This weekend, the Franschhoek Valley is dressed in the colours of the French flag for our annual Bastille festivities. At La Motte, we celebrate with beautiful wine, a French-inspired menu at Pierneef à La Motte restaurant, a classical music concert with a French flavour and delightful gifts and confectionery in our Farm Shop.
One of the beautiful sweet treats to seduce you this weekend, is the traditional Madeleine.
Described by author Marcel Proust as “…little shell of cake, so generously sensual beneath the piety of its stern pleating”, the Madeleine (French pronunciation: [mad.lɛn], English /ˈmædleɪn/ or /ˌmædlˈeɪn/) is a traditional small cake from Commercy and Liverdun, two communes of the Lorraine region in northeastern France. (Wikipedia)
Madeleines are very similar to small sponge cakes and get their distinctive shell-like shape from pans with shell-shaped depressions in which they are baked. The génoise cake batter used, traditionally include very finely ground almonds and the Madeleines sold from our Farm Shop this weekend, also contain lemon zest. Some people do prefer their Madeleines to be drier and slightly crunchy in order to absorb the hot liquid of the tea or coffee they are dipped into.
According to one story, Louis XV tasted the cookies in 1755 and then named them “Madeleine” to honor his father in-law’s cook Madeleine Paulmier. Louis’ wife, Marie then introduced them to court and they soon became Versailles’ fashionable accompaniment to tea.
Another story has it that a convent in the town of Commercy was the original home to the recipe for Madeleines, but that the nuns sold the recipe to local bakers when the convent was destroyed.
Others have it that a young lady called Madeleine made these now famous cakes for the King of Poland when he was exiled to Commercy and that they have subsequently became quite famous.
Whatever the origins, however, we are just delighted that the recipe for this delightfully light and elegant cake has survived and that we can still enjoy them today!
Featured image: Soaking up the winter sun at Pierneef à La Motte restaurant with coffee and a Madeleine.