If you love a good Lemon Cake, you will love this Lemon Madeira Cake! A traditional English loaf cake with a rich, buttery crumb, this beautiful Madeira cake only has 6 ingredients, is super easy to bake and keeps fresh for weeks. Tastes even more delicious when stale.

Slice cut from a lemon madeira cake.
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🍋 What is a Lemon Madeira Cake?

A Lemon Madeira Cake is the traditional, old-fashioned version of the famous Madeira cake. Contrary to popular belief, Madeira cake doesn't actually come from the Portuguese island of Madeira. It originated in England in the 1800s to accompany the sweet Portuguese Madeira wine.

The traditional version of this rich, butter cake is punctuated by lemon zest and juice to give it a beautiful tangy crumb. This cake has a firm but light texture and is served with tea for breakfast or with Madeira wine for dessert. It doesn't contain any leavening and hence doesn't rise much. It keeps well and tastes even better when it is stale.

📝 Recipe Ingredients

Ingredients for lemon madeira cake measured out in bowls and labeled - self raising flour, vanilla, lemon, caster sugar, eggs and unsalted butter.

My Lemon Madeira Cake like all traditional versions only has six ingredients - butter, sugar, flour, eggs, vanilla and lemon.

  • Butter - Use unsalted butter at room temperature for this recipe. Add a pinch of salt to lift the flavour of the cake.
  • flour - This Madeira cake recipe calls for self-raising flour. Self-raising flour has leavening in it and produces a beautiful light and airy crumb while still keeping the cake dense and moist.
  • eggs - Use the freshest eggs you can find at room temperature. Organic eggs have a great viscosity that helps create a beautiful batter. Make sure each egg is approximately 60-65g in weight.
  • sugar - I use raw caster sugar for this cake. If you can't find it, use plain caster sugar or blitz raw sugar in a processor to create a finer sugar for baking.

🥣 How To Make A Lemon Madeira Cake

Beat butter, sugar and vanilla for a couple of minutes until pale and creamy.
  1. Add butter, sugar and vanilla to the bowl of an electric mixer.
  2. Beat for approximately 2 minutes until pale and creamy.
Add eggs one at a time and beat until light and fluffy.

3. Add eggs one at a time and beat for another minute.

4. The mixture should be light and fluffy.

Add flour, lemon zest and juice. Mix briefly with a silicone spoon until just combined.

5. Add the sifted flour, lemon zest and lemon juice to the egg mixture.

6. Beat very briefly (15 seconds or less) until just combined. Alternatively, using a silicone spoon, mix gently until just combined. Do not overmix.

Spoon lemon madeira cake batter in a loaf tin and sprinkle top with sugar.

7. Spoon batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top.

8. Sprinkle raw sugar on top.

Optionally, to make your madeira cake rise you can place a line of cold butter on top or cut the batter with a butter knife down the center.

9. Optional Step - Place a thin line of solid butter in the middle OR make a deep cut in the centre of the batter with a butter knife. This helps the batter from collapsing and sinking in the middle as the cake bakes.

Bake as per the recipe until golden. Cool completely in the tin before slicing.

Baked lemon madeira cake in a loaf tin.

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👩🏻‍🍳 Baking Tips

  1. Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature.
  2. Remember to pre-heat the oven.
  3. Beating times are very important in this recipe as there is no baking powder used. Beating the sugar, butter and eggs for a longer duration until it is creamy and fluffy, incorporates air into the batter. But beating very briefly after adding the flour is essential to retaining the air in the batter. This helps the cake rise beautifully.
  4. Don't worry if the Madeira cake doesn't rise and sinks in the middle. This is because there is no leavening agent used in the recipe. You can remedy this slightly by inserting a butter knife in the middle of the raw cake batter and making a deep cut before baking in the oven.
  5. Traditionally, Madeira cakes sank a bit on top to create that coveted "crown" top. No matter how much the top sinks or doesn't, my recipe ensures that the cake cooks through the middle and will never be underbaked.
A traditional Lemon Madeira Cake sunk on top after baking perfectly.

