I’ve always loved the humble, not so difficult to make, but mind-bendingly-delicious cake. This Madeira Cake recipe taken from Nigella Lawson’s cooking book “How to be a Domestic Goddess” is genuinely simple but very satisfying, and if decorated nicely with fruits, edible flowers, or anything you fancy really — then it becomes the prettiest cake you’ve ever seen. It can be made for special occasions (made this for the September birthday celebrants at our church), or even if that occasion is simply, “Because I just want some cake!” 😉 You can use a loaf tin (23 x 13 x 7cm / 9 x 5 x 3 inches, as Nigella suggested), or two 8-inch round cake pan, buttered and lined, and adjust the baking time accordingly. I normally use Italian buttercream icing (my favourite) but whipped double cream is just as good for this type of cake especially if topped with summer berries.
Madeira cake has a firm yet light texture, similar to a traditional American pound cake. Also, it is very similar to the Spanish cake (we call ‘torta‘) that my mother always baked when I was growing up. In English cookery, the first recorded Madiera cake recipe appeared in a Victorian era cookbook ‘Modern Cookery for Private Families’ by Eliza Acton. Nigella’s recipe is the best I’ve tried but I had tweaked it to my taste by using 180 instead of 200 grams of sugar, and two instead of one grated lemon zest. I am sharing Nigella’s recipe below as written on her cookbook.
- 240 grams unsalted butter (softened) = 1 cup + 1 tablespoon
- 200 grams caster sugar (plus extra for sprinkling) 200 g sugar = 1 cup
- grated zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
- 3 large eggs
- 210 grams self-raising flour = 1 & 1/3 cup
- 90 grams plain flour = 2/3 cup
- Preheat the oven to 170ºC/gas mark 3/325ºF.
- Cream the butter and sugar, and add the lemon zest.
- Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of the flour for each.
- Then gently mix in the rest of the flour and, finally, the lemon juice.
- Sprinkle with caster sugar (about 2 tablespoons should do it) as it goes into the oven, and bake for 1 hour or until a cake-tester comes out clean.
- Remove to a wire rack, and let cool in the tin before turning out.