In recent times, madeleines have been making guest appearances on menus at numerous restaurants around Melbourne, including Chiaki, Poodle and Cutler & Co. But at new Lygon Street bakery Madeleine De Proust, the buttery genoise sponge cakes are the undisputed star of the show.

At their bakery, which started on Instagram and opened as a bricks-and-mortar store last week, former Attica head pastry chef HyoJu Park and her chef-partner Rong Yao Soh take full advantage of the versatility of these delicate cakes. Here you’ll find a dozen different types of the seashell-shaped bakes, with their signature bump, all made with differently flavoured batters, fillings and toppings.

The creations will rotate, but among the debut offerings is a pistachio version; this madeleine is filled with pistachio paste that’s made in-house from stone-ground pistachios and house-made raspberry jam, before being dipped in white Valrhona chocolate. Another is tipsy arabica, a coffee madeleine filled with a ganache made from Market Lane coffee, whisky and Ecuadorian cacao, and topped with coffee cream which is indented and then torched so it looks like a coffee bean. The corn version is a brown butter madeleine filled with cream cheese and buttered cooked corn “for pops” as Soh says, topped with a popcorn ganache piped to look like corn kernels, and finished with a husk made from corn-infused chocolate.

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“You can get madeleines from Costco and Woolies in a big bag, but we try to give them a new identity and create a different experience,” says Soh. While the cakes may be easy enough to find at the supermarket, the ones that come in a bag are most likely not made by chefs with the Michelin-star credentials of Park and Soh. (They’ve respectively worked in the kitchen at Seoul’s two-Michelin-starred Mingles and London’s Galvin at Windows, which had a Michelin star at the time when Soh was there).

The meticulous approach to culinary arts the duo developed in some of the world’s best kitchens can be seen in the fastidious approach the pair take to their creations.

Soh says it took them about three to four hundred test batches to perfect the signature madeleine bump. They trialled different types of butter before landing on one from a local producer, and it took them two months to find a supplier for the “extra light” flour they import from Japan. The delicate brushes the pair use to top their madeleines with gold leaf, glazes and other finishes are also imported from Japan, as are custom-made madeleine trays.

The name Madeleine De Proust is inspired by a French expression used to refer to sensory memories of childhood, a concept famously described by novelist Marcel Proust in his work Remembrance of Things Past. And, true to the name, Park and Soh infuse their entire operation with nostalgia. Park says madeleines were the first thing she ever baked and the corn creation is inspired by a pre-packaged ice-cream treat she has fond memories of eating as a kid growing up in Gwangyang, South Korea. Similarly, the store’s pandan coconut madeleine is influenced by Soh’s childhood in Malaysia. The edible gold-brushed golden nugget is a nod to Melbourne’s gold rush era.

IF Architecture oversaw the shop’s interiors, which takes influence from both Australian milk bars and French patisseries. There’s a black and white checkerboard pattern on the floor, a display case that would be at home in any Parisian boutique, and Madeleine De Proust-branded, transparent, milk-bar-style plastic strip curtains that divide the main shopfront from the kitchen. There are also some “futuristic” elements brought in, as Soh put it, like the curved countertops and the spacesuit orange takeaway boxes and bags.

Madeleine De Proust
253 Lygon Street, Carlton
No phone

Wed to Sun 10am–5pm