Features & Stories

Behind the Cookbook: Madeleines

We caught up with Barbara Feldman Morse, the author of Madeleines: Elegant French Tea Cakes to Bake & Share to hear the story behind her book dedicated to these delicious French treats, best enjoyed warm from the oven…

Where did you learn to bake?

Baking and cooking were everyday adventures from my earliest memories. My sister and I were involved in every stage from gathering apples from the two trees in the back yard to cracking eggs and rolling out cookie dough. Early on I watched Julia Child's cooking shows and began collecting cookbooks, many cookbooks!

Can you tell us the story behind your famous Fudge Foggies?

I always had a fascination with Hawaii, especially growing up in snowy Boston. After moving to San Francisco, I knew it was only a matter of time before I would be able to visit. At the time however, I was working three jobs and just getting by. With wonderful synchronicity I noticed a contest by Ghirardelli Chocolate to develop a chocolate dessert. The winner would win a trip to Hawaii for two weeks for two... It was apron-time!

There were 10 pound blocks of chocolate in my apartment at all times for the Amaretto and Frangelico chocolate tortes I was baking for the restaurant on Haight Street, All You Knead'. I'd use a hammer to break up the chocolate which my downstairs neighbors weren't too thrilled about. For the contest my goal was to get as much chocolate into a brownie recipe as possible. I wanted a unique, softer texture but with an intense chocolate flavor, so I added coffee and lots of semi-sweet chocolate to the recipe and used a heavy mixer for whisking the batter. The result is like three dimensional hot fudge, and is almost souffle-like. On contest day, my close friend drove me to Sausalito with the box of San Francisco Fudge Foggies on my lap on the back of her motorcycle. The helmet she gave me was much too big so it was spinning around the entire trip and also while we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge. 

But, I won!!!

A year or so later, Chocolatier Magazine had a contest. The prize was a two week trip to Paris and Switzerland for two as well as an entire set of major kitchen appliances, and an unbelievable amount of smaller prizes and gifts. It was amazing, I won their national Grand Coco Chocolate Award. It was just incredible, really fun and I am still grateful for all of this good fortune.

[You can find Barbara’s official San Francisco Fudge Foggie recipe below]

Have your recipes and baking taken you on any unusual journeys?

Baking wedding cakes presented some challenging situations. There was a wedding cake I baked that was on a steep mountain side near Sausalito, CA. That cake was delivered in an open sided Jeep over pitted gravel roads. The tiered cake made the trip, remained vertical, but the day was off the charts stressful.

Another wedding cake needed several long extension cords across a field to set up fans to cool the melting buttercream. It was in a beautiful Vermont field at a bed and breakfast in late August. Now think of the most humid, 90 degree day you can remember and put out a 4-tiered wedding cake. I used a plethora of fresh flowers to decorate over the melting buttercream and then added some more flowers. Time for champagne.

Why madeleines?

I was lucky to grow up by the ocean at my grandmother's large house on the south shore of Boston. The same families would come back to stay each summer, and it was like a summer camp with all the kids and annual activities. Some of my favorite memories include shell collecting, clam digging and cooking many recipes for stuffed, fried, and chowdered clams, scallops and fish. Visits to Cape Cod meant collecting more scallop shells, one of nature's most iconic and beautiful creations. I'd seen madeleine pans but there was an unusual, round scallop shaped pan at a kitchen supply shop in San Francisco that practically jumped off the shelf at me! I bought two, and I can unapologetically say I now have a very large collection of various madeleine pans from all over in different sizes, shapes and materials.

The book evolved from the many "napkin ideas" I'd written down over the years with thoughts for next-generation madeleines. I challenged myself to bake different recipes that went beyond "plain vanilla", (which I love) and various textures, both savory and sweet.

Do I need special equipment to make madeleines? Who are the best suppliers? Any good fallback options to get started? 

A traditional madeleine pan

The special equipment most needed is the shell-shaped madeleine pan. They are available online, and at restaurant supply stores as well as at kitchen specialty stores. I use both classic metal pans and teflon-coated pans. There are mini-shell pans and a few quahog-sized shapes. I encourage bakers to pick up various size scoops to plop the batter into the shells. It's the easiest, fastest and neatest way to make even-size madeleines that will then bake off at the same time. I pick them up at craft stores for reasonable prices. I also recommend Pyrex handled measuring cups in various sizes. I use them for the one-bowl madeleines since they easily go in the microwave or the refrigerator to chill or save batter. They are indispensable.

