Traditional recipes

Plain Madeira cake recipe

Plain Madeira cake recipe

  • Recipes
  • Dish type
  • Cake
  • Sponge cake
  • Madeira cake

A plain madeira sponge cake made with simple ingredients. You can never go wrong with this Madeira cake.

1198 people made this

IngredientsServes: 8

  • 110g (4 oz) butter or margarine
  • 110g (4 oz) caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 175g (6 oz) self raising flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

MethodPrep:15min ›Cook:40min ›Ready in:55min

  1. Cream butter and sugar until light and creamy.
  2. Add in syrup and eggs one at a time beating after each addition.
  3. Sift the flour and baking powder and fold into mixture. Add in vanilla.
  4. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes at 180 C / Gas 4, until risen and golden brown.

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Reviews & ratingsAverage global rating:(23)

Reviews in English (23)

Tried this twice now and both times it sunk in the middle, any idea where I'm going wrong ??-27 Mar 2013

Lovely flavour. However, I made this as per the receipe and then made the next one with the 'all in one' method. This is how I make most of my cakes. It was much better and certainly quicker. It will be my standby cake.-18 Jul 2011

Made this cake today but cooked it for 45mins instead of the 30mins came out perfect-01 Sep 2013

Madeira Cake (A Classic British Cake)

Madeira cake is a classic British recipe, and does not contain any wine, despite what you may think. Enjoy this lovely cake any time of day. It’s just as good with a cup of tea, as with a glass of Madeira wine.

This is a lovely cake that I grew up with in Scotland.

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Madeira cake in the UK used to be as popular as a chocolate cake is here in the US. I say, “used to be” because I’m no longer living in Scotland, and feel like it may have lost a bit of its popularity since the 60s and 70s. I haven’t seen it in bakeries and tea rooms when I’ve traveled to Britain in recent years. (If you live in the UK, please tell me your thoughts on the current status of Madeira cake in the comments below.)

Madeira cake is just a wonderful with a cup of tea as with a glass of Madeira wine, as it is meant to be served.

Madeira cake

A classic Madeira cake is a thing of understated beauty. It doesn’t rely on fancy fillings or extravagant techniques just the perfect recipe for a rich, delightful sponge best enjoyed with – of course – a glass of Madeira. Use any leftover Madeira cake up as the base for trifles – the dense texture is perfect for soaking up sherry while still providing firm support for the layers of fruit and custard on top.

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This classic British cake’s name has always intrigued me a cake made with Madeira, that seemed a little unusual and not what you would expect from a tea time recipe! When I was in my early twenties, I discovered that in actual fact its name has nothing to do with the cake having Madeira in it, but it was so named because society ladies a century or so ago would enjoy a glass of Madeira with a slice of this cake.

The cake was first listed as recipe in Eliza Acton’s cook, ‘Modern Cookery for Private Families’ in 1845. In her book, Eliza says . . .

‘A Good Madeira Cake: Whisk four fresh eggs until they are as light as possible, then, continuing still to whisk them, throw by slow degrees the following ingredients in the order in which they are written: six ounces of dry pounded and sifted sugar six of flour, also dried and sifted four ounces of butter just dissolved, but not heated the rind of a fresh lemon and the instant before the cake is moulded beat well in the third of a teaspoonful of carbonate of soda: bake an hour in a moderate oven’

The cake is a dense cake with a very rich flavour this is due to the cake being made with 100% butter and a mixture of plain and self-raising flour. The modern day recipe from the turn of the 20th century calls for the lemon to be omitted and for three slivers of candied peel to be baked into the cake on top. Some recipes also add ground almonds, but I prefer the classic combination of butter, flour, eggs, sugar and candied peel.

Today’s recipe is based in a recipe that my grandmother used to make from an old Be-Ro cookbook, I have increased the quantities to serve more people, as this cake keeps very well and is an ideal cake to add to the school or office lunch box, as an occasional treat. It also freezes very well, and is the ideal foundation cake recipe for birthday cakes and other variations such as seed cake and cherry cake.

I have a lot of loaf cakes on Easy Peasy lemon Squeezy, have a look around

I also have a lot of classics

So let’s have some fun and get baking

Please let me know if you bake this cake or any of my cakes for that matter and let me know what you think

Big love as always, Clare x


  • 175g butter, at room temp
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 large Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 220g self raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Preparation Method

Double the mix for 2 – one will never be enough…..

  1. Pre-Heat the oven to Gas 4 / 180C
  2. Grease and line a 2lb / 900g loaf tin – I use those loaf liners they are fantastic
  3. Cream your butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add one egg at a time beating well, don’t worry if it curdles a little just keep mixing and add a tablespoon of the flour. Then add the vanilla extract and grated lemon zest and beat
  5. Finally add the baking powder and flour, mix well
  6. Finally add the two tablespoons milk to slacken the mix and stir
  7. Spoon the mix into tin, smooth top and bake on the middle shelf for approx. 50-60 Minutes – watch the top make sure it doesn’t burn – if it browns too quickly pop a piece of foil loosely over the top
  8. Test with a skewer – if it comes out clean it’s baked
  9. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack!
  10. To make the icing pop your icing sugar into a small bowl add the water and mix to a smooth icing Pour your icing over the cake using a knife to spread it over the top
  11. Slice and enjoy


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Patricia says:
Clare x says:

Recipe Summary

  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and line a round cake pan with parchment paper.

Beat butter and sugar together in a bowl using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir vanilla extract into creamed butter mixture.

