These Orange Madeleines may become your new favourite recipe for these classic French cakes. Buttery soft sponge fragranced with orange zest and baked in their signature shell design then dipped in an orange glaze for more citrusy goodness, are sublime.
If you are as obsessed with French baking as I am, then you will adore these pretty little treats. Madeleines are on repeat in my household. With a batter that you can prepare the night before; these delicacies can be enjoyed as a last-minute afternoon snack that feels just a Lil' bit fancy when actually they are surprisingly easy to make.
If you've followed me for a while, you'll know that I've made a couple of variations of Madeleines in the past. From Lemon Poppy Seed to Triple Chocolate and lastly Brown Butter Espresso Madeleines, there will no doubt be a flavour that you will love.
Are Madeleines a cookie or a cake?
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!
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.
- 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 it 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.
- Orange 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.
- Orange juice: Freshly squeezed always. Hopefully, that is a given considering you've added ornage zest. Fresh juice adds moisture but also a subtly orange 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.
- Baking powder: You only need a small amount to help the sponge become light in texture.
- Salt: Use fine salt. Only add if using unsalted butter.
A combination of powdered icing sugar and orange juice, the glaze adds a sweet, fragrant coating to the outside of the Madeleines.
Whilst pretty to look at, the glaze acts as a barrier against the air, keeping the moisture in the sponge and preventing them from drying out so quickly. Kind of like fully covering a cake with buttercream.
What types of oranges can you use?
Use whatever oranges you have in season at the time. They will all work perfectly in this recipe. Naval oranges are the most common variety here in UK and can be found year round. Clementine or mandarines can also be used.
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full list of ingredients & instructions!*
Madeleines are typically made of a genoise sponge giving it that light and airy texture. Let’s see how we do it.
1. Whip the eggs, sugar and orange zest for a solid 5 minutes to really get some volume going.
2. Next, add in the flavouring. In our recipe today the flavouring is freshly squeezed orange juice. (Vanilla extract, orange blossom water or lemon juice are alternative flavourings).
3. Add the sifted dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt) and mix gently until just combined.
4. Pour in the melted butter and fold it in so as not to knock out all the lovely air incorporated earlier on.
5. 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: Make ahead by preparing the batter the night before and refrigerating overnight. The next day, you'll have fresh madeleines in 10 minutes or under! A great option for breakfast or quick afternoon tea.
TIP: Place Madeleines pans in the refrigerator along with the batter. Cold pans help with the 'hump' formation
How to bake
6. 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. Then dust lightly all over with flour and tap out the excess. This helps give the outside of the Madeleines a crispy exterior but also stops them from sticking. Very important!
7. Spoon into pans and bake. Once the batter has chilled for the required amount of time, it’s time to bake! Place a level tablespoon of the batter in the deepest part of the shell mould.
TIP: To ensure that I have 24 equal-sized Madeleines I use a level tablespoon of batter in each depression. Alternatively, you can use a cookie scoop, but as I don’t own any in the correct size, I can’t advise on this approach.
Once in the mould don’t flatten out the batter or tidy it up. 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. Bake for 8-10 minutes rotating halfway through.
8. Turn out onto wire rack. Once taken from the oven, leave to cool for 2 minutes then turn over the pans and gently tap to remove the orange madeleines. If they don’t come out then run a knife around the outer edge to loosen them.
Why do Madeleines have a ‘hump’?
9. Along with the signature shell shape, another identifying factor of a well made Madeleine is the Madeleine ‘hump’. It’s that raised mound on top of the Madeleines when you remove them from the oven. When you see this, don’t think you have done anything wrong. Usually, we don’t like seeing strange mounds on our bakes. This time, pat yourself on the back, you’ve made them perfectly.
The science behind it. The pan and batter are both super cold after their refrigeration period. When they hit the hot oven, this creates thermal shock due to the extreme difference in temperatures and the steam created in the batter from the heat ‘poofs’ up the sponge causing it to rise. Then, due to the shape of the mould being so shallow, the batter on the outside of the Madeleines sets in place whilst this rise occurs in the centre. They bake so quickly so the rise stays up until you remove them from the oven.
