Posted in Home Baking

In Which the Blogger Tries Her Hand at Baking a Madeira Cake…

The cake was definitely a star in more ways than one…

When I was a kid, I encountered the term Madeira cake a number of times while reading, of all things, a number of British cookery books I found in the school library.  It was up there with such treats as the almond-and-currant Dundee cake and the checkerboard-patterned Battenberg cake as a classic Brit teatime offering.

In Audrey Willsher’s novel A Candle in the Wind, a tale set in the Victorian era, the heroine Tess is served a slice of Madeira cake by a kindly, well-off neighbor who wishes to take her in as a lady’s maid.  The cake in that particular scene is described as golden, fluffy, and buttery – the polar opposite of the hard bread that is the staple bakery good of choice in Tess’s household.  In that context, Madeira cake is a symbol of the good life as perceived in Victorian England, an aspirational dessert that poorer folk strove for and one enjoyed practically every day by those who were well-off as part of the afternoon tea spread.

The closest thing to Madeira cake in this part of the world is butter cake – the localized version of American pound cake – which is more stodgy-textured than the glorious fluffiness described in many books where Madeira cake appears.  This isn’t bad, really, but last weekend, everyone at home wanted cake – gloriously fluffy plain cake that would nevertheless taste rich and luxurious.

That said, my version of Madeira cake is a lighter version of my rum cake recipe and is, like the traditional version, flavored nicely with lemon to balance the richness.  Incidentally, don’t shun the alcohol on this one: you can barely taste it once the cake is baked, and it helps achieve the wonted fluffy softness.

Rich, golden, buttery…

Madeira Cake

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 softened salted butter
  • 1/2 cup soft margarine
  • 2 teaspoons lemon flavoring or 1-1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 1/4 cup lemon vodka or limoncello or still lemonade
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated white sugar

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and soda.  Set aside.  Grease and flour a large, fluted cake tin.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees / Gas Mark 4.

Cream together the sugar, margarine, and butter until light and fluffy.  Whisk in the eggs and beat until well-combined.  Add the lemon flavoring, rum, and lemon vodka and stir till the mixture looks curdled.  Add half the milk; stir, and add 1/2 of the flour.  Pour in the rest of the milk; stir, and add the remaining flour.  Mix until well-combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 55 minutes.

Turn the cake out onto a serving platter immediately.

Makes twelve servings.

Anyone want mamon tostado?

Incidentally…  Oh, another thing you can do with Madeira cake? Thinly slice any chilled leftover cake and pop into a toaster oven for 5 – 8 minutes. Et voila: you get a traditional Spanish-Filipino biscuit –  mamon tostado! Spreading these crunchy rusks with Nutella or cream cheese is optional but highly recommended.


Midge started her career in PR writing at seventeen when she began drafting documentaries for a government-run television station in the Philippines. Since then, she made a career in advertising and public relations which ended in June 2016 These days, she works full time at Philippine Tatler as a features writer under the nom de guerre Marga Manlapig. Aside from what she does for a living and her poetry, she has turned her home kitchen into a personal culinary lab and is currently working on another novel. Follow her on Instagram at @midgekmanlapig.

One thought on “In Which the Blogger Tries Her Hand at Baking a Madeira Cake…

  1. Yum! I first read about Madeira cake in a Nigella Lawson cookbook (figures!) and I’ve always been intrigued. Will try it one of these days!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s