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.
- 6oz / 150g sugar
- 4oz / 100g butter/margarine
- 4 eggs
- 6oz / 150g flour
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- zest of 1 lemon
Thanks for reading!