pumpkin spice madeleines and smetana’s moldau

It is high time I spotlight the principal raison d’être for my wee corner of internet existence. The madeleine. A treat of a cakelet, of just the right taste and size and to put a smile on most anyone’s face.

All but the most miserly madeleine-haters out there, of which I know none.

Madeleines were, several years back, one of my first introductions to the world of baking. For some reason, I bought a madeleine pan, and began to turn them out on a relatively irregular basis. I sought out the elusive bump that so many madeleine makers long to find in their finished product. I experimented with flavors, sometimes following a recipe, sometimes not. And I was sometimes successful, sometimes not.

Over the past two months, as I have read blog after blog of pumpkin recipes, commentary on pumpkin recipes at this time of year, and commentary on commentary of pumpkin recipes, I have wondered what the dealio was wrong with me. After all, I can’t stand pumpkin. It just kind of… bothers me.

And yet, I had a can of pumpkin puree sitting on my shelf, abandoned by its former owner who had moved away. And I realized that the perfect place for some of that puree would be mixed into delightful, autumnally-spiced, pumpkin madeleines. And so, I decided to join the masses and talk about pumpkin. Pumpkin pumpkin pumpkin. Madeleines.

Had life not been frightfully busy in the past week, I would have made a super special cake to share with you here: a violin cake. I had ingenious plans to create a layer cake that would be covered in rolled fondant, with a faux-bois-colored finish, and per the recommendation of one informative site I found, real strings. Yep, real strings. Why the celebration that wasn’t meant to be?

I played in an incredibly exciting concert last night, with the University of Maine orchestra. I can’t not share it, it was that exciting. Not only did we play a trio of music that I’ve come to love more than anything else I’ve ever played before (Haydn, I’m so sorry. It’s not that I’ve forgotten you…); but we had a phenomenal guest soloist. A soloist who has apparently been selling out concerts in Tokyo – when not too busy finishing a university degree, or jet-setting off to Cambodia.

There was no way of knowing when I saw the world-renowned Midori play the Sibelius Violin Concerto in Chicago in 2003, that eight short years later I would have the great fortune of sharing the stage with her brother, Ryu Goto. Yes, he plays on the 1722 ‘Jupiter’ Stradivarius. Yes, he is the spokesperson for the East Japan Railway Company. If I ever become the spokesperson for a rail line, I’ll know that I’ll have made it.

He joined us for the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, of which the finale puts me into a joyous tizzy. We also played Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture, and my new favorite non-indie, non-country, non-folk, non-Dire Straits, and heck, non-metal, piece of music. Bedřich Smetana’s Moldau or Vltava. A symphonic poem chronicling the path of the Česká republikas longest river (that which runs through Praha), it is a piece that I have become seriously smitten with. I have never felt gladder in the past year that I decided to begin playing my violin again. It has been like coming home.

Speaking of home, we received our first snowfall of the year – 6 inches of heavy, wet snow fell overnight and into the morning. It’s no western Massachusetts, where totals of up to 27 inches (!) were reported. My heart fills with glee at the sight of snow, but is tempered with a bit of respect for the many in New England who are without power, and who have seen damage due to downed limbs and trees. Lesson learned, I hope – don’t plant silver maple trees if you live here. They are late to drop their leaves, easy to break during storms, and thus a terrible tree of choice when living in the path of a nor’easter. Trick or treeeeaaaaaat.

Despite the storm, it has been a beautiful fall week in New England. A perfect week for snacking on pumpkin spice madeleines, if I may be so bold.

If you aren’t familiar with the art of madeleine making, Dorie Greenspan has a terrific post that takes you through it, step by step. I like using her recipe as a guideline, and adapting from there based on the flavor profile I’m looking to create. Any way you make it, whether lemon, almond, or – gasp – even chocolate, you have to start with the basics. Focus on beating the eggs well, and chilling the batter well, and not filling the pans too full-well, and you will be on your way to madeleine greatness.

Pumpkin Spice Madeleines {original recipe, with hints from Dorie Greenspan}

Makes 38-40 madeleines, regular-sized


1 1/3 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. sugar
Zest of one tangerine
4 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
Pinch allspice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
7-8 tbsp. canned pumpkin puree
1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted, cooled
Powdered sugar, for dusting


In a large mixing bowl, rub zest into sugar, and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Add eggs to sugar-zest mixture, and beat until thick and light, 2-3 minutes minimum, I usually beat them for around five minutes. Beat in vanilla, then add in allspice, cinnamon, and pumpkin puree. For a stronger pumpkin flavor, skip the vanilla; in this case, 5-6 tbsp of puree will be sufficient (and you will make fewer madeleines. Sad face). Fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter.

