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.

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!

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