Red Velvet Madeleines

There is nothing like having teenagers to make you feel old. I made reference to a “cakewalk” and was treated to a volley of eye rolls. Come to find out neither even knew what a cakewalk was. Also known as a “prize walk,” a cakewalk is a hopscotch-meets-musical-chairs raffle in which numbered squares are laid out in a circle for ticket holders to walk around in time to music, which is played for an irregular length of time and then stopped. A number is then called out, and the person standing on the corresponding square on the floor wins a cake as a prize (hence the name).

While growing up in the country, our rural church would have an annual fundraising carnival at which the cakewalk was THE event. The primary reason for its popularity was the community confectionist, Juanita Gunnells’ cakes, and candies. She would always donate a German chocolate cake, a red velvet cake, and depending on the weather divinity or peanut butter fudge.*

I was always fascinated by the unnaturally-red, red velvet cake whose color was explained as a chemical reaction between the often-used buttermilk and the red anthocyanin found in cocoa powder. In reality, the red coloring was added to hide the fact that a minimal amount of cocoa powder was used especially during World War II when beet juice was used to add color to red velvet cakes.

Since Dom is not big on cakes but enjoys a good cookie or pastry, I decided to try a red velvet variant. I had found a French madeleine pan at an antique shop that I was dying to use, so it was providence.  Dusted with confectioner’s sugar, these made a romantic-looking Valentine’s Day treat!

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour (yes, it really does make a difference)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine the sugar, eggs, yolks, and vanilla in a mixing bowl and beat at medium-high speed with an electric mixer for 5 minutes or until thick and pale. Add butter and food coloring to the mixture, and beat until well-blended.

Whisk together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt, and then fold in the egg mixture. Spoon the batter into 2 well-greased shiny madeleine pans, filling three-fourths full (about 1 tablespoon per madeleine). Since I only have one pan, I baked mine in batches; placing the batter in the refrigerator between batches.

Bake at 400° for 8 to 10 minutes or until the centers of the madeleines spring back when lightly pressed. Immediately remove madeleines from the pan to prevent sticking and cool on a wire rack. Cool completely (about 20 minutes) and dust with powdered sugar just before serving, if desired.

*Because of the high sugar content, divinity absorbs moisture from the air on a humid days and can end up a gooey mess.