Prep pans: Butter and dust with flour, unless nonstick (then coat with vegetable spray). Spoon batter into molds, 2/3rds full. Cover, and chill for several hours minimum. Preheat oven to 400 F, and when ready, bake for 1o to 12 minutes. When golden and cooked through, promptly remove from the pan – just turn them upside down, and tap if necessary. Allow to cool to warm, or room temperature, then dust with powdered sugar if desired (I had run out. Sad face again).

Madeleines do not get better with age, so eat them quickly or be warned – they will get soggy and sticky by day two or three.

Warning: Next time you hear from me, I may be in the middle of a luau, or mowing down on some humu­humu­nuku­nuku­āpuaʻa !

50 thoughts on “pumpkin spice madeleines and smetana’s moldau

  1. Oh Emma, thank you for sharing your concert experience! What a beautiful, wonderful, magical time you had; how I wish I could have heard you perform! (Though guest violinist, schmest schmiolinist. I would only have had eyes for you.)

    Might I ask what Psychic Cat gets up to when you play? My Not-Psychic Poodle whined and yelped like the billy-o when I played my clarinet at home!

    P.S. Madeleines = hurrah. Pumpkin = sorrow, because we have no canned pumpkin here and I can’t justify/am too lazy to puree my own right now :P

    1. Hannah: I’m so glad you appreciated my sharing of a musical interlude with you! You’re sweet to make such a bold statement as only having eyes for me, but let me tell you, you would have had at least half-eyes for the soloist. He was that good.

      When I play my violin at home, my cat seems to get really agitated! I was actually thinking of mentioning this. It’s kind of ridiculous how she paces between the two main rooms of the apartment nonstop, whining in a slightly more worried tone than usual.

      I would always be too lazy to puree my own pumpkin – I think the canned stuff is a fine substitute in cases such as this.

      Note to self: adopt “like the billy-o” into everyday vernacular.

      1. “Half-eyes” sounds vaguely seductive. “Watch out! Hannah’s making half-eyes at the musicians again!”

        Oh thank heavens, it’s not just me! Jedda has never liked the clarinet, but the high notes would make her wail and yelp. i could never tell if she was singing along or really miserable :P

        Ah, but you see, we don’t have the canned stuff. So it’s effort or nothing for me, and I keep choosing nothing.

        Note to you: DO IT.

        1. Hey half-eyes (it’s like my comeback as a contact-less glasses-wearing person…), you could always make some non-punkin mads! I thought these were good, but I don’t ever seem to make the same madeleine recipe twice. Anything and everything tastes delicious in cakelet form.

          Poor animals, what do we do to them by making delicious muuuuusic like the billy-o?

          Not sure if that was proper usage.

          1. Teehee, I’m all about the glasses too. I’ve been trying to wear my contacts more lately, but again, lazy. I hate having to factor in extra time at the end of the night to take them out and clean them. Erk.

            I’m never had proper amazing madeleines, I don’t think! Have you made peanut butter ones yet? :D

            We make it up to our animals with kisses and cuddles, I think. And, well, probably not quite proper, but I’ll take it :)

            1. I’m just too scared to have to put thingees in my eyes, even though I put my fingers in my eyes hourly as they seem to always be itchy. If a lens was in there, how would I reach the itchy?

              I have not made PB madeleines! That’s an interesting challenge, that I may take you up on. Cuz ya see, I like peanut butter, but not things that have peanut butter in them. So a big challenge. I’ll get back to you on this:)

  2. yummmmmmmmmmm, i am going to make those for a fall party! I hope i get invited to one!

    1. julene, haha! I hope you get invited to one too:) But you could always….. host one of your own? I would come, if only I weren’t so far away:/

  3. Oh yummy! I must say I can gush about pumpkin with the best of them.

    Congratulations on your concert. It sounds like an all around beautiful experience.

    1. sarah, thank you, it was a really lovely concert. We even had an opening act – a brass trio played a short piece. That was a new one for me:)

      Glad you can gush about pumpkin, as I can’t exactly say that I can – however, if the people like pumpkin, pumpkin I can give them!

