madeira cake

April 30, 2012

This cake is a simple English treat – lemony but not overly so, nor too sweet, and perfect with some thick compote or a dollop of lemon curd on top.

I spent several hours on Friday night baking for the bake sale I mentioned participating in. I made double chocolate chunk cookies with sea salt and lemon-drenched lemon cake – two of my favourites! But of course, since I was packaging it up for other people I didn’t get a chance to steal myself a slice of cake and so I was left hankering for something lemony.

Enter this cake. Yes, lemony, but a completely different beast to that other one. This is much more of a simple everyday cake, jazzed up with some lemon zest and juice and perfect if you’re in the mood for something sweet but not dessert-like or cloying.

I always thought that Madeira cake came from the islands of Madeira, but no!  Evidently, centuries back in the U.K. it was popular to eat a slice of this cake with a glass of Madeira wine. If you have some on hand then please give it a go and report back but personally I’d recommend it with a good cup of tea. Enjoy!

Madeira Cake
adapted from Nigella Lawson


  • 240g/8.25oz softened unsalted butter
  • 200g/7oz caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 large eggs
  • 320g/ 2.5 cups all-purpose/plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda


  1. Preheat the oven to 170ºC/330F. Butter a 9- by 5- inch (23 x 13 cm) loaf tin, buttered and dust with flour, tapping out excess. Set aside.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda and set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy and light, and add the lemon zest.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of the flour for each egg to prevent the mixture curdling.
  5. Gently mix in the rest of the flour and, finally, the lemon juice. Transfer batter to prepared pan and  sprinkle with about 2 tbsp sugar. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until a cake-tester comes out clean.
  6. Remove to a wire rack, and let cool in the tin before turning out.
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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathryn April 30, 2012 at 4:56 pm

I decided a few months ago that madeira cake was most likely my favourite cake of all time. It’s such a subtle flavour and a perfect texture. Love.


Connie C. April 30, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Can you advise what size pan to use? An 8 x 8 or 9 x 13. Thanks.


Angharad April 30, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Hi Connie,
Thanks for asking that question – I’ve updated the recipe to include that detail – for the record I used a 9- by 5- inch (23 x 13 cm) tin.


Connie C. May 3, 2012 at 9:39 am

Thank you! :)

Kari @ bite-sized thoughts April 30, 2012 at 11:02 pm

I can quite sincerely say that this looks like the best madeira cake I’ve ever seen. Normally I think of them as quite boring and dry – clearly, I’ve just never seen one done well! Thanks for the recipe, I will be tucking it away.


holly May 1, 2012 at 1:00 pm

so, so, so lovely! you are officially the citrus queen.

caught up on all your posts and officially want some buckwheat waffles right now, even though i am trying to detox (read: eat clean) post-marathon b/c i’ve essentially used the marathon to rationalize eating EVERYTHING.

oy vey.

anyways, major updates coming your way. love, love.


Heidi May 7, 2012 at 8:00 am

I made this and it came out looking beautiful. But it is a bit dry. I noticed that the batter was very stiff. I added some milk to thin it. But the cake is still quite dry….I wonder what I could have done wrong?

Thank you for the recipe! I always wondered why it was called Madeira cake!


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