“These little guys are addictive French cakes. France is known for them,” she said.
The Marietta native studied in Aix-en-Provence last fall through a semester abroad program through Vanderbilt University where she attends. She is double majoring in double majoring in human and organizational development and French in the creative arts. She has written food and music features for The Vanderbilt Hustler, the official student newspaper, since she was a sophomore.
Although she knew about the cakes before going to France, it was there she fell in love with them.
“I ate (Madeleines) probably three times a week when I was over there,” she said. Leisy purchased the dessert from a man named Christophe who sold them at market in Aix-En-Provence.
“We call him, ‘The Madeleine Man.’ He’s infamous around Aix for his Madeleines, and he’s definitely infamous within the (Vanderbilt) program,” she said.
Every Thursday, Saturday and some Tuesdays, he came with six massive bins filled with the cakes in five flavors: vanilla, orange, almond, lemon and plain.
“I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything better. I’m trying to get up to the standard of (The Madeleine Man),” Leisy said. “He would make them fresh every morning.”
The Madeleine Man sold the cakes by the dozen or half-dozen and would often sell out of the French treat. “You’d feel bad buying six because you’d definitely eat those in one day,” Leisy said, laughing.
“You’d have to wake up at least before 9; ideally 8 or 8:30 because these things are sold out by 9:30, sometimes earlier, and the markets don’t end until noon,” she said.
“Sometimes I’d go toward the end when he was selling because he would let me buy just two for a euro or he’d go, ‘Eh,’” she recalled, gesturing. “If there were some broken ones or scrappy ones, he’d just let me take them.”
(Leisy adapted her recipe for Madeleines from one by David Lebovitz in “Sweet Life in Paris.”)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
rounded 1/8 teaspoon salt
1¼ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder (optional)*
zest of one small lemon
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature, plus additional melted butter for preparing the molds
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1. Brush the indentations of a Madeleine mold with melted butter. Dust with flour, tap off any excess, and place in the fridge or freezer.
2. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, whip the eggs, granulated sugar, and salt for 5 minutes until frothy and thickened.
3. Spoon the flour and baking powder, if using, into a sifter or mesh strainer and use a spatula to fold in the flour as you sift it over the batter.
4. Add the lemon zest to the cooled butter, then dribble the butter into the batter, a few spoonfuls at a time, while simultaneously folding to incorporate the butter. Fold just until all the butter is incorporated.
5. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Batter can be chilled for up to 12 hours.)
6. To bake the Madeleines, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
7. Plop enough batter in the center of each indentation with enough batter that you think will fill it by threequarters. Do not spread it.
8. Bake for 8-9 minutes or until the cakes just feel set. While the cakes are baking, make a glaze in a small mixing bowl by stirring together the powdered sugar, lemon juice and water until smooth.
11. Remove from the oven and tilt the Madeleines out onto a cooling rack. The moment they’re cool enough to handle, dip each cake in the glaze, turning them over to make sure both sides are coated and scrape off any excess with a dull knife. After dipping, rest each one back on the cooking rack, scalloped side up, until the cakes are cool and the glaze has firmed up.
TIP: If you want to make vanilla glazed Madeleines substitute the lemon zest for a teaspoon of vanilla and the lemon juice for vanilla extract in the glaze.
* “Baking powder is optional. Sometimes I use it and sometime I don’t. The French would definitely look down on it,” Leisy said explaining that with proper French technique additives should not be required to make the cakes rise.