Saffron, Orange and Honey Madeleines | Giving Thanks

I so look forward to the Thanksgiving celebration with family and friends, while enjoying some good home-cooked Thanksgiving staples. It helps tremendously when you know your way around the kitchen. So spending time there is almost like another regular day at work – with no stress involved. Well, almost! It gets better when the opportunity knocks in baking with family members. An extra set of hands and a symphony of motions of whipping, filling and arranging. To top it off, I’m most grateful for the fact that I can make cakes for dad’s birthday right around the same time. We are lucky that dad is still going strong in his nineties. My daughter and I did some recipe testings last weekend. We made some remarkable saffron, orange and honey madeleines.

Ina Garten, the current featured chef at IHCC, has a coconut madeleines recipe. Since we are not big fans of coconut, we adapted the recipe to include saffron and orange zest in the cakes. Dipped them in honey and crushed pistachios for some added crunch.

There madeleines are perfection! The golden color of saffron and the crushed pistachios are obviously winning. Their taste and texture is another whole “old” story. Who can forget the lovely flavor these small sponge cakes are known for? Marcel Proust’s famous “episode of the Madeleines” captures it all.

“No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me.”

We savored each and every one of these delicate and dainty Madeleines we made. Since we only have one Madeleine pan, we used round silicone molds for the remaining batter from the recipe. The results are what we’ve expected. The cakes come out crispy with the Madeleine pan and less so for those made with the silicone molds. (In this case, the special equipment here is necessary if you want the madeleines to reach their fullest potential.) However, when it comes to taste, both are equally satisfying. We wish we can make more of these incredible saffron, orange and honey madeleines. A shuddering treat on the table for any occasion!


Saffron, Orange and Honey Madeleines

Print Recipe


  • 6 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, plus more, melted, for brushing
  • 2 teaspoons plus 3 tablespoons honey
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron threads (optional)
  • ¼ vanilla bean
  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2½ tablespoons shelled pistachio kernels



Cook 6 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. butter, 2 tsp. honey, and saffron threads (if using) in a small saucepan over low heat until butter is melted. Let cool to room temperature.


Scrape vanilla seeds into a food processor; discard pod. Add eggs, sugar, and orange zest and process until smooth and combined. Sift baking powder, salt, and ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons flour into a small bowl, then add to egg mixture. Pulse a few times just to combine. Add honey mixture. Process once more, then pour batter into a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and chill 1 hour.


Preheat oven to 400°. If using metal madeleine pans, brush molds with melted butter and dust liberally with flour. Silicone pans should not need any greasing or flouring, but you can lightly brush with a little melted butter, if you like. Tap to ensure molds are dusted, shaking off excess flour.


Spoon a heaping teaspoon of batter into each mold; it should rise two-thirds of the way up the sides of the molds. If you only have 1 madeleine pan, chill remaining batter (you'll need to wash and dry pan before greasing and flouring again).


Bake madeleines until beginning to brown around the edges and they spring back when tapped lightly in the center, 9–10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and let sit 1 minute before releasing madeleines. The best way to do this, with a metal pan, is to go around the edges of each with a small knife or offset spatula (to make sure they aren't stuck), then tap edge of pan on the counter until they fall out. With a silicone pan, they should just fall out of their molds. Transfer cakes to a wire rack to cool.


Pulse pistachios in food processor. Pile pistachios onto a plate in a straight line. Melt remaining 3 Tbsp. honey in a small saucepan or in a microwave until very runny. Brush lightly over shell-patterned side of one madeleine. With shell side facing down toward nuts, roll narrower end of madeleine along pile of pistachios so you have a straight ⅓" strip of pistachios at base of madeleine. Repeat with remaining madeleines. Transfer nut side up to a platter.


Do Ahead: Madeleines can be made 1 day ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.


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  • Reply
    Diane Zwang
    November 26, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    Wonderful adaptation to the recipe. They look delicious.

  • Reply
    Kim Tracy
    November 26, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    I love how you made these your own, and with such a unique flavor profile! Spending that time with family, in the kitchen and outside of the kitchen, is what the holidays are all about. Hope you have a wonderful time celebrating your dad’s birthday!!

  • Reply
    November 28, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    Sounds delicious! I’m glad your small cakes still tasted great even though they weren’t as “nice” as the madeleines.

  • Reply
    November 30, 2017 at 5:50 am

    Both versions look scrumptious!

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