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How to Make Magdalenas: Spanish Cupcakes Recipe

What Are Magdalenas?

These delightful cakes are very similar to the French treats with a similar name, made from what is essentially a sponge cake base (with different proportions). Unlike shell-shaped madeleines, however, the Spanish version is baked in cupcake form. Magdalenas are traditionally eaten at breakfast with a cup of hot coffee, but they also make a sweet little snack or a nice, light dessert after indulging in your favorite tapas dishes.

In Spain, you can find these lemon-scented cakes at almost every grocery store, so many people never make them at home. Maybe if they realized how easy it is to make them at home, that would change! You only need a few basic ingredients and a few minutes of work, and you can enjoy magdalenas at their freshest and most flavorful.

Coffee and a magdalena

Coffee and a magdalena

Why Are Magdalena Cakes So Special to Me?

On a personal note, magdalenas are one of my own favorite treats, partly because we share a name! Growing up, I had them on my birthday several times, and I've continued to bake them myself as an adult.

Also, I much prefer desserts that are heavier on flavor than sugar, so I tend to avoid icing and frosting when I'm just baking for myself and my own household. A sprinkle of granulated sugar looks beautiful and gives a nice little crunch without adding too much additional sweetness. It also makes the magdalena more versatile, as a breakfast food or accompaniment to afternoon tea.

Easy Magdalenas Recipe

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

20 min

20 min

40 min

18 cupcakes


  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 2 small lemons, for zest
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 2/3 cup white flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F and prepare 18 cups in two standard-size muffin tins, either by lining with cupcake papers or thoroughly greasing each cup and dusting with flour.
  2. Over low heat, melt the butter, removing from the heat just before it is entirely melted, allowing the residual heat to finish the job. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Measure 3/4 cup of sugar into a bowl and beat with the eggs until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is light. Pour in the melted butter in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Add the lemon zest and milk.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift or whisk together the flour and baking powder. Then gradually add to the wet ingredients, folding in the flour in batches. Stir just until combined; this is a thick batter and if you over-mix, it will affect the texture of your cakes.
  5. With a measuring cup or spoon, fill each prepared cup halfway. Sprinkle each with some of the 1/4 cup of sugar that you reserved.
  6. Bake for 18–20 minutes in the center of the oven, or until the magdalenas are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean.
  7. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5–10 minutes, and then remove to finish cooling.
Spanish magdalena cake

Spanish magdalena cake

Cake Baking Tips

  • Read the whole recipe through before you begin to ensure you know when and how each ingredient is going to be used. This will save you a lot of grief when you're dealing with divided ingredients, like the sugar in this recipe, which is used in two different parts.
  • Preheat your oven and prepare your cake tins first thing. There is nothing worse than mixing everything up, only to realize that the oven isn't even hot, and you don't want to be scrambling to grease and flour your pans, either. Your cupcakes will turn out best if the batter is baked right away; if it sits, you will lose the height and lightness that make magdalenas unique.
  • Fold together the dry and wet ingredients by running your spoon around the edge of the bowl and then cutting through the middle. You want to be lifting and turning, rather than stirring, which takes all the air out of the mixture and may lead to a tragic cupcake collapse.
  • Do not open the oven while baking. The hot air comes rushing out, lowering the temperature inside. Resist the temptation to peek before 17 or 18 minutes, and then try to be as efficient as possible in checking them, in case the cakes need a few extra minutes.
  • Remove the magdalenas from the pans after no more than 5 minutes. If you leave them in the hot tins, they will continue to bake and may be dry and overdone by the time you eat them. So after you take them out, set a timer before you walk away, or you might forget!

Questions & Answers

Question: What kind of frosting can I put on a Magdalena?

Answer: You can put almost any flavor of frosting on top! I prefer them plain, but I've seen chocolate icing, vanilla icing, and even raspberry. If you don't have a big sweet tooth, something tart like lemon would be my recommendation.