Madeira Cake

Madeira Cake
This is a light and airy sponge cake made with lemon zest for just a hint of lemon flavor. Madeira cake was created around the 1800’s and was intended to be served with a glass of Madeira wine. Traditional Madeira cakes are flavored with lemon; otherwise this is a simple cake consisting mainly of eggs, butter, flour and sugar.
Recipe type: Cake
Serves: 8 to 10
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Cake Batter:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup corn starch
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (to clarify)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons confectioners (powdered) sugar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare one 9x5x2¾ inch loaf pan; lightly grease the pan with shortening and dust with flour. Tip: to make baked cake easier to remove from pan, lightly grease the pan, line with parchment paper, and then lightly grease the top of the parchment paper and dust the pan with flour.
Cake Batter:
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour and corn starch; sift or whisk together to mix. Set aside.
  2. Clarify Butter: Melt and simmer the butter in a saucepan over low heat for a few minutes. Skim off and discard the white layer that forms on top. Let the butter sit and cool for about 5 minutes to allow the milk solids to sink to the bottom of the pan. Carefully spoon out the clear (clarified) butter into a small bowl. If you think you’ve accidently scooped out some of the milk solids from the bottom, strain the clarified butter through a piece of cheesecloth to remove the solids. Discard the milk solids.
  3. Measure 6 tablespoons clarified butter to use, discarding any remaining butter or save for another project. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, use a wire whisk to whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, salt, and lemon zest just until blended. Place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl, and heat the egg mixture 3 to 5 minutes, whisking constantly, until the mixture is a deep golden color and warm to the touch, 115 to 120 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Tip: it is important to whisk constantly while heating the mixture so the eggs don’t start cooking, creating scrambled eggs.
  5. Remove the bowl from the simmering water and dry the bottom. Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg mixture on medium-high speed until cool and the mixture has tripled in volume and is thick and light in color, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer.
  6. Place the flour mixture into a wire mesh strainer and sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time over the egg mixture. Using a balloon type whisk or large rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the eggs, using about 3 to 4 turns with each addition of flour, and making sure to reach to the bottom of the bowl as you fold. Do not worry about incorporating all the flour until the last addition, as too much handling will deflate the batter. The flour should be added quickly in about 5 to 6 additions.
  7. Before the last addition of flour, quickly pour the warm butter in a stream over the batter. Immediately sprinkle in the remaining flour mixture, and fold into the batter taking about 12 to 15 more turns to completely incorporate the ingredients, and taking no more than 15 to 20 seconds as the batter can deflate quickly.
  8. Using a rubber spatula, immediately push the batter into the prepared pan. If any butter remains in the bottom of the bowl, do not add to the batter as this could prevent the cake from rising. Smooth the top of the batter with a small offset spatula or the back of a large spoon.
  9. Bake: Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles, and place the pan in the oven. Bake 30 minutes; the top of the cake should have started to form a crust. Open the oven door and use the tip of a sharp kitchen knife to make a shallow cut lengthwise in the top of the cake to allow the cake to rise properly. Quickly close the oven door and continue baking 20 minutes or until the cake is golden brown, springy to the touch, and has come away from the sides of the pan. Remove the pan from the oven and let stand 10 minutes on a wire cooling rack. Run a thin sharp knife around the edge of the pan to release the cake. Remove cake from the pan and place on a wire cooling rack to finish cooling. Tip: Lightly grease the cooling rack with vegetable oil or a nonstick cooking spray to prevent the cake from sticking.
  1. Before serving, use a fine-mesh sieve to dust the top of cake with confectioner’s sugar.
Adapted From: Teubner, Christian, Cakes & Pastries, Hearst Books, New York, 1983


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Madeira Cake

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Madeira Cake recipe