How to Make Classic French Madeleine Cookies

Updated: Dec. 15, 2023

Are buttery, shell-shaped French madeleines cookies or cakes? Learn how to make this madeleine cookie recipe and decide for yourself!

After spending a good amount of time in France and developing a love for French pastry, I decided that it was time to learn how to make a classic madeleine cookie recipe. These mini butter cakes are a bit trickier than you would expect, but the end result is a delicious treat, perfect for serving with a cup of coffee or tea.

What Is a Madeleine Cookie?

There is great debate over whether madeleines are cookies or cakes, and technically, a madeleine is a small, sponge-like cake. Madeleines come from the Lorraine region of France, where they are made in special pans with shell-shaped depressions that give them their signature look. The batter used to make French madeleines is a genoise, so it is leavened naturally with eggs.

Madeleine Cookie Recipe (Step by Step)

Ingredients OverheadApril Preisler for Taste of Home


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus 2 additional tablespoons for the pan
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour, plus 1 additional tablespoon for the pan
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling on top

Tools You’ll Need

  • Madeleine mold: This is the most important tool you’ll need when making a madeleine cookie recipe. Choose a good quality nonstick pan for the best results.
  • Flour sifter: Sifting your flour is essential when baking to be sure that the flour is light and airy. You can also use a sifter to dust the baking pan with flour after it is buttered.
  • Microplane grater: Classic French madeleines feature a citrus flavor that comes from the juice and zest of lemons. A microplane grater, or zester, that works in both directions will save you time and energy.


Step 1: Melt the butter

Dry and Wet IngredientsApril Preisler for Taste of Home

Melt the butter and set aside to slightly cool as you prepare the rest of the batter. You can also brown the butter slightly if you like.

Step 2: Make the batter


Using a hand whisk, beat the eggs, lemon zest and vanilla extract together rapidly for at least 8 minutes. The mixture will be thick and pale, and form ribbons when you lift the whisk.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. With a spatula or wooden spoon, gently fold half of the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Fold in the remaining flour.

Step 3: Incorporate the butter

Batter in bowl next to small pan of melted butterApril Preisler for Taste of Home

Stir 1/4 cup of the batter into the melted butter. It will take a minute to fully incorporate. Then, stir in the rest of the batter. It should be thick, silky and shiny.

Step 4: Chill

Cover the batter and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. It’s best not to chill it for longer because the butter will start to solidify.

Step 5: Make the madeleines

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and mix with 1 tablespoon flour. Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the pan with the mixture.

Bowl of melted butter and panApril Preisler for Taste of Home

The batter will be quite airy and spongy after resting. Spoon 1 generous tablespoon of batter into the center of each scalloped well. You don’t need to spread it to the edges.

Batter in PanApril Preisler for Taste of Home

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. The madeleines are done when the tops spring back after being lightly pressed with your finger. Invert the pan onto the counter. Transfer the warm madeleines to a wire rack to cool.

Madelines BakedApril Preisler for Taste of Home

Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired, before serving.

Madeleine Cookie Recipe Tips

Making madeleines can be challenging—but I have some tips and tricks to make sure they turn out properly.

What can I use if I don’t have a madeleine pan?

If you don’t have a proper madeleine pan, you can try other molds that you already have in your kitchen, such as a silicone muffin pan or small rectangular or round molds. Just remember that if you use a different style of pan, you may not get the small bump that forms in a classic madeleine pan.

How do I fix madeleines that are too dense?

When it comes to madeleines, this is a common baking problem and, unfortunately, there is no easy fix once they’re made. Madeleines turn out too dense if you don’t whisk your egg mixture enough. The mixture should be whipped to the point where it is thick and pale, and drops from the whisk into the bowl like ribbons.

Can you make the batter ahead of time?

Madeleines taste best the same day they’re baked, but you can make the batter up to 24 hours in advance. Before you store it, cover the batter tightly with plastic wrap.

How to Make This Madeleine Cookie Recipe Your Own

Using lemon, or even orange, zest is classic, but you can experiment with different combinations to customize this madeleine cookie recipe. For a more intense flavor, replace the vanilla extract with vanilla bean paste. You can also add in various spices or extracts to change the flavor, such as almond extract or chai spice.

To create beautiful madeleines, decorate the finished cookies with drizzles of milk chocolate or white chocolate and dust them with powdered sugar or cocoa, or top the melted chocolate with chopped nuts before it cools.

How to Store Madeleines

Madeleines are best served straight from the oven when they are still slightly warm with a light crisp. You can also store them in an airtight container for up to two days. (See more tips for how to store your favorite baked goods.)

You can freeze madeleines for up to one month if you allow them to cool completely after baking. Wrap the mini cakes in wax paper and then aluminum foil and place into an airtight container. Allow them to thaw at room temperature and then dust with powdered sugar before serving.

What to Serve with Madeleines

The classic French way to eat madeleines is with a cup of tea, such as Lemon Almond Tea.

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