Madeira cake

Madeira cake is a sponge or butter cake in traditional British and Irish cookery.

Madeira cake
Cherry Madeira cake with whipped cream and tea
TypeSponge cake
CourseTea or breakfast
Place of originUnited Kingdom


It is sometimes mistakenly thought to originate from the Madeira Islands; however, that is not the case as it was named after Madeira wine, a Portuguese wine from the islands, which was popular in England in the mid-1800s and was often served with the cake.[1][2][3][4] Madeirans produce their own traditional cake – bolo de mel, a dark, spicy, honey cake – which is very different from Madeira cake.[5][6] Nowadays, the English Madeira cake is often served with tea or liqueurs.[7]


The cake has a firm yet light texture. It is eaten with tea or (occasionally) for breakfast and is traditionally flavoured with lemon.[8] Dating back to an original recipe in the 18th or 19th century,[1][7] Madeira cake is similar to a pound cake or yellow cake.[9][10] One of the earliest published recipes was by Eliza Acton in her Modern Cookery for Private Families (1845):[11]

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.


  1. Rinsky, Glenn; Halpin Rinsky, Laura (2008). The Pastry Chef's Companion: A Comprehensive Resource Guide for the Baking and Pastry Professional. John Wiley and Sons. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-470-00955-0.
  2. The Essential Baking Cookbook. Murdoch Books. 2005. p. 59. ISBN 978-1-74045-542-8.
  3. Mack, Patricia (5 March 1997). "A slice and a sip". The Record. Woodland Park.
  4. Murray, Debbie (10 March 2011). "Paradise island". Chester Chronicle. Chester.
  5. Nouillan, Mark (22 June 1996). "Island Fling: Class of Madeira and a Touch of Scotland in the Tropics". Daily Record.
  6. Wurzal, Laura (27 January 2007). "Strolling through a Corner of Paradise". Daily Post. Liverpool.
  7. Stringer, Helen (10 July 2001). "The Peerless Cake Baker: The Surprising History of The Cake". The Mediadrome. Archived from the original on 29 June 2009. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  8. "English Madeira Cake". cookitsimply. 2010. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  9. Muller, Keith (29 March 2014). "Pound for Pound, a Dessert Heavyweight". Winnipeg Free Press. Winnipeg.
  10. "Microwave cake baking offers improved textural properties". Emerging Food R&D Report. 1 April 2007.
  11. Brown, Catherine (16 November 2002). "Cake which raised the spirits". The Herald. Glasgow.
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