This poor cake has been hanging around in my draft posts for a long time (apart from when I managed to delete it without realising and had a slight panic that I’d clicked ‘Publish’ rather than ‘Save’ but we’ll gloss over that).  
I actually made it the weekend after we came back from Belgium in November and it’s taken until now for it to finally get its moment in the spotlight.  
It’s a shame really because this is a super little cake and deserves far, far better.  

I have acknowledged before that I’m not much of a breakfast person and the idea of a plate filled with bacon and eggs first thing in the morning turns my stomach. While everyone else in our hotel in Bruges was happy to tuck in, I sought out some slightly lighter fare and was happy to alight upon a Belgian approximation of a Madeira cake. As soon as we got home, I knew that I had to make it, or at least its English equivalent.

Despite the name, there is no Madeira (a fortified Portuguese wine) in this cake. Nor does it hail from the island of Madeira. No, it is an English cake through and through.  In the 18th and 19th century, it was traditionally served at tea time alongside a glass of Madeira. Can you feel nostalgic for a time that you never even knew? Because I am definitely nostalgic for a time when it was acceptable to have a glass of wine and a slice of cake in the middle of the afternoon. 
It also makes an ideal breakfast cake, preferably without the wine (although I should point out that I am someone who thinks any cake is an ideal breakfast cake). It’s not too sweet and has a slightly sturdier crumb than your typical sponge cake, making it an ideal vehicle for some fruit or yogurt or maybe a scant spoonful of lemon curd. There is a hint of vanilla and lemon in the cake but neither is overwhelming. Primarily, though this tastes like cake and I’d forgotten just how good it was.  
Madeira cake

Yield: 1lb loaf tin


  • 85g (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 85g (1/3 cup + 1/2 tablespoon) caster sugar
  • 1/2 lemon, finely grated zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 85g (3/4 cup) all purpose/plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Caster/granulated suger for sprinkling 

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F. Butter a small loaf tin or small round cake tin.
  2. Beat together the butter, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs and continue beating until combined.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and fold together until just mixed.
  5. Pour into your baking tin and bake for 45 mins until gold brown and springs back when you touch it.
  6. Turn out onto a wire rack, sprinkle with caster sugar and allow to cool.

    31 Responses to "madeira cake"
    1. i buy madeira cake from the bakery often, great to see a recipe for it !

    2. Andrew's Mom says:

      The cake looks delicious! I’m not a one who would like the lumberjack breakfast either.

    3. Foodycat says:

      I have a certificate that my great-grandmother won for her madeira cake, but I’ve never made it! It looks wonderful. Perfect for elevenses.

    4. london bakes says:

      @a spoonful of yumm – It really is one of the easiest cakes out there, it’s such a staple in my house now!

      @Andrew’s Mom – Thank you very much!

      @Foodycat – A prize winning madeira cake is very impressive indeed! I’m in awe :)

    5. Kathryn, it looks utterly heavenly – just perfect for afternoon tea. Or breakfast. Or elevenses. Or pudding. I could go on… Yummy. Great recipe.

    6. oh yummy! this looks so light and fluffy and looks like it’d melt right in your mouth. I do the same thing you do..with posts that just hang around lol, just like the post i had many posts, so little days in the week! :)

    7. Angharad says:

      It looks perfect! I love simple cakes like this – vehicles for other things or just lovely with a cup of tea (or wine…) in the morning. Spot on, my dear!

    8. Kavey says:

      Agreed – any cake makes a good breakfast!

      And a friend was just asking elsewhere on the web why Madeira cake is so named – she knows it doesn’t contain Madeira wine, and she’s in Madeira currently, and notices that it’s nothing like the traditional cakes of Madeira (which are often dense honey cakes)… so I’ve passed on your info and link!

    9. Leanne says:

      This looks truly delicious! I’ve been jonesing for a cake that sounds exactly as you’ve described this one– not too sweet or heavy, and just a touch of lemon. Easy to make makes it even better!

    10. london bakes says:

      @Skye – You are a girl after my own heart, cake for any time ;)

      @Julie – That’s exactly the right description, it really does melt in your mouth!

      @Angharad – I think, without wishing to offend any other nation, that it’s the type of cake that the English do so well.

      @Kavey – Glad I could be of assistance to her!

      @Leanne – Yup, it’s pretty much one bowl, give it a stir and you’re good to go! I hope you enjoy it if you get a chance to make it :)

    11. Jenny says:

      Madeira cake is one of my favourite cakes! I can’t bake it anymore as it’s dangerous to have in my house, my boyfriend and I would make up excuses to go into the kitchen and swipe another slice!

      Lovely photos too!

    12. This cake sounds delicious! And yes, I too feel nostalgic for times when wine and cake were acceptable anytime! :)

    13. london bakes says:

      @Jenny – I can’t deny, it didn’t last long in our flat either ;)

      @Leah – Maybe we should bring the tradition back!

    14. Amy says:

      Ah I remember seeing this cake in Nigella Lawson’s how to be a domestic goddess cookbook and thinking it sounds incredible. Simple, but incredible. must be one of those things. Yours looks great and makes me want to make it already!

    15. Deanna says:

      I don’t want to live in a world that doesn’t include cake for breakfast. And I see absolutely nothing wrong with cake and wine mid-day.

    16. Kelsey says:

      This looks perfectly light and lovely for a weekend breakfast. Happy to have stumbled upon your blog this afternoon, cheers and nice to “meet” you. :)

    17. Lovely photos! This looks perfect! x

    18. london bakes says:

      @Amy – I thought there must be a Nigella version somewhere, it’s such a classic!

      @Deanna – You are a woman after my own heart!

      @Kelsey – Thank you! I’m looking forward to checking out your blog right now :D

      @girl who likes to gorge – Thank you so much!

    19. I am craving baked goods right now and this looks amazing! I can’t wait to try this!

    20. I can’t survive a morning without breakfast so don’t quite relate on that front, but on every other count I do – cake for breakfast is always a winner!

    21. delicious! can’t wait to try it!

    22. london bakes says:

      @Natalie – It’s the perfect cake for that kind of craving, straightforward and delicious!

      @thelittleloaf – I think I eat more cake for breakfast than I do at any other time of the day!

      @Heather – Thank you, I hope you like it!

    23. this cake looks delicious! simple is always wonderful

    24. So gorgeous! I can almost taste its light simplicity through the screen :) Perfect breakfast or dessert!

    25. the cake looks beautiful! I’d love to have a piece with a cup of coffee.

    26. Dizzy Lizzie says:

      I am definitely making this! Just one qn: Only zest, no juice right?

    27. london bakes says:

      @Elizabeth – Thank you, sometimes all you want is something simple!

      @Elina – Yes, this is really the perfect all occasion cake!

      @Tess – Haha, looking at it makes me hungry too!

      @Averie – Thank you! Really you should be having it with a cup of tea but I’ll let you off ;)

      @Lizzie – Yup, no juice. It’s very subtle citrus flavour.

    28. I love, no – eternally ADORE madeira cake!! Beautiful :) ~Megan

    29. london bakes says:

      @Megan – Thank you so much, I always like it when people say it’s one of their favourites. It so often goes unnoticed!

    30. I was hoping for the Madeira wine :)

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