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Prue Leith's Madeira cake

Prue Leith / 12 May 2017

GBBO judge Prue Leith shares her recipe for Madeira cake, a traditional buttery sponge cake with a mild lemon flavour.

Madeira cake
Madeira cake

Cooking time

75 minutes


6 - 8


  • Oil for greasing
  • 170g (6oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 170g (6oz) caster sugar
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • A pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 110g (4oz) self-raising flour
  • 55g (2oz) ground almonds
  • Milk (optional)
  • 1 slice of candied citrus peel


Madeira cake is a traditional English sponge cake made by creaming or beating fat and sugar to a mousse-like consistency, and thereby incorporating air. The fat should never be allowed melt – if it did the air beaten into the batter would escape.

It does not come from Madeira but gets its name from Madeira wine, which it was traditionally served with at one time.

Read our guide to Madeira wine

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas mark 3.

Grease and line a deep 18cm/7in cake tin or 2lb loaf tin.

Cream the butter and when soft add the sugar and lemon zest. Beat until pale and fluffy. Add the cinnamon.

Beat the eggs together in a separate bowl then beat gradually into the butter mixture, adding a little flour to prevent curdling if necessary. Add the lemon juice.

Fold in the flour and the ground almonds.

Add enough milk to bring the mixture to a dropping consistency.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a palette knife or spatula.

Bake for 45 minutes. Place the citrus peel on top of the cake, then bake for a further 30 minutes. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean.

Cool the cake for 10 minutes in the tin before gently easing out on to a wire rack.

Possible reasons for failure…

Cake too dense – wrong flour or no raising agent added.

Close texture – eggs added too quickly, making the mixture curdle.

Flat cake with large bubbles on surface – oven temperature too low or long delay before cake went into the oven.

Soggy bottom and sides – cake not cooled on a wire rack.

From Leiths Cookery Bible by Prue Leith and Caroline Waldegrave (Bloomsbury), RRP £35.00

Still got an appetite for cake baking? Why not try our rhubarb and custard cake, or our delicious almond and raspberry cake?

For all our great baking recipes all in one place, visit our baking section.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.