These Spanish sponge cakes are normally very delicious. But a careless mistake taught me what St. Mary Magdalene is really about. For her feast day, try this recipe yourself!
Mary Magdalene, whose feast is July 22, is perhaps one of the most misunderstood saints in the New Testament. To celebrate her special day, we’re making the old Spanish favorite—magdalenas, which are sweet sponge-cake muffins that are quick, easy, and delicious.
There’s not much information about why magdalenas are connected to the feast of this saint, but the Spanish have been making these since the 13th century. Mary Magdalene held a place of honor among the disciples of Christ—she was the first to see the risen Christ, and she is often considered his most ardent and loving follower.
Perhaps all that really matters is that this cake shares a name with Mary Magdalene, and for that reason it is a good reason to celebrate and learn about her.
Granulated Sugar: 1 cup (split into ¾ cup, and ¼ cup)
Unsalted Butter: 1 stick
Unbleached White Flour: 1⅔ cups
Baking Powder: 1 TBSPN
Lemon Zest: from 1 lemon (I used an orange because I didn’t have a lemon)
- You will need two cupcake pans lined with paper.
- Preheat the oven to 375º F.
- In a medium-size mixing bowl, beat the eggs with ¾ cup sugar. Beat until the mixture is light.
4. Melt the butter. On the stove, use a small saucepan on medium. In the microwave, melt twenty seconds at a time. Wait for the butter to cool to the point where it is not bubbling.
5. Slowly dribble in the butter as you continue to stir (this part is great for “your little” to help with). Stir in the lemon zest and milk.
6. Mix the flour and baking powder together in a separate bowl.
7. Add it to the egg mixture while stirring. The batter will be thick; stir until smooth.
8. Fill each cupcake slot about half full (batter will more than double in size).
9. Use the rest of the sugar to sprinkle over each magdalena.
10. Place pans on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, until magdalenas have turned a golden color. Do NOT overcook.
11. After removing from the oven, allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before placing on a cooling rack.
So if I’m being completely honest, this wasn’t my best baking experience. I committed the number one sin of baking—I didn’t read the full directions before making them. It was a short list of ingredients, so I assumed I had everything. I didn’t—I had to use orange, instead of lemon (no big deal). I used one muffin pan instead of a cupcake pan (kind of a big deal). And I didn’t have any paper liners, so butter had to do. Oh, I also overcooked them, so they ended up like spongy bricks.
Still, my daughter seemed to love them. I guess my experience with them ended up being appropriate for the feast of St. Mary Magdalene after all.
I am flawed, but I still love. I sin, but I am forgiven.
Sure, it’s hard to compare baking with… well, whatever Mary Magdalene was involved in, but when it comes down it, she teaches us that when we embrace Christ, when we act with the fullness of love, we change and grow and become disciples.
You can bet I’ll never make those baking mistakes again (hopefully…). I feel like Mary Magdalene is smiling down on me saying, “Those were careless mistakes, but I know you’ll do better next time.”
For some reason, I feel closer to her.
I challenge you to make better magdalenas than I did! Post pictures of your triumphs (or failures) in the comments below. Take some time to look into this wonderful saint; she is a model of conversation and redemption that we all need. Don’t forget to pray this prayer on her feast day (or whenever you need conversion):
St. Mary Magdalene, woman of many sins, who by conversion became the beloved of Jesus, thank you for your witness that Jesus forgives through the miracle of love.
You, who already possess eternal happiness in His glorious presence, please intercede for me, so that some day I may share in the same everlasting joy.