❄️ Storage And Freezing

Lemon Madeira Cake keeps well in a cool corner of your kitchen for up to 5 days. It will last for up to two weeks when stored in the fridge in a glass air-tight container. This cake can be cut into slices and each slice can be individually wrapped in baking paper, sealed inside zip-lock bags and frozen in the freezer for up to two months.

🍰 Serving Suggestions

  1. Slather this cake with some lemon curd or passionfruit curd before serving.
  2. Slice the cake horizontally, fill it with fresh cream whipped with vanilla and add some berries before putting the halves back together as a sandwich.
Slices of cooled Lemon Madeira Cake on a paper bag.

🙋 Recipe FAQs

Does Madeira Cake have Madeira in it?

Madeira cake doesn't have Madeira in it, nor did it originate from the Portuguese island of Madeira. It is simply a butter cake flavoured with lemon and served with the sweet fortified wine known as Madeira.

What is the difference between a Madeira Cake and a Sponge Cake?

Although both cakes are made without a raising agent like baking powder or baking soda, Madeira cake is a rich and dense butter cake with a higher flour content whereas Sponge cake is light and airy and has no butter and a lower flour content.

Why is my Madeira Cake dry?

The flour to egg and butter ratio is higher in Madeira cake as opposed to other butter cakes, hence it is slightly drier compared to cakes like a Pound cake or butter cake or Victoria Sponge Cake.

What does Lemon Madeira Cake taste like?

A Lemon Madeira Cake has a rich, buttery taste that is slightly sweet with a fresh tang from the lemons. It is delicious and more-ish.

Is Madeira Cake gluten-free?

No, Madeira cake uses self-raising wheat flour and is not gluten-free.

Lemon Madeira Cake slice.

🧡 More Loaf Cake Recipes


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Slice cut from a lemon madeira cake.

Lemon Madeira Cake

5 from 4 votes
Print Recipe Rate / Comment
Author: Sneh
Course // Baking, Cake, Dessert
Cuisine // English, Irish
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 414kcal


  • 1 cup (220 g) butter, unsalted and softened
  • 1 cup (220 g) raw caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tbsps lemon juice
  • 1 ½ cups (250 g) self-raising flour


  • Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease and line a loaf tin with baking paper.
  • Add butter, sugar and vanilla to the bowl of an electric mixer.
  • Beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes until creamy and voluminous.
  • Add eggs one at a time and and beat for a couple of minutes until light and fluffy.
  • Add flour, lemon zest and lemon juice.
  • Beat briefly for 15 seconds or less until just combined and there are no dry, floury bits. Do not overmix. (or mix gently with a silicone spoon until just combined)
  • Spoon cake batter into the prepared tin. Smooth the top with the silicone/wooden spoon. Sprinkle the extra raw sugar over the batter.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 55 minutes until golden and cooked through the middle when tested with a thin wooden skewer.
  • Remove from the oven andallow to cool completely in the tin. Remove from tin. Slice and enjoy.


Butter – Use unsalted, room-temperature butter that is softened and not melted.
Eggs – If possible, use organic eggs. Each egg should be approximately 60g-65g (uncracked) and at room temperature.
Flour – If you can’t find self-raising flour, use plain flour instead and add one teaspoon of baking powder to the batter.
Sugar – I use raw caster sugar. This is slightly golden sugar that is very fine in texture. Because of this, it melts and blends in the batter very quickly. White caster sugar is the nearest substitute. You can also use granulated raw sugar by first processing it in a processor to get finer sugar. You can also use demerara sugar (brown granulated baking sugar) but the lemon madeira cake will be darker in colour.
Storage - This cake keeps well in a cool corner of your kitchen for up to 5 days. It will last for up to two weeks when stored in the fridge in a glass air-tight container. It can be cut into slices and each slice can be individually wrapped in baking paper, sealed inside ziplock bags and frozen in the freezer for up to a two months.


Calories: 414kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 61mg | Sodium: 185mg | Potassium: 62mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 25g | Vitamin A: 712IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 42mg | Iron: 1mg
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