Madeira cake

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • For



Appears in

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South: The history of British Baking, savoury and sweet

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South

By Regula Ysewijn

Published 2020

  • About

This cake is named after Madeira wine, a fortified wine from Madeira in Portugal that became popular in England in the mid-19th century. The wine was served to be enjoyed with the cake, just as Vin Santo is served with Cantucci biscuits in Tuscany. One of the earliest recipes was that of Eliza Acton in her 1845 book, Modern Cookery for Private Families. Madeira cake still often appears on the table, although today it is served with a steaming cup of tea rather than a glass of Madeira wine.


  • 175 g (6 oz) butter, at room temperature
  • 175 g (6 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 250 g (9 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • zest of 1 lemon, grated
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1-2 thin slices of candied lemon or lemon zest
  • butter, for greasing
  • flour, for dusting
  • candied fruits, to garnish


For an 18-20 cm (7-8 inch) round cake tin

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F) and prepare the cake tin.

Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and make sure that each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next one. Add a teaspoon of the flour with the last egg to prevent the mixture from separating. Stir in the lemon zest.

Carefully fold the remaining flour and the baking powder into the batter so that the volume is retained. Stir in the candied lemon. Spoon the batter into the cake tin and smooth the top. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30-40 minutes.

Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then remove from the tin and let it cool on a wire rack. You can decorate the cake with candied fruits to give it a wonderful retro appearance.

Serve with a cup of Earl Grey tea or a glass of Madeira, sherry or port.