Besides exploring the cakes' origin and history, I'll also be searching for the best ways to prepare these cakes. If you're a baker or possess some basic cullinary skills, there'll be a sample recipe that you can use to try and bake some of these delicious cakes. Before I continue, I'd like to remind you to subscribe to our newsletter service, so as to not miss out on any of our latest articles.
Let's cut right to the chase. The first thing I'll be explaining in today's article is how to actually bake these goodies. Why did I choose to first write the recipe and then talk about the madeleines' history and trivia? The logic is simple. You'll have something to eat while reading those other sections! Now, some might say that baking these cakes is a hard task, but don't be intimidated. Take things slowly, have some patience, be precise, prepare in advance and you'll have no probem baking the madeleines... or any other desserts for that matter!
I'd like to clear something up. Many people confuse the madeleines to be biscuits (or cookies). It's probably because of their appearance and size. However, they're most definitely cakes due to their texture and softness. So, how does any go about baking the madeleines? Well, thanks to Sally from Sally's Baking Addiction, we don't have to stumble around in the dark! I suggest you check out her page for some more amazing recipes. For starters, you should prepare the ingredients.
Those madeleines you've just baked taste gorgeously, don't they? Then you can see why they've remained so popular throughout all these years! And let me tell you something, the history of these cakes stretches a long way back. To be more specific, the stories suggest that these cakes were first baked in the 18th century! They have as much history as, e.g. pizzelle traditional biscuits.
As for the place of their origin, the madeleines are traditional small cakes from the communes of Commercy and Liverdun, which are located in the Lorraine region of northeastern France. As you already know, the madeleines have an almost unique shape which sets them apart from other types of cakes and cookies - a shell-shaped appearance which is gained by baking the cake batter in specially designed pans. The most commonly used batter recipe for the madeleines is the génoise cake batter, which is quite similar to sponge cake.
As for the madeleines origin and history, I've already mentioned that the cakes' roots can be traced back to the eighteenth century. Well, at least to one of the legends that can be found about these sponge-cakes. However, what all of these legends share in common is that they all revolve around a female character named "Madeleine" which explains the cakes' name. Madeleine is said to have been in the service of an important character from Lorraine, probably some noble or "new-money" upper-middle class citizens who had a lot of wealth but wasn't of noble birth. In this sense, the madeleines have a similar origin story to Marie biscuits.
What is important to remember is that the 18th century was a time of great upheaval in European history. Two great revolutions occured which changed the course of human history forever. I'm talking about the Industrial revolution which led to the birth of capitalism and industrialised societies, and the French revolution, which had a profound effect on the human psyche of that time. It was thanks to the French revolution that many European nations adopted liberal values which we still enjoy today.
It is not a far-fetched idea that the "important character" which Madeleine served might not have been of noble blood. According to some accounts, Madeleine served Paul de Gondi, a 17th century cardinal and the owner of a castle in Commercy. Some say that the inventor of the madeleines was none other than Madeleine Paulmer, who served Stanislaus I., the exiled king of Poland in the 18th century. It seems that Stanislaus liked madeleines more than his country's Torún gingrebread, as even Lous the XV, who was the son-in-law of Stanislaus, became enfatuated with the cakes, which he named after Madeleine. His wife introduced the royal court of Versailles to the now-named madeleines which became a hit with the higher-ups.
Although the lower-class citizens of 18th century France had their own customs and traditions, sometimes, they would copy certain fashion or culinary trends which were popular at the time in the royal court (and vice-versa). It just so happens that the madeleines were one of these culinary trends, and soon, the cakes started popping-up in homes across the country.
There are several other accounts of how the madeleines came to be, but this is the most common one.
You might have already realised this while eating your own batch of madeleines, but I thought it'd be a good idea to recap why the madeleines are such great cakes!
Well... the short answer is - unfortunately, yes. But the long answer is... most such pastries are bad, if you eat too much! A recurring theme in our articles is that anything is good in moderation (except for some really extreme things, like some illegal substances etc.).
Yes, the possible long-term effect of eating madeleines (which are: diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer) sound scary. But you're not going to eat madeleines every day, are you? If you're eating these cakes from time to time, you have nothing to worry about.
None of the ingredients that are used to prepare madeleines are unhealthy on their own. It's when they're combined and prepared in the way that they are that they become unhealthy. However, most dishes these days are prepared in the same way, especially fast food. Hamburgers, french fries, pizza... these are just some of the most popular fast food products that are full of fats, calories while offering little nutrition.
However, if you lead a healthy lifestyle, coupled with a nutritious diet, you really have nothing to worry about. If you walk for at least an hour every day, drink plenty of water and eat your veggies, then congratulations, you're already healthy!
And with this, I'd like to conlude today's article. I hope you've found the article informative as well as interesting! I have to say I enjoyed writing about these cakes and can't wait to try out the recipe for myself! If you're looking for more biscuit types to bake, be sure to check out our complete collection of biscuit types.
Leading image by maridol777/Shutterstock.com