How to glaze
8. Make the glaze. Sift powdered icing sugar. By sifting the sugar you are guaranteed to have no lumps in your glaze. Add the orange juice one tablespoon at a time at whisk until you have a smooth glaze. It should be able to coat the back of a spoon. Add more juice if needed.
9. Dip the shell side of the madeleine into the glaze and place on a wire rack allow excess glaze to drip off and for the glaze to set.
- Raspberry - adding fresh raspberries in the batter and crushing the raspberries into the glaze. Spring magic!
- Orange Chocolate Madeleines - orange-flavoured sponge covered in chocolate. This would become my favourite chocolate dipped Madeleines recipe for sure
- Espresso - How perfect to have a coffee flavour sponge dusted in icing sugar to dip in your morning coffee. Bliss!
- Vanilla Bean - sometimes you can't go past the simplicity of vanilla.!
- 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 in the melted butter too quickly into the whipped eggs will cause them to deflate.
- Refrigerate the madeleines pan. Doing this helps the madeleines rise in the oven.
- Don’t over bake the sponge. If you do, you’ll end up with dry little rocks!
Frequently asked questions
There are two sizes of Madeleine pans that you can buy. A regular or a large madeleines pans. (Note: The term regular and large refers to the size of the depressions in the pan and not the pan itself)
Regular: As used in this recipe is the most common type of pan. It comes with 12 depressions in the mould. I would recommend buying x2 pans. My recipe makes 24 madeleines and it's so much easier to bake them in one go rather than one batch at a time.
- UK based: 12-cup Regular Madeleines Pan
- US based: 12-cup Regular Madeleines Pan
Large: They have beautiful large spherical shell moulds and each mould holds double the amount of filling. Instead of the 24 small Madeleines, you bake up 12 larger ones. The bonus of this is that you only need to buy one pan. A couple of years ago I bought one of these pans, and I absolutely love it. I made my Triple Chocolate Madeleines in this shape and have fallen head over heels in love with it – a wise investment for sure, I know that this tray will serve me well!
- UK based: 12-cup Large Madeleines Pan
- US based: 12-cup large Madeleines Pan
If you're 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.
You can absolutely make the batter ahead of time by refrigerating it overnight. I don't recommend baking the orange madeleines themselves, until you need them as they are best seated fresh and can dry out.
What if I don't get the signature 'humps'?
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!
How to store
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.
Madeleines 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.
Can madeleines be frozen?
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!
Tools you’ll need
- Madeleines Pan: To get those signature shaped design.
- Stand mixer: The eggs and sugar need a good amount of whipping to increase their volume, and a stand mixer does this effortlessly. A handheld mixer can be used if necessary.
- Whisk Attachment: Vital to use the whisk attachment to aerate those eggs.
- 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.
I truly hope that you have a go at making these French delicacies. We love them in afternoon. Orange madeleines have to be one of my kids favourite flavours out of all the ones that I make.
More cake recipes flavoured with orange, you may enjoy.
Orange Madeleines Recipe
- Pastry brush
- Madeleines Pan (regular)
- 115g g unsalted butter, melted and cooled, divided
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 100 g caster sugar
- 1 orange, zest
- 15 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
- 110 g plain flour (all-purpose), plus extra for dusting
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp fine salt
- 150 g powdered icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
- 30 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
- In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, place the eggs, sugar and orange zest and beat on medium for 5 minutes until pale and thick. Decrease the speed to low and add the orange juice and mix until combined.
- Sift into the bowl the flour, baking powder and salt and mix on low until a few flour streaks remain.
- 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.
- Cover the batter with cling film and refrigerate for 2-3 hours or overnight.
- 30 minutes before baking, pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Melt 15g / 1 tablespoon of butter 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- To make the glaze, sift the powdered icing sugar into a medium-sized bowl and add 2 tablespoons of orange juice. Whisk 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 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.