Madeira cake is a sponge cake in traditional English cookery.
It is sometimes mistakenly thought to originate from the Madeira Islands; however, that is not the case as it was instead named after Madeira wine, a Portuguese wine from the islands, which was popular in England in the mid 1800s when it was invented, and was often served with the cake. The confusion arises because Madeirans produce their own traditional Madeira cake – bolo de mel, a dark, spicy, honey cake – which is very different from its English counterpart. Nowadays, the English Madeira cake is often served with tea or liqueurs.
The cake has a firm yet light texture. It is eaten with tea or (occasionally) for breakfast and is traditionally flavoured with lemon. Dating back to an original recipe in the 18th or 19th century, Madeira cake is similar to a pound cake or yellow cake. One of the earliest published recipes was by Eliza Acton in her Modern Cookery for Private Families (1845):
"A Good Madeira Cake: Whisk four fresh eggs until they are as light as possible, then, continuing still to whisk them, 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 an hour in a moderate oven."
- Bolo de mel - The traditional, dark cake of the Madeira Islands.
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