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6 Month Madeleines

My friend Emma says I am sentimental to celebrate months. Perhaps I am, but I decided I wanted to mark each month with a cake, partly to celebrate and partly as a way of keeping track, and of keeping my sanity. I have - just - managed to keep my resolution, and make a cake to celebrate every month of Santino's life so far. I remember the first month cake, a slow and pain-staking process regularly interrupted by howls (it was zucchini and yoghurt). The second month cake; burnt underneath because he needed attention at a crucial moment. I remember the fifth month cake (lemon and ricotta) when it really finally felt like we were out of the tunnel and could at last see the tops of the trees (even though everybody tells you it's after 3 months, I found between 3 and 5 the hardest in some ways). And now we have the 6 month Madeleines, baked in a rush this morning, whilst he sat at my desk in his chair, swinging his prosciutto legs, sucking one hand hungrily and using the other to try to topple over my mountain of unopened books.

Six months of Santino, and have I kept my sanity? Just about. The tiredness has become normal, the headaches constant, the backaches worse, the self-preservation poor, the projects stalled, the personal life paused. But, despite it all, I feel something which I realise I have never really felt before; content. I am physically and mentally exhausted, but I am also, for the first time in my life, truly happy. I feel almost guilty for saying it, specifically in such a sad current climate of hate and violence, but 2023 (the year the rest of the world seems to want to forget fast) was the happiest year of my life, because a great hole in my life was filled by a small, smiling, screeching being.

It does feel like we are past the worst of it, but then every time I say that some fresh horror hits (teeth, Covid, colds..). Let's just say it's still hard, but the rewards get weightier with each day. The smiles gummier, the giggles more gurgling; he no longer wakes with his face contorted in a cry but instead with a huge wet grin, and then begins swimming wildly, kicking his back legs and bobbing his head up and down with joy.

I made Madeleines because the symbol of Saint James (baby James' name-saint) is a shell, and they are the best shell-shaped dolci I know, and also because I love them. I bought a mini madeleine tin in Nice so it seemed a good opportunity to use it. I flavoured them with orange and brown butter, and replaced a little of the traditional flour with ground almonds, to keep them nice moist.

Orange, Honey and Brown Butter Madeleines

Makes 2 trays


140g butter

100g flour (I used farro)

3 eggs

100g sugar (I used demerara)

2.5 tbsp honey

Pinch of salt

1 orange (zested)

40g ground almonds


Butter and flour a Madeleine tin.

Whisk the eggs with the sugar until moussey and tripled in volume.

Cook the butter until nut brown and then quickly remove it from the heat and add the honey. Stir until dissolved.

Fold the butter mixture into the eggs, then fold in the orange zest salt, flour and almonds. Rest for a few hours/overnight. Spoon scant spoonfuls into the moulds (fill the shells about two thirds full). Bake at 190 for 12 minutes.


Eddy Smith
Eddy Smith

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Such a beautiful madeleine recipe, thank you. Enjoy your Santino's young months, celebrating with baking is a wonderful idea, children grow so fast you need to relish every milestone.

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