  4. Oh Madeleines…. I’ve never did them myselves, and haven’t had any for ages. But they belong in my mind to beach holidays in southern France… Madeleines where the afternoon snack on the beach!

    Canned pumkin… I don’t think one can buy that here. At least I’ve never seen it… but I normally don’t study the canned section too closely. But right now, I’m cooking pumkin soup for dinner… that’s not too far away from canned pumpkin.

    I love that you play the violin. I always wished I would have stuck with playing an instrument (I played the recorder for ages, but I never really liked it. When I quit, I quite music for good.) I’d love to start playing the cello, maybe sometimes I really will do so!

    1. Silvia, I never had madeleines on the beaches I visited in southern France, but I never visited touristy beaches, and I wasn’t there during the summertime either. So I guess that’s no shocker. It sounds like the perfect seaside delight, though:)

      Canned pumpkin is definitely something I can live without, but as I happily accepted a truckload (or at least a box load) of canned and bulk goods from various movers-away, I’ve been frantically trying to use what I can before it is my turn to move.

      I love that I play violin too:) I think it’s cool that you played the recorder, but even cooler that you harbor dreams of playing the cello – me too! Give it a try some day;)

  5. You know, I have done the macho kitchen thing and cooked up a pie pumpkin several times for different things, and I do believe that a good quality canned type is(gasp!)just as good as from scratch. Yup, for real.

    That bowl full of mads, such a delicate and pretty thing…perfect with all the pretty colors, and with the arty leaf too!

    We wish that we could have snuck into town for your concert…what fun that would have been…

    1. Mum, I’m with you. The pumpkin pie I made with canned pumpkin last year was so well received, I see no reeeeeaaalll reason to cook pie punkins. I considered making the real thing, but read reviews from others telling me the same thing you’re saying here. Take that, real pumpkins. I don’t need you.

      I thought you might like that arty leaf:)

      I really wish you could have been there for the concert too. I proclaimed today that it was the best I’ve ever played, which is quite a statement.

      I swam in the ocean today! I love you and miss you, xo.

      1. And see, that’s why I keep justifying my laziness with not making my own puree, because everything I’ve read says that, generally, the consistency/moisture level/sweetness of canned pumpkin is hard to replicate, and can affect the ultimate result. Or something.

        *eye poke*

      2. Miss you too, more that you can imagine, wish that we could share in the wonderful time that you are having:-)
        (…and was that your beautiful tea bowl?…Made by the beautiful Heather?)

        1. It sure is that beautiful tea bowl, made by the beautiful Heather:) Since it’s no longer summer, I have to come up with alternate uses for my ‘summer tea bowl’!

  6. I’m glad you came over to the dark side of baking with pumpkin. It’s truly hard to resist. My only exposure to pumpkin until I started baking was pumpkin pie, which I detest. These madeleines look fantastic! A madeleine pan is on my list of things to put in my kitchen.

    That concert sounded wonderful. I wish that I had been there. Enjoy Hawaii! Say hello to some super productive forest for me!

    1. Brianne: Yarrrrr, pumpkin! Any time we agree on a cooking or baking item, I know that the stars have aligned and I’m in for a treat;)

      I dislike pumpkin pie quite a lot as well. However, I’m excited for Thanksgiving this year, due to a recipe in the latest Martha Stewart Living for pumpkin pie with a huge dollop of meringue on top! It sounds much improved, in my mind.

      Aww, I wish you’d been at the concert too. It’s the best one I’ve ever played in, and that’s a fact!

      When I see the forest (and not super high rise buildings only), I’ll say hello:)

  7. Great post, Emma! Your photography is beautiful, the madeleines look delectable, and your concert must have been heaven to play. It’s a wonderful life. :)

    1. Heather, thank you for the lovely comment, I smiled as I read it. It is indeed a wonderful life – the best!

      And thank you for the wonderful hours that I have spent enjoying delicious tea out of your tea bowl. I may have to see about obtaining one for the colder months:)

  8. Emma, pumpkin madeleines! This just make so much sense… I bet the moist pumpkin is a perfect addition to such a delectable treat.
    And who knew you were a women of so many talents – violin. Awesome. What hidden talent are you going to spring on us next:)

    1. Erin, it definitely makes sense. And now that the days are growing dark earlier, I am wishing I had a large horde of these next to me at my desk. Although then I would have a horde-ly large tummy, har har.

