Madeleine is shell shaped, light spongy cake from Commercy and Liverdun situated in Lorraine region North East of France (marked in blue on the map below). I have been baking this delicacy since last week. The shape, the subtle taste of almond and lemon zest in it makes Madeleine a big hit at home. Last but not least, I feel a bit of connection to these divinely bakegood. Perhaps because of its origin, from the region after which I was named, Lorraine.
There are several versions of history of Madeleine. The most well-known is the following.
In 1755 Stanisław Leszczyński, a Polish King who was at that time in exile in Commercy, Lorraine had a dinner without a dessert afterwards. He insisted to have one. Once the golden brown sweet cakes were presented to him by a young female servant, Stanislaw was happy.
He asked to young servant: What is this called?
Servant: I don’t know Sire. The cakes have no name. We bake them during holidays.
Stanislaw: And what’s your name?
Stanislaw: Alright then. The cakes would be named after you, Madeleine de Commercy.
Stanislaw was very fond of Madeleine. He sent a dozen to his daughter Marie who was married to Louis XV. In Versailles Madeleine became very popular among the nobility there. From there Madeleine has become famous till now.
The second version of Madeleine’s history. According to a source, Madeleine was a name of a young girl who gave this cake in a shape of Saint Jacques Shell to pilgrims of Saint Jacques de Compostela. Fact is that Saint Jacques Shell (the shape of Madeleine) is an emblem for the pilgrims of Saint Jacques de Compostela.
Last version I have gathered of the history of Madeleine. It was Jean Avice the “master of choux pastry,” a pastry chef for Prince Talleyrand (1754-1838) who invented Madeleine in the 19th century by baking little cakes in aspic molds.
Madeleine of Proust
It was Marcel Proust French writer (1871 – 1922), who had contributed to the fame of Madeleine. Proust writes in his most famous work, Ã la recherce du temps perdu (in search of lost time) in several pages about Madeleine. The character in this book puts Madeleine in a cup of blossom tea. This brings back his youth memory. He describes it as the following ‘a little shell of cake, so generously sensual beneath the piety of its stern pleating…’ Never before have I heard such poetic description of one single cake!
I hope you enjoy reading a bit of history of French pastry. Those Madeleines on the pics were baked and photographed by me, Lorraine from Indonesia living in The Netherlands ;-). Recipe of Madeleine au Citron is available in Indonesian, with a translation toolbar on the right side.
Madeleine de Commercy
L’Office du Tourisme du Pays de Commercy