Madeira Cake

A classic English sponge cake, madeira cake is very simple to make. It is quite plain, has a firm texture and is flavoured with the most subtle hint of lemon or orange. I have based my recipe on one of the earliest published recipes by Eliza Acton in her 1845 Modern Cookery for Private Families.

Eliza Acton (1799-1859) was an English cook and poet, and her 1845 Modern Cookery for Private Families was one of the first recipe books aimed for the domestic cook rather than the professional chef. The book was extremely influential, with Mrs Beeton basing her famous Book of Household Management on it, and establishing the format for modern cookery books.

Some people believe that madeira cake originated from the island of Madeira. However, this is not actually true. It is in fact named after the Portugese wine of the same name which was popular in England from the 16th century. Indeed, the cake was often served with this sweet wine. Delicately flavoured, it goes perfectly with a cup of tea.

I admit that I had never actually eaten madeira cake before so I don’t know how it compares to modern recipes. Eliza Acton’s version uses a different proportion of ingredients to the modern recipes that I have seen. The fact that it has more eggs than modern versions probably means that it is slightly more dense that a madeira cake following a modern recipe would be.

Madeira Cake

  • Servings: 10-12 slices
  • Print


  • 6oz / 150g sugar
  • 4oz / 100g butter/margarine
  • 4 eggs
  • 6oz / 150g flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • zest of 1 lemonΒ 


  • Pre-heat the oven to 180c / 350f and line a 1 lb loaf tin
  • Cream together the sugar and butter until the mixture is light and fluffy
  • Beat in the eggs and add in the lemon zest
  • Sieve in the flour and bicarbonate of soda and mix until combined
  • Pour into tin and bake for 45-50 minutes
  • Note: This cake can also be made in a sandwich tin, although the cooking time will need to be adjusted accordingly
  • Store in an airtight container
  • Thanks for reading!




    26 thoughts on “Madeira Cake

    1. Hey . I have planned on starting a bake off a way to collab with different bloggers on a weekly basis. Would you like to become a part of this collab . It’s a great way to spread word about you blog and to get more readers to read you post.
      If you accept I will send you the details.


    2. Looks lovely and tasty! I was fortunate to have had Madeira cake as part of afternoon tea when I visited Great Britain a few years ago. So delicious and, for me, an unusual but very nice flavor. I think I may have to try and recreate it using your version.

      Liked by 1 person

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