      Ooh yeah, what next?!? Only time will tell:)

  9. The last time I was in a violin concert, I fell asleep. It was the sweetest sleep I’ve had. I’m not much of a concert fan and haven’t been since, but you’ve awakened the magic in it for me with your tantalizing words. Or maybe I’m confusing the emotions I’m having for those gorgeous madeleines….Mmm…

    1. sophia, I hope you weren’t really in the concert, as that could have been embarrassing:) I love sleeping at concerts, I think it’s one of the best ways to enjoy the music!

      Mowing down on madeleines would definitely make a classical concert more enjoyable;)

  10. Do you know that I have never even had a madeleine?? Not sure why, but it’s weird! I’d want these to be my first though because I am quite the fan of pumpkin and they’re so pretty!

    And yay for good concerts! I think my favorite part of the Moldau is the dancy part in the middle. :D I’m sad that I’ve only played Russian Easter once. Fun piece!

    1. Jessica, never had a madeleine? Guuuuwaahhhhhhhh?!? Crazy town. With all those bundts you’re making, you should spare a bit of space for the wee, polite mad:)

      I went insanely wild for the Moldau. I couldn’t get it out of my head for weeks. Or my boyfriend’s head, probably, because I found that I would repetitively hum parts of it so many times in a row that he would repeat it back at me to get my attention and make me stop (affectionately, I’m sure). Yeah, Russian Easter Overture was great fun (kind of fast/insane for me, but in a fun way!)

  11. Like Jessica I’ve also never had a madeleine before! For some reason I always thought they were a crispy type of cookie, which isn’t something that’s ever been particularly appealing to me. But soft pumpkin-spicy little cakes like the ones you have pictures of? I think I could be sold on the idea.

    Also, hooray for coming back to music! It’s something that I’ve been kicking around doing myself…though I’m not sure if I have room for my old piano in my apartment. >.>

    1. Mary, Mary, Mary. I feel for you, my little noobcakelet. Get in the kitchen and make yourself a batch of these non-cookies!

      I never learned piano, and I regret that a bit. It’s always mystified me – how can hands play so many keys at once? It’s wild:)

  12. Your story about picking up violin again and being inspired by a great master of their craft would’ve been beautiful had I not snorted loudly with laughter upon reading he was the spokesperson for a railway line: it’s not that I don’t respect his position – I do! – I just find it hilarious for some reason. But then it is early in the morning.

    Lovely to read about the cake for which this blog is named, although once again I lament that stupid New Zealand has no canned pumpkin. I like the sound of all the spices and flavourings added to the mixture, especially the tangerine…

    1. Laura, girrrrrrrrrrrrrl please, wouldn’t you enjoy being a raildroad sponsorette? That would be the life. I found it hilarious too, hence it’s inclusion in an otherwise super serious paragraph. Imagine the outfits. Would you get a badge?

      I’ll work on crafting another take on the madeleine as soon as my life pressure stress eases up. At that time I’ll also be able to get back to regularly reading the blogs that I enjoy most (yours? yours? yours?). The tangerine was a great addition, no matter what any orange-hating Hannahs might think;)

              1. Many have tried. Or, well, two have done so accidentally. One swapped out the chocolate for me when she realised her mistake, the other is probably going to just receive his back soon, cause I know he likes it :P

  13. How super talented are you? I didn’t realise you played an instrument. I only dabbled in violin myself for a year or two – piano is my first love.

    Speaking of love, these madeleines look just delightful. I adore pumpkin so would have been more than happy to share a few of these fresh out of the oven.

    Jealous of the mercury dropping there. This was my favourite time of year in Boston. Well, a part from spring! ;)

    1. Julia, aww, what a sweet comment. And another piano player – you have my attention, and amazement:) Violin is so much fun – I wish I could amplify my instrument some day.

      Wish I could have sent a few your way, as all you Oceania ladies are clearly bereft of canned pumpkin (although if you are the laziness that I am – which you aren’t, you bake with yeast all the time – perhaps you’d happily cook a pie pumpkin up for this).

      I’m loving the drop in the mercury;) Enjoy summer !

And now I'd like to pass the mic / So you c'mon and do anything you like ...aka, Leave your reply.

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