The classic madeleine recipe has been updated and given a citrus twist! You’ll love these homemade Lemon Madeleines, with their delicate seashell shape, cake-like texture, and vibrant lemon flavor. Perfect with tea or as dessert!
Madeleine cookies with a citrus twist
These Lemon Madeleines brighten up a classic French recipe with sunny, refreshing citrus flavor. These elegant little shell shaped cakes wow at garden teas, bridal showers and other warm weather occasions. You’ll love how these cookies bring a splash of sophistication and charm to any event!
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What are madeleines? Cookie or cake?
Madeleines are a classic staple of French cafes, but in the United States, they are less well known and harder to find on menus. (As an English major, I first encountered them not on the plate, but in a Proust novel, where they were described so vividly that I made it a mission to try them myself one day!)
Madeleines have a modest appearance–they are small, hand-held pastries, about the size of a standard cookie, so you would be forgiven for thinking they’re just an oddly-shaped cookie with a hard-to-spell name.
However, madeleines are actually petite, shell-shaped tea cakes. They have a cake-like texture, flavor, and crumb–imagine a bite-sized sponge cake with a crisp exterior and fluffy interior. They can easily fit in your hand, or snuggle up to the side of your teacup, and they’re light enough to be an afternoon snack, or an after-dinner dessert. Madeleines are prepared like most cake recipes, from a light batter that gets its volume from well-whipped eggs and sugar.
Traditionally, madeleines are flavored with a bit of vanilla extract, but this version has a citrus twist thanks to the one-two punch of lemon zest and lemon extract. The bright, tangy lemon flavor makes these mini cakes the perfect recipe for any spring or summer occasion.
🧾 What You’ll Need
Think just because madeleines are a touch fancy that they need tons of hard to find ingredients? Nope! You probably have most of the ingredients at home, and anything you don’t already have is easy to find. Here’s what you should look for as you gather your supplies:
- Eggs: You’ll want large eggs for this recipe and they should be at room temperature. Don’t skip letting them warm up to room temperature! The yolks break more easily and mix with the other ingredients better when they are warmer.
- Butter: Use unsalted butter that you have melted and allowed to cool slightly. I like to melt the butter before I begin working with the rest of the ingredients so it has time to cool. This way the butter will still be liquid, but not warm enough that it will cook the eggs.
- Lemon flavoring: To get a punchy lemon flavor, I like using LorAnn Lemon Bakery Emulsion because it is so vibrant. You can substitute lemon extract if that’s what available to you. Different brands and extracts have different strengths so if you are using a different product, you might need to adjust the amount you use depending on the potency.
- Lemon zest: Lemon zest has tons of pure lemon flavor without all the acidity of lemon juice. When you zest the lemon, use a microplane to remove only the bright yellow part of the peel without zesting the white rind underneath. The white part has a bitter flavor that we don’t want in our baked goods!
Madeleines do require one specialized piece of cookware: a madeleine pan. You probably already have the rest of the equipment you’ll need, but just to be sure, check the list below. (Links are affiliate links and I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.)
- Madeleine pan: A MUST for getting that signature sea shell shape! This heavy-duty pan won’t warp and makes beautiful madeleines.
- Cookie scoop: If you make a lot of other cookies, I highly recommend getting a cookie scoop to help make even sized cookies. For this recipe it will help you fill the pans evenly.
- Microplane:A microplane helps to get the zest super fine, which helps avoid larger chunks that you often get with an ordinary zester.
Now’s the time to roll up our sleeves and start baking. These are just an overview of the steps–the full, printable instructions are included in the recipe card down below!
Mix the Wet Ingredients
- Use a hand or stand mixer to beat together the eggs and granulated sugar. You should set it on medium speed and mix until it is smooth and creamy, which will take about 10 minutes. You’ll know the mixture is ready when it flows like warm caramel sauce.
- Add the lemon extract and zest, and mix just to combine.
Add in the dry ingredients
- Fold in the flour and baking powder using a spatula. You’ll need to be gentle, so the egg mixture does not deflate.
- Fold in the melted and cooled butter. I like to melt the butter first to give it a chance to cool some so that it does not cook the eggs when you add it.
Chill and fill
- Place the madeleine batter in the fridge to chill for one hour.
- Scoop the batter into the prepared molds until they are about ¾ full. To make this easier, I use a cookie scoop.
Bake, cool, and serve
- Place the pan in the oven and bake until the madeleines are light brown on top. Remove them from the oven and transfer the madeleines to a wire rack to cool.
💡 Tips and FAQs
Lemons aren’t the only citrus that shine in madeleines–oranges are a great addition as well! You can replace both the extract and the zest with orange, or you can mix and match using lemon extract and orange zest.
For toppings, a simple sprinkling of powdered sugar looks pretty and provides a bit of sweetness. You could also dip them in melted semi-sweet chocolate for some added flavor.
And, if you dip them in chocolate, you can fancy them up by sprinkling fresh zest onto the chocolate. You could even go playful and add some sprinkles to the chocolate!
Zesting a lemon
When you zest a lemon, I recommend using a microplane. A microplane makes a super fine texture that is perfect for baked goods.
If you don’t have a microplane, you can use a standard zester. I recommend using a knife to cut up any larger chunks, which helps you to avoid any weird texture issues with pieces of pulp.
Make-ahead and storage instructions
Madeleines are best served the same day they are made, since they dry out and grow stale quickly. If you need to prolong their shelf life, dipping them in chocolate helps keep them moist, and you can store them in an airtight container at room temperature for 4-5 days.
🍋 More Lemon Desserts
Lemon and other citrus flavored baked goods are a personal favorite of mine. They are sweet, but also light and fresh tasting, so you will never feel stuffed when eating them. Here are a few more treats to try when you are in the mood for lemon:
- Beat together the eggs and granulated sugar using a hand or stand mixer set on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 10 minutes. You’ll know the mixture is ready when it flows like warm caramel sauce.
- Add the lemon extract and zest and mix just to combine.
- Add in the flour and baking powder and fold them in by hand with a spatula. Be gentle so the egg mixture does not deflate.
- Fold in the melted and cooled butter.
- Place the madeleine batter in the fridge to chill for one hour.
- Near the end of the chilling step, preheat the oven to 350F and grease a standard madeleine pan with melted butter and non-stick cooking spray.
- Scoop batter into the molds until they are ¾ full (I used a 1 tablespoon scoop) and bake until the madeleines are light brown– about 12-13 minutes.
- Transfer the madeleines to a wire rack to cool. Once cool, eat them plain or serve with a light dusting of powdered sugar on top.
- Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Our recipes are developed using weight measurements, and we highly recommend using a kitchen scale for baking whenever possible. However, if you prefer to use cups, volume measurements are provided as well. PLEASE NOTE: the adage “8 oz = 1 cup” is NOT true when speaking about weight, so don’t be concerned if the measurements don’t fit this formula.
Want to learn more about baking measurements and conversion?
About Elizabeth LaBau
I’m Elizabeth, but you can call me SugarHero! I’m a former pastry chef turned blogger, cookbook author, and baking instructor, and I consider myself sugar’s #1 fan. Learn more from my About page, or connect with me on social media: