Magdalenas Recipe: Lemony Spanish Cupcakes

Mascotas y varios/Getty Images
  • 30 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins,
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Yield: 18 cupcakes (18 servings)
Ratings (173)

In Spanish, magdalenas simply means "cupcakes." They are sweet and lemony and rich tasting, but they also have a light and fluffy texture. It is common to enjoy them at breakfast with café con leche and they would make a great addition a Sunday champagne brunch

Traditionally, the cupcakes are made in the shape of a shell using a special Magdalena oven tray. However, it is more common today for them to take on the basic cupcake form. Although magdalenas are often purchased at bakeries today rather than baked at home, they are simple to make. 

What You'll Need

  • 1 cup sugar (granulated, divided)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick, unsalted)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (zest from 1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 2/3 cups flour (all-purpose, unbleached)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

How to Make It

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (200 C). Measure 1/4 cup sugar, place it in a small bowl, and set aside.
  2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. In a small saucepan on the stovetop, melt the butter over medium heat. Alternatively, you can melt it in the microwave. Before adding it to the egg mixture, make sure the butter cools slightly and is not bubbling.
  1. While you continue to beat the egg mixture, slowly add the melted butter, making sure to mix thoroughly.
  2. Stir in the lemon zest and milk.
  3. Measure out the flour in a separate bowl. Add the baking powder and mix thoroughly.
  4. While stirring the egg mixture, add the flour mixture. Continue to stir until all ingredients are mixed well. The batter will be very thick.
  5. Place paper liners in a cupcake pan. Use a large serving spoon to spoon batter into the pan, filling each cupcake liner halfway. The batter will more than double in size when baked.
  6. Use a teaspoon to sprinkle each magdalena with a bit of the reserved sugar.
  7. Place pans on the middle shelf of the preheated oven. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the magdalenas have turned a golden color.
  8. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing cupcakes from the pan to cool further.

The Origins of Magdalenas

Magdalenas are believed to have originated in France. You can see some resemblance with Madeleines, which are very popular butter sponge cakes.

However, there is also the story of a young Spanish girl named Magdalena. It's said that she served these little cakes to pilgrims making their journey to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. This may account for the spread of their popularity across Spain.