Even though it remains quite unclear as to exactly how long the traditional English Sponge cake, called the Madeira cake, has been around for, though it is established that one of the earliest known recipes for Madeira cake was found in Elizabeth Acton’s Modern Cookery for Private Families, which was published back in 1845. Back then, it was a custom to serve the cake with the famous Portuguese Madeira wine, hence the name of the cake – Madeira Cake. Today, the crumbly, lemon-flavored Madeira cake is a popular tea-time dessert that is often served dusted with icing sugar and topped with candied orange peel.
There are many misconceptions about the Madeira cake. Some believe that it originated on the Madeira island of Portuguese, while some even say that Madeira wine is an ingredient in this cake. Both of these are myths. Madeira Cake is just as British as a cup of Earl Grey tea or the quintessential red buses and red telephone boxes of London. In fact, the Portuguese Madeira island has its own traditional cake called as the Bolo de Mel, which is very, very different from the Madeira cake. It is Madeira’s oldest dessert made with molasses or honey.
The traditional Madeira cake has a firm yet light texture. It is eaten with tea for breakfast and is traditionally flavored with lemon. Dating back to its original recipe, the Madeira cake is similar to a pound cake or yellow cake.
Elizabeth Acton says in her book – Modern Cookery for Private Families –
“A good Madeira cake needs four fresh eggs until they are as light as possible, then continuing still to whisk them. Then 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 for an hour in a moderate oven.”