Many people have written about the differences between the English and the French but nothing illustrates it quite so well as the humble Madeleine. How to make this plain little sponge interesting and memorable?
French person: I know, I shall bake it in a sea shell shaped tin giving it an elegant and simple beauty. It will sit looking exquisite in the saucer of the coffee cup and have to power to make the eater remember things involuntarily.
English person: I know, I shall smother it in jam and roll it in coconut.
It makes me proud to be English.
Here is the Genoese sponge, cooling on a tray waiting to be bathed in jam and coconut:
Coating a Madeleine needs to be an organised process, and I am nothing if not organised (the jam heating in a saucepan is just out of shot):
Madeleines enjoyed the height of their popularity in the Victorian era but seem to be on the wane these days. I can’t recall the last time I saw an English Madeleine in a cake shop which is a real shame as they are delicious.
The ultimate comfort food cake, I love the soft sponge and sweet jam given extra texture and flavour by desiccated coconut. The cake is topped off with a glace cherry.
Such a pretty little cake:
Traditionally Madeleines are made in dariole moulds, which are steep sided moulds not dissimilar in shape to a thimble, but would work in any small deep mould you have.
So, did the English Madeleine have the power to make the eater remember things? It certainly did, after only one bite I remembered just how much I love sponge with jam and coconut!
For the cake:
225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
225g caster sugar
225g self raising flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the topping:
6 tablespoons raspberry jam
200g desiccated coconut – this is an approximate amount
6 glace cherries
How to make:
- Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan oven 140°C/325°F/Gas mark 3.
- Grease 12 dariole moulds with either cake release or butter.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Do not skimp on this stage as it’s the key to a lovely sponge.
- Gradually add the eggs and flour until fully combined and you have a smooth, thick batter.
- Add the vanilla and stir well.
- Spoon the batter into the dariole moulds. Fill each one about two-thirds full.
- Stand the moulds on an oven tray and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out cleanly. This is a Genoese sponge mix and I find it always takes longer to cook than other sponges; possible as it’s a dense texture. Don’t be alarmed if it takes 30 minutes.
- When baked, leave to cool on a wire rack. When they are cool enough to handle, level the surface of the sponge using a knife, and turn out of the moulds. Leave to cool completely.
- When cold, brush each sponge all over with some warmed jam and roll in desiccated coconut. I found this easiest to achieve by holding the sponge on a fork – it allowed me easy coverage, even to the bottom, with my brush and meant my fingers didn’t get sticky and make a mess of the coconut!
- Top with half a glace cherry.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.