The Great British Bake-off has returned to our tellies, and the family is following along enthusiastically. Inspired by the contestants’ efforts in the tent each week, I’ve signed up to complete each week’s signature bake. Baking and desserts are not my forte, so this will be a stretch for me. First up, Madeira cake…
Madeira cake is definitely what’s known as a plain cake. No flavouring other than lemon; no icing, just a sprinkling of sugar on top; no layers, no fillings, no add-ins… It’s a bit of a mystery why it’s so darn good.
According to Paul and Mary, a good Madeira cake should develop a crack in the surface – check. It should have a dense, close crumb and a bright lemony flavour – check. It should also be garnished with candied citrus peel that makes a pinging noise when you drop it on the counter, but I skipped that bit…
Not sure where the name comes from, I did a bit of research. Turns out Madeira cake was first mentioned in the 1700s, and one of the earliest recipes was published by Elizabeth Acton in 1845. Apparently it is very nice accompanied by glass of Madeira wine. I can see that. It was also very nice spread thickly with lemon curd and topped with raspberries…;-)
- 240g unsalted butter, softened
- 200g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
- grated zest and juice of a lemon
- 3 large eggs
- 210g self-raising flour
- 90g plain flour
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (170°C).
- Butter a 1lb loaf tin and dust with flour, or line with baking parchment.
- Cream the butter and sugar, then add the lemon zest.
- Add the eggs one at a time, along with a tablespoon of flour.
- Gradually add the rest of the flour, followed by the lemon juice.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf tin and sprinkle the top generously with caster sugar.
- Bake for one hour, or until a skewer comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack before removing from the tin.