I made this a while ago but had to wait to post it, in case it seemed to my readers, few though they are, that I had been doing nothing but baking. Which was, in fact, true. I had been doing nothing but baking for about a week.

Nigella Lawson calls this “My Mother-in-Law’s Madeira Cake,” but this isn’t my mother-in-law’s recipe, so I can’t call it “my mother-in-law’s madeira cake”; so I call it “Nigella’s Mother-in-Law’s Madeira Cake” and that name encapsulates, to some extent, the nostalgic, homey recipe-sharing-ness that is Nigella’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess.

Madeira cake doesn’t have any madeira in it, but could be served with a glass of madeira as a rich but light dessert. It is, as far as I can tell, a glorified pound cake, rich, with a heavy crumb, and very buttery. Nigella’s recipe is also very lemony, so if you are not a huge fan of lemon, feel free to tone down the amount of juice you use in your batch.


photo by Rachel

My problem with these breads, or cakes, is that the first time I try them, they always come out flat and, honestly, lacking. I’m not sure why that is, unless I’m somehow being timid with the ingredients. My grandmother has proved that at least with flowers, the more sure you are with them, the better they do. The first time I made Nigella’s banana bread, for example, it came out flat and tough; the second time, it was airy and moist. Go figure. So my madeira cake came out a bit flat on top and heavy; maybe next time it will be a light, airy, moist masterpiece?

At least give it a try, and if you perfect it, let me know?

Nigella’s Mother-in-Law’s Madeira Cake

1 cup softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 large eggs
1 1/3 cups self-rising cake flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
9×5 inch loaf pan, buttered and lined with parchment or wax paper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and 3/4 cup sugar, and add the lemon zest. Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of flour for each. Then gently mix in the rest of the flour and, finally, the lemon juice. Pour batter into preprared pan. Sprinkle with sugar (about 2 tablespoons should do it) as it goes into the oven, and bake for 1 hour or until a cake tester come out clean. Remove to a wire rack, and let cool in the pan before turning out.

Makes 8-10 (generous!) slices.