Calling any dish a “cultural institution” can often sound like a hard sell, but in the case of malva pudding, you’d be right on the money. Few South Africans (or foreigners, for that matter) are able to resist its spongy, syrupy sweetness, smothered in a creamy custard while still hot. Although it’s most often baked in a big casserole, I have also encountered a braai-able version and a malva bundt cake. The malva crème caramel is also one of my more recent inventions, so you could say I’m having an extended malva moment. Baking madeleines with malva batter makes this traditional South African dessert just that little bit lighter – ideal as a snack or teatime treat.

But let’s start with the classic version. Most serious bakers have their own preferred madeleine recipe – and once you’ve put your stamp on it, you seldom shop around. And yet, the options are endless. What else can you expect from a mignardise whose origins can be traced back to the Middle Ages? The madeleine of today, however – the shell-shaped cake we all know and love – broke onto the scene in the 18th century, when two chefs had a falling out that led to both storming out of a dinner put on by King Stanislas of Poland in France.

At the last minute, a kindhearted chambermaid who answered to the name Madeleine whipped up a batch of her grandmother’s cakes to the delight of the king and all his guests. When informing him that she hailed from Commercy, King Stanislas baptised these delightful crowdpleasers Madeleines de Commercy. While her recipe has seen countless reincarnations, this recipe is the most classic version of a madeleine… to the best of my knowledge.



3 eggs

85 g (100 ml) caster sugar

30 ml Muscovado brown sugar

135 g (240 ml) cake flour

5 ml baking powder

135 g (150 ml) unsalted butter, melted


Whisk the eggs and sugars together using an electric mixer until light and fluffy (it must triple in volume).

Sift together the dry ingredients and fold them into the egg mixture with the melted butter, until combined.

Refrigerate the batter for at least 2 – 3 hours, or overnight. This is really critical for getting the characteristic “hump” of a madeleine to form.

Preheat the oven to 190 °C, then brush a silicone madeleine tray with melted butter. Although this is not strictly necessary, I like to make sure they come out perfectly.

Spoon 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of batter into the center of each well and don’t touch it. It will spread out by itself and keep a more uniform shape that way. Place the silicone tray on a baking tray and place in oven. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes until golden. Serve warm. When I’m feeling extra decadent, I like to have these madeleines with caramelised orange slices and cognac.



105 g (125 ml) caster sugar

30 ml cold water

2 oranges, sliced


Place the caster sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar has melted. It’s very important that this mixture does not boil before the sugar has melted.

Once melted, let the sugar simmer until it turns a golden caramel colour. Stir every now and again.

Carefully place about 4 slices in the pan, cooking them on both sides until soft and caramelised. Carefully remove the orange slices from the caramel and repeat with rest of orange slices.

Serve at room temperature with the madeleines.


The resting period in the fridge is very important. It is believed that when the cold batter hits the warmth of the oven, the “hump” will form on the top of the madeleine.

If you are using a metal madeleine tin, you must line the wells thoroughly with melted butter and dust them with flour. Make sure to shake off any excess flour.

If you like your madeleines to have an orangey flavour (as a lot of people do, myself included), add 7,5 ml of finely grated orange zest to the batter.

Madeleines are at their best when eaten hot, just as they come out of the oven. If you don’t get to all of them in one sitting, fear not. You can reheat them in the oven at 180 °C. Place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper and let them warm up for about 2 – 3 minutes. If you don’t put them on baking paper, they could stick to the baking tray.



for the malva madeleines

15 ml soft butter

100 g (125 ml) sugar

1 egg

180 g (320 ml) cake flour, sieved

5 ml bicarbonate of soda

95 ml milk

15 ml smooth apricot jam

15 ml brown vinegar

for the sauce

125 ml ideal milk

125 ml warm water

100 g (125 ml) sugar

15 ml butter

2 ml vanilla extract


for the malva madeleines

Heat the oven to 180 °C. Cream the butter and sugar together until soft and creamy. Then add the egg and beat until well mixed.

Gently fold in the sieved flour. Mix the bicarbonate of soda and milk in a separate bowl before adding it to the mixture. Add the jam and vinegar and mix thoroughly.

Coat a madeleine tray with non-stick cooking spray and fill each well in the madeleine tray with a big spoonful of the malva pudding batter.

Place the tray in the oven and bake for 10 – 12 minutes. Spoon 2 tablespoons of sauce over each madeleine as soon as they come out of the oven. Let them cool for about 5 minutes before removing them from the tray. Serve with whipped cream.

for the sauce

Heat the ideal milk and sugar in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar has melted.

Remove from the heat just before it reaches boiling point. Add the butter and vanilla and stir until the butter has melted.

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