Magdalenas, which are known as Madeleines in France, are small fairycake-like cakes which are both light and rich in flavour. Magdalenas can be found in any shop or supermarket in Spain but they always taste best when they are home made.
The Spanish love these cakes and they are often eaten at breakfast with a morning cup of coffee. You will have truly undergone a Spanish immersion into Spanish cuisine if you starting having these for breakfast. However, it is believed that the original cakes actually come from France. Madeleines, as they are known in France, originated in the region of Comercy. The story goes that these little cakes were baked by a young maid named Madeleine Paulmier, from whom the cakes get their name, for the King of Poland, Stanislas Leszczyński in 1751.
Madeleines are also mentioned in Marcel Proust's novel 'À la recherche du temps perdu' (In Search of Lost Time), in which the main character relives his childhood after he experiences the smell and taste of a madeleine and tea. This helped spread the fame of these little cakes across the world.
It is true that the cake may have become part of Spanish cuisine due to this; however there is also another reason why magdalenas are so popular in Spain. Other people say that they made their appearance in Spain during the pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. This story says that a young girl named Magdalena served the small cakes to the pilgrims making the long journey. This also accounts for the spread of the treat across the rest of Spain.
Traditionally, Magdalenas are made in the shape of a shell which is achieved by using a special magdalena oven tray. However, the more commercial, and easier to make, magdalenas are made like a cupcake in small paper cases and tend to be round or square depending on the shape of the cake case.
When you visit Spain, you must try these little cakes, especially if you go to a Spanish delicatessen. The best way to enjoy them is by dipping them into a hot drink, whether that be a cup of coffee, tea or even the famous liquid hot chocolate which is normally served with churros.
As with most cakes, try not to keep looking at them whilst they are baking by opening the oven door as this can interrupt the rising process and leave your cakes heavy and flat. Try and look through the glass window of your oven, or if you don't have a window section in your oven, trust the timings and pay attention to the smell which is a good clue as to how well the cakes are cooked. Using a cupcake tray will help keep the shape of the magdalenas perfect, but a normal baking tray will do. Your cakes may turn out a little funny but they will taste just as good!