Madeira cake can divide the room, some think it is the prince-of-cakes, while others think it the boring-uncle. We think it is somewhere in-between. With a light lemony taste a slice of cake from this recipe is perfect to be served with tea or a sweet Madeira wine, and it is delicious spread with a little jam. The classic Madeira is a sponge cake, flavoured with lemon, with a firm crumb towards the edges and a lighter texture in the middle. Dating back to the 1700s it was named after the Madeira wine, which was popular in England at the time and was often served with the cake. The original Madeira Cake recipe from 1854 below shows how the cake has changed very little in hundreds of years.
‘Practice of Cookery’, By Mrs I. Williamson. Published 1854
Take one pound of soft sugar; beat it with three quarters of a pound of butter for twenty minutes; add two eggs, and beat for some time, and so on until you have added twelve; then mix in gently one pound of flour. Bake in a slow oven for an hour and three quarters. When it has been in the oven for half an hour, take it out and place some stripes of orange peel on the top.
Madeira Cake Recipe
Makes 1 cake in a medium to large sized loaf tin.
- 270g plain flour
- 180g butter (softened)
- 180g caster sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3 eggs
- 3 tbsp milk
- zest of 1 lemon
- dust with icing (powdered) sugar
- optional: long thin strips of candied orange and lemon peel to decorate.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C
Lightly grease a medium to large loaf tin – either line the base with baking parchment or line it with a paper loaf tin liner.
In a large mixing bowl cream together the softened butter and the caster sugar, until it becomes pale and fluffy. Next beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat and mix the eggs well.
Sift the flour, and then gently fold it in with the baking powder. Add enough milk to give a stiff dropping consistency – i.e. a mixture which can slowly drop away from the spoon. Lastly mix in the lemon zest.
Spoon the cake batter mixture into the prepared loaf tin and lightly level off the top. Bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes at 180C, or until the Madeira Cake is golden-brown on top, and a metal skewer pushed into the centre of the cake comes out clean and hot.
Remove the cake from the oven and set it aside to cool in the tin for 15 minutes. Turn the Madeira Cake out on to a wire rack, and leave to cool completely. Dust with icing (powdered) sugar. Decorate with the candied peel if using. Serve in slices.