Recipe: Blackberry, honey and tarragon madeleines

Make our blackberry, honey and tarragon madeleines Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

Make our blackberry, honey and tarragon madeleines Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis - Credit: Archant

Use up the last of the late summer berries in these delicate little French cakes.

It’s official...we are in the last hurrah of the blackberry season. I’ve picked and eaten so many of the little beauties this summer that I’m sure they’re at least partially responsible for the ‘glowing skin’ people keep commenting on. Lots of vitamin C.

In homage, I am closing what has been a series of recipes dedicated to the berries with a delicate bake – the madeleine.

I have a fondness of madeleines in all shapes and sizes. The ones my mum used to buy in big plastic tubs from the supermarket. The lemony, often sugar-crusted, cupcake-like magdalenas of Spain, to be devoured with a milky coffee in the morning.

Even the kitsch Victorian madeleines of our fair shores – all upright and ‘look at me’, with their smothering of jam, freckled coconut coats and jaunty glace cherry hats.

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The king of all madeleines however has to be those turned out from scallop-edged tins in France. The cakey-biscuit, originating from Commercy in the country’s Lorraine region (yes, also known for its quiche) is one of France’s most recognisable exports, inspiring, most famously, Marcel Proust. “An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses,” the novelist and essayist exclaimed while extolling the sensual virtues of the baked good.

As someone who collects any and all kitchenalia (I have a whole drawer dedicated to cookie cutters), it’s the mystical, intricate shape of French madeleines which elevates them to godly status in my own baking world. The texture is buttery and soft - the best rising at the centre to a generous peak. Once cooled they dry out easily, but tea on the side is essential. Something fragrant. Earl Grey. Lady Grey. Lemon verbena.

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I’ve studded mine with the tiniest of blackberries left on the brambles, runny honey from my friend’s hives (reserved only for special occasions) and Mexican tarragon from the garden, which lends a soft air of liquorice to the overall flavour profile, marrying gorgeously with the berries.

For a special early autumn afternoon tea I can think of nothing better.

Blackberry, honey and tarragon madeleines

(makes 20)


50g honey

Pinch salt

175g unsalted butter

100g caster sugar

4 eggs

180g plain flour, sifted

1 ¼tsps baking powder

1 heaped tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped

Large handful blackberries

Honey for brushing

1 madeleine tin – mine was a silicon one from Lakeland Ltd


Preheat the oven to 170C. If using a silicon mould pop it on a baking tray. If using a tin tray, grease well.

Melt the honey, salt and butter in a pan and leave to cool slightly.

In a large bowl beat the eggs and sugar with an electric whisk. Beat in the flour and baking powder until combined then stream in the honey/butter mix slowly.

Finish by folding in the tarragon.

Fill the madeleine tins three quarters of the way up scatter a few berries in each mould.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until risen at the centre and golden around the edges. Leave to cool for a few minutes before turning out onto a rack (scalloped side up). Brush with more honey while warm. Devour.