An 18th Century Recipe: Gateaux à la Madeleine

A recipe provided by Marjory Szuko

To  a pound of Flour, put a pound of Butter, eight Eggs, Yolks and Whites, three quarters of a pound of Sugar Powder, a glass of Water, a little Lemon-peel chopped very fine, and dried Orange-flowers ; work the Paste well together, then cut it into pieces of what bigness you please; bake them, and glaze them with Sugar.
– The Professed Cook by Bernard Clermont, 1776


A 12-cup madeleine tray
2 eggs
100g/3½ oz caster sugar
100g/3½ oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 tsp orange-flower water
¾ tsp baking powder
100g/3½ oz butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus extra for greasing


Preheat the oven to 400˚F, 200˚C, Gas Mark 6. Brush the madeleine tray with melted butter then shake in a little flour to coat, tapping out the excess.

Whisk together the eggs and the sugar in a bowl until frothy. Lightly whisk in the remaining ingredients. Leave to stand for 20 minutes before carefully pouring into the prepared madeleine tray.

Bake for 8-10 mins, or until the mixture has risen a little in the middle and is fully cooked through. Transfer the madeleines to a wire rack and leave for a few minutes to cool slightly. Ice with icing containing a dash of lemon juice/orange-flower water.

A Brief History of the Madeleine

Madeleines are always associated with the little French town of Commercy, whose bakers sold the little cakes packed in oval boxes as a specialty in the area. Nuns in eighteenth-century France frequently supported themselves and their schools by making and selling a particular sweet. Commercy once had a convent dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen.

According to another story, during the 18th century in the same town, a young servant girl name Madeleine made them for Stanislas Leszczynska, the deposed king of Poland, when he was exiled to Lorraine. This started the fashion for madeleines, which became popular in Versailles through his daughter Marie, who was married to Louis XV (1710–1774).

Whatever the origins, Madeleines have become inextricably linked with the author Marcel Proust.

The madeleine is at the heart of the book’s main theme of involuntary memory, in which an experience such as smell or a taste unexpectedly brings back a past recollection. The expression ‘Proust’s madeleine’ is still used today to refer to a sensory cue that triggers a memory.

The Poor Print

Established in 2013, The Poor Print is the student-run newspaper of Oriel College, Oxford. Written by members of the JCR, MCR, SCR and staff, new issues are published fortnightly during term. Our current Executive Editors are Siddiq Islam and Jerric Chong.

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