Madeira Cake

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Madeira is a comforting cake and is traditionally eaten with a glass of Madeira. In Ireland it is now more often taken with tea. The crack in the middle of the cake is not a flaw – it’s proof that you have made an excellent cake.  It is called ‘madeira’ because it was often served with a glass of madeira wine from the Portuguese island of the same name.

Serves 8


175g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
30g ground almonds or fine polenta
Grated zest of 1 lemon
200g self-raising flour, sifted
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of milk


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

2. Place the butter into the bowl of a food processor. Add the sugar. Beat until it turns into a pale cream colour and is fluffy.

3. Add one egg with the motor running with a tablespoon of flour to stop the egg curdling, then add the other two eggs.

4. When the eggs are incorporated, add the ground almonds or polenta and the lemon zest and blitz until smooth.

5. Remove the lid from the processor and add the rest of the flour, the vanilla and the milk. Blitz briefly until you have a smooth mix, scraping the sides of the bowl if you need to.

6. Pour the mix into a non-stick 8 inch loaf tin, levelling off the top.

7. Bake in the lower-middle shelf of the oven, checking the cake after 45 minutes. If a skewer comes out of the centre cleanly, it is cooked. If not, cook it for another five minutes, or even another five minutes after that until it is cooked. It will depend on your oven and the size of the tin you use.

8. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool.

Recipe notes

– You can omit the lemon zest, or just use lemon zest and omit the vanilla.

– Use 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste instead of vanilla extract.

– Make a lemon glaze to spoon over the cake: heat equal quantities of water and sugar (3 tablespoons of each for this size of cake), add the juice of a lemon and bring to the boil. Boil until syrupy. When the cake has cooled, use a skewer to poke holes in the cake and pour the warm glaze over. Leave to cool before serving.

– Sprinkle the top of the cake with 2 tablespoons of caster sugar before it goes in the oven.

– Serve our madeira cake as a dessert with Poached plums with star anise syrup or Poached apples with maple and cardamom syrup or slice it in half and sandwich with our home-made zesty Lime curd.

– Drizzle the cake with vanilla icing and top with quartered ripe figs and toasted almonds.

This recipe has been triple-tested in the gréatfood test kitchen.

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