Zesty Lemon Madeira Cake Recipe


Cakes River Cottage HandbookThe name of this lovely light, buttery cake derives from the Victorian habit of enjoying a glass of Madeira alongside it. It’s a shame we no longer do the same (though feel free). A classic English recipe, using classic cake ingredients, you’ll find its homely aroma will fill the kitchen and beyond in the most pleasing way.

I like to top my Madeira cake with a zesty lemony icing. However, you can serve it un-iced, in which case I think it’s nice to scatter some strips of candied citron peel (available from health food stores) over the cake before baking.

  • Yield: 10 Servings


For the Cake
  • 200 g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 150 g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened
  • 2 unwaxed lemons juice plus finely grated zest
  • 150 g golden granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
For the topping
  • 150 g icing sugar
  • 1½ tbsp lemon juice
  • Fresh, crystallised or sugared violets, or candied citron peel
  • 1 litre loaf tin, about 20x10 cm lightly greased, base and long sides lined with baking parchment
How to Make It
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4. Sift the flour and baking powder together and set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter with the lemon zest, using either a wooden spoon or a hand-held electric whisk, to a cream. Add the sugar and continue to beat until the mixture is very light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, adding 1 tbsp of the flour with each and beating thoroughly before adding the next egg. Fold in the remaining flour, using a large metal spoon, then fold in the 2 tbsp lemon juice.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and spread out lightly and evenly with the back of the spoon. Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes until the cake is well risen, springy to the touch and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, for the topping, sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Beat in the lemon juice, a little at a time, until the icing is glossy and fairly stiff. Spread thickly on top of the cake and decorate with violets or candied citron peel.
  5. This cake will keep for 10 days in an airtight tin.

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