Sift flour and baking powder into creamed butter mixture and stir until batter is well mixed. Spoon batter into the prepared cake pan, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon.

Bake in the center of the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour 15 minutes.

Cool cake in the cake pan for 10 to 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Round Madeira Cake

Madeira Cake is a produce of the British kitchen which would traditionally be eaten together with a nice glass of Madeira wine, hence the name. This easy recipe will give you a classic Round Madeira Cake with a hint of lemon, that will go down very well in your high tea cake collection.

The batter in the pan before baking

Some other of Gav&rsquos Kitchen Cake Recipes

At the end of this blogpost you will find some links to some other cake recipes that are in some ways similar, and yet different. My moist lemon pound cake is also a lemony tasting cake, but a lot more so than this one, as the sweetened lemon juice is absorbed into the cake at the end.

My butter sponge cake recipe is also a tasty light sponge cake but with more of a vanilla taste than lemon and is raised with baking powder, rather than self-raising flour, as in this recipe.

And my Brazilian Banana Cake recipe is a bit heavier type of cake with the unmistakable taste of bananas.

Madeira cake in a Round or loaf tin?

Well really you can make this cake in a round or a loaf, it is up to you. These quantities were put into a 10 inch round cake tin, but would also fit into a loaf tin. I like to use the round cake tin as it gives you more options to cut the cake.

In this recipe, I used a mix of self-raising flour and a small amount of plain flour (which I needed to use up). The combination worked well and the self-raising flour made sure the cake rose sufficiently.

Almonds on a Madeira?

I added some almonds to the top of this round Madeira cake to give it some decoration, but also to add some taste. I love almonds and I think it is good to experiment with additions to cake.

Some people like to add cherries and other fruit to their Madeira cake to make them more interesting.

I happen to think that the recipe is good as it is. I hope you enjoy it too.

How long does a Madeira Cake last?

Well, I think this depends on your household. Sponge cake should be kept in an airtight box to keep it fresh. Some people say you can keep them for up to two weeks.

I like to think that you should be able to keep it for a while, if properly stored, but I have not been able to test it as it all gets eaten within a day in our house.

So given that simple fact, I would tend to make it just before I need it to ensure there is some left to eat!

If you do make this recipe, please let me know how you get on in the comments section below!

  • 250g/9oz butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 200g/7oz caster sugar
  • 2 clementines, zest and juice only
  • 300g/10½oz plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar, for the topping

Preheat the oven to 170C/150C Fan/Gas 3. Butter and line a large loaf tin.

Cream together the butter, caster sugar and clementine zest – you can do this either in a stand mixer or with hand-held electric beaters.

Mix the flour and baking powder together with a pinch of salt. Add the eggs one at a time to the sugar and butter mixture, sprinkling over a couple of tablespoons of flour with each addition and mixing well.

Fold in the rest of the flour followed by the clementine juice – the texture will be slightly firmer than the dropping consistency you need for a lighter sponge.

Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and sprinkle with the caster sugar. Bake in the oven for between 55–60 minutes, or until a cake skewer comes out clean. The cake will be a rich golden-brown and may have cracked lengthways down the middle – this is normal for a madeira cake.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin before transferring to a wire rack.

Candied Lemon Slices

The candied lemon slices were very easy to make. The key is to slice them very thin (1/8″ thick) then you simmer them in a sugary simple syrup until they are candied. And yes, you can totally eat the rind! It softens in the syrup and is delicious.

My Madeira Cake didn’t dome quite as much as I had hoped, there’s just a slight hump in there, but I’m happy with it. It did crack though! Pretty perfect if I do say so myself.

This Madeira Cake is perfect for afternoon tea. Or breakfast, I don’t judge.

It’s simple and delicious. Really, is there anything better than that?? I recommend microwaving pieces for about 20 seconds before eating for that fresh out of the oven taste. I’ll be making this one again for sure!

What Is Madeira Cake?

For any child who grew up with a love for a classic Madeira cake recipe, it's easy to be oblivious as to where it originates from. But, more recently, I learned that this almost a cherry pound cake has no connection to the Portuguese Madeira Islands.

However, it was, in fact, named after Madeira wine because it often enjoyed together in England around the 1800s. The first mention found, was in Eliza Acton's 1845 book, Modern Cooker For Private Families.

What Is the Difference Between a Madeira Cake and Sponge Cake?

Eliza's traditional Madeira cake is almost a pound cake. You'll find a pound cake is what it says on the tin. It uses equal weight measures of eggs, sugar and flour and butter.

But a Madeira cake traditionally uses &frac13 less butter and a ¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda. Although I assume Eliza used plain flour, as baker, Henry Jones had only just invented self-raising flour the same year as the book was published.

In my recipe, I use a little less sugar as it also has sweetness from the ground almonds. And, they also support the cherries, which I'll explain why shortly.

Vanilla Buttercream Recipe

  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Cream the butter on it’s own for a few minutes.
  2. Add icing sugar.
  3. Add vanilla.

You can watch me bake this cake in real time on my Facebook page here PART 1. PART 2.

Give it a go and let me know how you get on, either on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.

For more information on how to decorate your cake and go from home bake to showstopper, check out my list of latest online cake decorating courses here.

If you want to turn your baking hobby into a career, check out my book Cakes, Bakes & Business for everything you need to know about running a successful baking business, including pricing, marketing, insurance and much more!

Topped with Scrumptious Sprinkles Lemon Crunch & Lemon Jelly Squares! I LOVE them!! xo