This madeira cake is rich and buttery with a tangy citrus flavor. It’s dense yet moist with a tender, soft crumb. This quintessential cake is perfect for any occasion, whether it’s a cozy afternoon tea or a special celebration – plus it’s easy to make!

A madeira cake loaf on a floral plate and two slices cut

What is a madeira cake?

Madeira cake is a traditional British tea-time treat characterized by its dense yet moist texture, buttery richness, and subtle citrus flavor. Named after the fortified wine often served with it, this classic cake features a delicate crumb and is typically flavored with lemon and/or orange zest. Perfectly paired with a cup of tea or coffee, madeira cake embodies simplicity and elegance, making it a beloved favorite for many.

Why you’ll love this recipe:

  • Flavorful and not too sweet – What I love about this cake is the tangy, lemony flavor that is balanced with just the right amount of sweetness to allow the rich, buttery flavor and citrus zest to shine through.
  • Soft with a golden crust – This madeira cake has a crunchy golden exterior. The inside of the cake is super soft and moist and just melts in your mouth. It’s deliciously dense and tender at the same time.
  • Simple yet shockingly good – This unassuming cake will blow your mind after the first bite. It’s so simple yet so good. This cake is sure to become a favorite in your baking repertoire.
A madeira cake loaf on a floral plate and three slices cut

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • Butter – Provides richness, moisture, and flavor to the cake.
  • Sugar – Sweetens and caramelizes during baking, adding depth of flavor and contributing to the cake’s golden brown crust.
  • Lemon Zest – Adds a bright, citrusy flavor to the cake.
  • Eggs – Act as a binding agent, helping to hold the cake together and providing structure. They also contribute to the cake’s richness and moisture.
  • Flour – The primary dry ingredient in the cake batter, providing structure and stability.
  • Baking Powder – Helps the cake rise and become light and fluffy.
  • Lemon Juice – Enhances the citrus flavor of the cake, complementing the lemon zest and providing a subtle tanginess to balance the sweetness of the other ingredients.

How to make madeira cake:

(The full written and printable recipe is further below.)

process images of how to make madeira cake
  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together for 5-7 minutes until light and fluffy.
  2. Beat in the lemon zest and eggs, one at a time, mixing well in between.
  3. In another bowl, toss together the flour and baking powder. Mix in half of the flour mixture, followed by the lemon juice, then the remaining flour mixture until just combined.
  4. Transfer the batter into a parchment paper-lined 9×5″ loaf pan. Use a butter knife and cut a line lengthwise down the center of your batter. Sprinkle some sugar on top and bake at 325F for 50-60 minutes.

Variations:

  • Lemon zest – Orange, lime, or grapefruit zest can be used instead, or a combination if you want it super zesty and citrusy.
  • Lemon juice – Any sour citrus juice can be used to maintain the cake’s signature tanginess.
  • Sugar crust – The extra sugar on top can be omitted and you can go with a simple glaze or dusting of powdered sugar instead.

How to serve:

Serve alongside a steaming cup of your favorite tea, freshly brewed coffee, or a glass of madeira wine for a classic pairing. Elevate it by serving it with a dollop of clotted cream and a spoonful of tangy lemon curd for a delightful dessert treat; alternatively, enjoy it plain as a simple yet satisfying treat at any time of day.

three slices on madeira cake on a floral serving plate

FAQ:

Is madeira cake from Madeira?

No, the name was adopted in the UK in the early 1800s when it was fashionable amongst the upper classes to serve a slice of this type of cake with a glass of Madeira wine.

Is a madeira cake a pound cake?

Madeira cake and pound cake share similarities in their dense texture and buttery flavor, but they are not the same. Pound cake is traditionally made with equal parts flour, butter, eggs, and sugar, resulting in a dense and rich cake, while Madeira cake typically includes butter, sugar, eggs, flour, and citrus zest, offering a slightly lighter texture and additional flavor complexity.

Can you freeze madeira cake?

Yes, once the cake has cooled completely, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, place it in an airtight container or freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Once thawed, you can bring it to room temperature before serving.

How long in advance can you make madeira cake?

Madeira cake can be made 2 days in advance. Once baked and cooled completely, wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap, or place in an airtight container to keep it fresh, and store at room temperature.

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Madeira Cake

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  • Author: Lily Ernst
  • Prep Time: 15 min
  • Cook Time: 60 min
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 12 servings
  • Category: breakfast, dessert, snack
  • Method: bake
  • Cuisine: British

Description

This madeira cake is rich and buttery with a tangy citrus flavor. It’s dense yet moist with a tender, soft crumb.


Ingredients

  • 1 cup (227g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp (225g) granulated sugar, divided
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 & 1/2 cups (315g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • juice of 1 lemon

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325F. Butter and line a 9×5″ pan with parchment paper with overhang sides for easy removal.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and 1 cup of sugar together for 5-7 minutes until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the lemon zest and eggs, one at a time, mixing well in between.
  4. In another bowl, toss together the flour and baking powder. Mix in half of the flour mixture, followed by the lemon juice, then the remaining flour mixture until just combined.
  5. Transfer the batter into the prepared pan. Use a butter knife and cut a line lengthwise down the center of your batter. Sprinkle the remaining sugar on top.
  6. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Notes

Leftovers can be tightly wrapped or placed in an airtight container and stored at room temperature for 3-4 days.

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home