Lightly flavored with lemon and topped with candied lemon slices, this classic English Madeira Cake is the easiest dessert you will ever make.
I have a new obsession: The Great British Bake Off.
I know I’m late to the party here… later than I thought actually. I assumed the most recent season was Season 3, but apparently what I’m watching is season 6! Where have I been for 6 years?! So much to catch up on!!
Ugh, I hope I can find the older seasons somewhere. I actually caught the last episode of season 4 (what I thought was season 2) a couple months ago and have been hooked ever since.
Kicking myself for missing out on all of those seasons.
I know Season 6 is technically over, but it just started a few weeks ago here in Canada and I’ve been happily engrossed in it ever since.
There’s something about British TV shows that’s just better than ones in the US and Canada. They have a certain feel to them and a higher quality (in my opinion). The Great British Bake Off is no exception….the US version totally tanked and I, myself, couldn’t even get through one episode. SO BAD.
I think the appeal of the British version is that the contestants are really relatable. They are not professionals, by any means, and there’s just a genuine quality about them. Plus the hosts and judges are the BEST. Sue Perkins is my fave. Hilarious!
I’m also loving the fact that in watching this show I’m being exposed to baked goods I’ve never even heard of — like this classic Madeira Cake.
According to Mary Berry, a Madeira Cake is a close textured plain cake that is signified by a dome and a crack on the top. Traditionally it is lemon in flavor and has some sort of candied lemon garnish.
I didn’t stray away from the traditional version as I wanted to try it in its classic form. After all, Mary did say that you can’t beat the classic. It is really simple to make. In fact, I think it might be the easiest cake I’ve ever made.
Not a lemon fan? Try it with any other citrus instead using the same amounts.
Naturally, this was attempt #2 at this cake — #1 was an epic fail. Since all of the traditional recipes are British, I had a bit of hard time figuring out ratios and amounts from grams to cups, but mostly converting from self-raising flour to all-purpose.
Unfortunately my first cake, as delicious as it was, completely sank in the middle due to too much baking powder. My sources steered me wrong!
The info I found was to add 2 tsps of baking powder per cup of all-purpose flour to make self-raising flour. This seemed like a lot (based on my experience) but, against my better judgment, I went with 4 tsps per my 2 1/2 cups in the recipe, but it was still way too much.
I ended up going with 1 tsp of baking powder per cup (which is standard) and it worked perfectly.
Candied Lemon Slices
The candied lemon slices were very easy to make. The key is to slice them very thin (1/8″ thick) then you simmer them in a sugary simple syrup until they are candied. And yes, you can totally eat the rind! It softens in the syrup and is delicious.
My Madeira Cake didn’t dome quite as much as I had hoped, there’s just a slight hump in there, but I’m happy with it. It did crack though! Pretty perfect if I do say so myself.
This Madeira Cake is perfect for afternoon tea. Or breakfast, I don’t judge.
It’s simple and delicious. Really, is there anything better than that?? I recommend microwaving pieces for about 20 seconds before eating for that fresh-out-of-the-oven taste. I’ll be making this one again for sure!
Looking for more Lemon recipes?
- Lemon Cake
- Lemon Blueberry Cake
- Lemon Elderflower Cake
- Meyer Lemon Bundt Cake
- Easy Lemon Curd Recipe
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I convert this recipe?
- To make cupcakes, all you need to do is reduce the baking time — start checking at 15mins or so. The recipe will make 18-24 cupcakes depending on size.
- For other conversions go here. Bake time may vary depending on pan size.
- Baking time will vary if you change the pan size. Every oven is different so I can’t say for certain what you’ll need to adjust it to. Be sure to check on the cakes while they are baking.
Can I make it in advance?
- The cooled cake layers can be baked ahead of time, double wrapped in plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 3 months. Take out 2-3 hours before serving.
- The candied lemon slices can be stores at room temperature for a couple days.
Can I get the measurements by weight/grams?
- There is a Metric option in the recipe card. If you click it it will convert everything to grams.
- This conversion is done automatically and I cannot guarantee the accuracy but many readers have had success using the metric option on my recipes.
Tips for making this Madeira Cake
- You can replace caster sugar with granulated sugar if you can’t find any.
- Make sure your 8″ pan is at least 3″ tall or the cake may overflow.
Be sure to slice your lemons thin and even for best results and prettiest presentation.
- The leftover syrup from the candied lemon slices can be used to drizzle over the cake or you can save it and refrigerate it to add it to iced tea or other beverages.
- I prepare my cake pans using Homemade Cake Release and line with parchment paper.
- To help ensure your cake layers bake up nice and flat, check out my How to Bake Flat Cakes post!
Classic Madeira Cake
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 cup caster sugar super fine sugar – not powdered
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- zest and juice of 1 1/2 lemons
Candied Lemon Slices:
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 lemons sliced 1/8″ thick
- Preheat oven to 325F (170C). Grease and flour a deep* 8″ round cake pan, line with parchment.
- In a medium bowl, whisk flour and baking powder. Set aside.
- Beat butter, sugar, and lemon zest on med-high until pale and fluffy (2-3mins). Add eggs one at a time along with one tablespoon of flour mixture for each egg. Fully incorporate after each addition.
- Gently fold in flour mixture, then lemon juice.
- Bake for approximately 1 hour or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10mins then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.
Candied Lemon Slices:
- Place sugar and water in a large, shallow, saucepan. Bring to a simmer and stir until dissolved. Gently lay the lemon slices in a single layer in the saucepan. Simmer for 15mins, turning over half way through.
