A student's guide to baking



Ingredients (makes 9):

  • 55g butter
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 60g plain flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • 50g granulated sugar (decoration)


  • Preheat your oven to 180ºC. Grease madeleine moulds and cover in a fine layer of flour.
  • Melt butter by putting in a bowl and microwaving it on a low energy setting for 10-20 seconds at a time, until it’s just turning to liquid. Leave it to one side to cool.
  • In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, vanilla and salt.
  • Gradually add in the caster sugar whilst continuing to beat until the mixture becomes thick and pale and forms ribbons. This should take about 10 minutes of beating.
  • Add in the lemon zest and pour in the melted butter. Immediately fold in the butter, doing so carefully to avoid spilling.
  • Divide the mixture between the moulds, allowing for it to form slight mounds.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cake is a golden colour and springs back when pressed.
  • Turn the madeleines upside down on a rack and sprinkle with granulated sugar before leaving them to cool.
  • Because of the gentle light texture, madeleines are best eaten sooner rather than later. Then again, in my book that’s the case for cake of any kind, but with these it’s particularly true. They are a particularly nice tea time treat that works well when paired with tea without milk.

(Recipe adapted from: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/french-butter-cakes-madeleines)


Like many of my other recipes already on this site, these were made during the Lichfield Festival. Jen, our Festival Manager, is an Oxford French graduate, and with a few Cantabs in the office and on the team for the Festival, her and I have often banded together to fight the Oxonian corner. As an Oxford linguist myself, albeit a current one, we’ve also had many conversations about all that that involves.

One such conversation involved Jen recalling her time spent in the city of dreaming spires, and the compulsory texts for study in the initial year of a French degree, in particular the first volume of Marcel Proust’s epic novel À la Recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time), entitled Du Côte de chez Swann (Swann’s Way). In this monumental and frankly rather long novel, the protagonist triggers a rich and detailed memory of his past by dipping a madeleine in a cup of lime tea. I leave this post here with Bernard Black, of Dylan Moran’s Black Books, who summarises the work rather well…


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