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Madeira Cake

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Madeira Cake

Madeira Cake
Chris Caldicott
Provided by:
total prep
During the eighteenth century the use of yeast (originally taken from the top of beer) as a raising agent in cakes was replaced after the discovery of the leavening power of beaten eggs. This heralded the birth of the superb sponge cake. Recipes of the time would instruct the cook to beat the eggs for literally hours. Madeira cake is the classic example of the new method and was taken as a mid-morning snack served with its namesake, the fortified wine Madeira.

This dense buttery cake, instantly recognizable by its citron peel topping, is a teatime classic. The cake mixture was also used as a base for seed cake and rich cherry cake, so feel free to add 2 teaspoons caraway seeds or 75g/3oz halved and rinsed glacé cherries to the cake mixture, in place of the lemon zest and candied peel, and bake in a loaf tin. Why not serve your cake in vintage style, with a glass of Madeira?

Recipe courtesy of Vintage Tea Party by Carolyn Caldicott/Frances Lincoln Limited Publishers, 2012


  • 150g/5oz soft butter
  • 150g/5oz caster sugar
  • 3 large free-range eggs
  • 225g/8oz self-raising flour
  • Grated zest of a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons or so of milk to mix
  • 4 x 1.5cm/1/2 in thick strips of candied or citron peel (see note)
  • Caster sugar to decorate


  • Note: If citron peel is hard to find, simply simmer strips of lemon peel in a sugar solution (1 tablespoon caster sugar to 3 tablespoons water) until translucent.

  • Line a 18cm/7in loose-bottomed cake tin with greaseproof paper and preheat the oven to170ºC/325ºF/gas mark 3.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in each egg, individually, then fold in the flour, lemon zest and milk.
  • Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and carefully lay the citron peel on top; don’t push the peel down or it will sink as the cake rises.
  • Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 1 1/4 hours, or until the cake feels firm in the middle.
  • Remove from the oven and dust with caster sugar while still warm.