- Carefully remove slices from pan, dripping off excess syrup, and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.** Allow to dry at room temperature. Dip in granulated sugar if desired.
** The cooled lemon syrup can be drizzled over cake or used in various beverages. I used mine in homemade iced tea. Madeira Cake recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson.
Candied Lemon recipe from Our Best Bites
This recipe was originally published Aug 21, 2016 and has been updated with new content on January 19th, 2023.
Lucy parker says
So true about the British Baking shows being so pleasant. The sensationalism of American baking shows is non existent. Just knowledgeable bakers sharing their trade. And of course their British accent is always lovely.
This recipe was fabulous.thank you for adapting Mary’s recipes to Us measurements snd flour weights and measures. I had a hard time converting the British measurements and the different types of flour.
Hi Lucy! Exactly! Everyone is so likable and friendly and NICE to each other. My kinda show 🙂 So happy you loved this one!
I loved it!
This is an amazing recipe
So glad you loved it, Tasha!
I guess by now you realize that all the seasons are on Netflix.
Hi Elene! I wish! Not in Canada 🙁
Haven’t tried the cake yet, so can not rate. I’ll rate recipe after I make the cake. The ingredients sound wonderful. I’m also a fan of GBBS and you can watch all nine seasons on Netflix.
Hi Nadine! I hope you love the cake 🙂
Most madeira cakes have a more prominent dome than the one pictured, but I thought I’d give this a try nonetheless. Mine came out even flatter.
Hi Eddie! Is it possible your oven runs a bit on the colder side? The warmer the oven the more cakes tend to dome. Lower temps make for a flatter bake overall.
My cake came out dry. I compared your recipe to Mary Berry’s and I would one more egg in your recipe next time I made them.
Hi Elsa! The cake should not be dry. Is it possible it was overbaked?
Whoops sorry Olivia, my bad, I misread the recipe. I read 1 butter and I thought it was 1 stick instead of 1 cup. That’s why it was dry!
Just a little suggestion, perhaps also put stick measurement in the bracket, that would really help!
Stacey Cox says
This is an amazing recipe! I’ve just made my first one for the middle layer of a 3-tier wedding cake and it’s wonderful 🙂
The bride and groom don’t like “bits” so I left out the zest and added extra juice and some lemon essence….. DIVINE!
One more to make and then to layer them with some zesty citrus filling 🙂
Hi Stacey! Yay! So happy you loved it 🙂
I am giving you 5 stars for figuring out the correct measurements for me!
I am making this today, I’ll let you know how it goes! I am just watching GBBS and saw this episode last night and promised my 11 y.o. I’d take a stab at it!
Hi Cynthia! Yay! I hope you guys love it. Let me know 🙂
I do mine in a 1lb loaf tin and you get the most awesome crack the length of it
Hi Nick! Thanks for your tip!
I’ve recently become obsessed with baking cakes & I love your recipes, they are very inspiring!! I live in england so don’t use cups & I noticed you said your 1st attempt on a Madeira cake flopped as you struggled with the conversions so I was just wondering how you do your conversions between cups & grams? I’ve been using your conversion button on some of your recipes but wondered if they were perfect or it would be best to get myself some cups (since over half the recipes on the line are American & in cups (nightmare for me!!))
Hi Liz! The conversion button is an automatic tool and I don’t verify the results. Most people seem to have had success using the metric amounts though! But honestly, sooooo many recipes are in cups that it would be wise to invest in some. A lot of sites don’t have a metric conversion option either. I would get some just to have them 🙂
Great, I’ll invest in some cups, already invested in some cake strips (which I didn’t know was a thing!) on your recommendation – my cake game is gunna start getting strong!!
Haha yes!! Let me know how it goes 🙂
One thinks of the oddest things in the middle of the night. I used baking soda. Argh. 😱
Doh! That would definitely be too much leavening and cause the darker color, sinking, and bitter taste! I hope you try it again with baking powder 🙂
I must have done something terribly wrong. The inside of my cake was much darker than your photos, perhaps from using free-range eggs which had very orange yolks. If I make this cake again I will need to find out how to adapt it for baking at 7500’. I will also mix the baking soda in with the butter, sugar, and eggs. It didn’t fully incorporate into the batter and tastes very bitter. The center of the cake didn’t rise, maybe because of our elevation. I was really looking forward to a “stay home” treat, but this didn’t work for me at all. 😢
Hi Lynn! Elevation definitely plays a huge part in baking and can wreak havoc on recipes. It might require some experimenting to figure out what works for you, but here are some guidelines to get you started 🙂 https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/resources/high-altitude-baking
Did you use baking soda instead of baking powder? That would be the problem.
Also if either baking powder or baking soda have been around for a while, it’s a good idea to put it through a sifter with a little flour to make sure you have no bitter lumps. DO NOT try to dissolve it in your wet ingredients!
This cake was so much fun to bake and it tasted delicious!
Hi Trina! So happy you liked it 🙂
what better to do during lockdown than bake a cake?! 🙂
deliciously lemony, and the candied lemon is spectacular! i split mine between two 6″ pans and it worked well (my 8″ is only 2″ high, though i think it could have been okay in that height?), but one cracked more beautifully than the other.
thanks for another winning recipe olivia! 🙂 stay safe and healthy 💕
Hi Stacey! So happy to hear you liked it 🙂 Stay safe as well!