My husband and I designed a beautiful round scallop shaped pan several years ago that sold out. We hope to find a manufacturer in the U.S. to bring them back.

You innovated by creating a new simpler method for making madeleines? How does that work?

The classic batter is a génoise mixture. This is a foam-like cake created by whipping air into an egg-sugar batter. This creates the wonderful, fine-textured madeleines we know and love. When I had my baking business it was necessary for me to become more efficient. I sometimes do what is called a "muffin technique" where you mix the dry and wet ingredients separately and then add them together to create the batter. The mads bake off somewhat flatter, but are much quicker to get together. I use both methods and love all my madeleines equally.


Nightcap Madeleines with Affogato from Madeleines by Barbara Feldman Morse


Has anyone succeeded in writing a piece about madeleines without mentioning Marcel Proust?

Ya know, I just don't think so!

Where should a madeleine newcomer start? What's the key to a "classic" madeleine?

Of course start by reading my book! There are clear directions for both the classic and one-bowl method, accompanied by photographs. Beginners could start with the one-bowl method for successful madeleines, and it's an easy transition to the classic method from there. Both are very accessible. Remember your mise en place which simply means "set in place" — i.e. read through the recipe and gather your ingredients and equipment before beginning to bake, because it will make your life much easier. Baking will proceed more smoothly, quickly and accuracy by setting the workspace for success.

What is the best accompaniment for a madeleine?

Options, options! Of course there are many teas and coffees. Brunches featuring savory madeleines such as Gruyère and Rosemary would pair well with Champagne. A day at the beach with Crabby Madeleines might partner with ice cold beer, or an iced coffee could pair nicely with the Bittersweet Chocolate Mint Madeleines. Many of the sweet madeleines are perfect for a Chocolate Fondue to create an extra impressive, decadent treat. There are savory varieties that are very tasty and pretty alongside fresh fruit platters at brunch, or as a side dish in place of cornbread or a bread roll. 


Stuffed Bittersweet Chocolate Mint Seashells from Madeleines by Barbara Feldman Morse


Because of the shell shape, madeleines arrange beautifully on platters in layers of different colors and configurations. Their unique shape seems to delight everyone, so the best accompaniment of all is to gather family and friends to enjoy the treats and good company.

Throwing tradition to the wind, what is your favorite unconventional madeleine?

Buttery Cornbread Madeleines. As I wrote in the book, this recipe was inspired by a restaurant my husband and I visited often in Chicago while on business trips. The cornbread was served in piping-hot individual cast iron skillets, oozing over the sides. It was overloaded with creamed corn, green chilies and shredded jack cheese. It was creamy, crunchy, sweet and spicy, served with a pot of whipped honey butter on the side. There was always a jazz pianist or a trio playing, which we enjoyed so much. The experience of the cornbread and jazz brings us back to Remembrance of Things Past


San Francisco Fudge Foggies

Here is the official recipe for Barbara’s award-winning Fudge Foggies.


  • 16 oz (450 g) high quality semi-sweet chocolate (chocolate chips also work well) 

  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 225 g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes

  • ⅓ cup (80ml) strong brewed coffee or espresso

  • 4 large eggs at room temperature

  • 1½ cups (200 g) granulated sugar

  • ½ cup (60g) all-purpose (plain) flour

  • 8 oz (2 cups, 225 g) walnuts, coarsely chopped


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C.

  2. Line the bottom of a  9” X 13” (20cm X 30cm) pan with parchment paper (not aluminum foil), lightly spray the bottom and sides with baking spray, and set aside.

  3. In a microwave-safe bowl, place the chocolate, butter and coffee. Microwave on low for 30 seconds, whisk and repeat until the mixture is melted and smooth (this takes 2-3 minutes depending on the power of the microwave). Set aside to cool for 10-15 minutes.

  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the eggs and beat with the whisk attachment for about 30 seconds or until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat 2-3 minutes on medium-high until the mixture is very light and fluffy.

  5. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually pour in the chocolate mixture until just blended in.

  6. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the flour, then the walnuts. Do not overmix at this point.

  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. The batter will be dark and shiny.

  8. Bake for 28-32 minutes. Remove pan to a wire rack and allow to cool thoroughly. If the Foggies are cut into squares now, they will be too soft to hold their shape, so cover with aluminium foil and place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

  9. When completely cool, cut the Fudge Foggies with a sharp knife.

  10. Fudge Foggies are a rich, mousse-like, decadent brownie, almost like "three-dimensional hot fudge". They can be served with a glass of ice cold milk or in a bowl topped with vanilla or coffee ice cream and/or whipped cream!


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