter knife and run it gently along the edge if they don't come out when you jiggle the pan initially. Cool the Madeleines on a wire wrack.
- Make the lemon glaze. Sift the powdered icing sugar into a medium-sized bowl and add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Whisk together until smooth. The glaze should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Dip Madeleines in glaze. Once the Madeleines are cooled, then dip the scallop side into the glaze and set onto the wire rack or baking paper for the excess to drip off. Repeat with the remaining Madeleines— alternatively, dust with powdered icing sugar. Serve immediately.
All recipes are developed and tested in Metric grams. I strongly recommend that you bake using digital scales for a more accurate result. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.