Monday, 30 September 2013

The Madeira Cake Story Part 1

What does a Madeira cake mean to you? We used to get one from M&S that was realllly nice so one day I decided to have a go at making one myself. It didn't really turn out (this was years ago, my baking skills have come on a lot since then) but unperturbed I tried again, looking more closely at the recipe. It had ground almonds in so since then I thought they were a requirement of the Madeira but it seems I might be wrong on that score. Or half wrong at least.

After attempt two wasn't really amazing either I didn't try again for a while but I did keep looking at recipes at noticed that the were two general schools of thought. One fitted with my own views that a Madeira included almonds to get that buttery, umptious quality with a beautifully moist crumb that slices like a summers dream. Makes sense I reckon, ground almonds are well known for making a cake moist. On the other hand were the recipes that called for the addition of extra flour to what was essentially a Victoria sponge mix. I'm a bit confused about that. Won't it make the cake go dry quicker and add density? I know a Madeira isn't as light as a classic Vicky sponge anyway but still. I'm sure I have tried this sort of recipe in the past but I can't remember the exact results, just that they weren't amazing. 

While a person might ponder which is the better recipe, ground almonds or extra flour, almost all of them included lemon zest which I totally forget about when I made this. I also know that traditionalists put strips of candied citrus peel on top of the cake but there was no way I was going there. A whacking great bar of hardness of top of my cake? No thanks. You can even keep your chopped peel, no matter how ungrateful it makes me seem. Plus, this way I got to use my pretty rose shaped silicone cake mould again which came with a long ago issue of Baked and Delicious.

With all my desires to experiment, very, very occasionally I want to do something simple and making a Madeira satisfied that while also allowing me to make a step towards answering the question of which style Madeira is better. I made this one on Friday evening when I got home from uni for the weekend because Mum wasn't planning on making a cake the next day and we didn't have anything else in the house.  It felt so good to have it turn out so well - probably because I was so relaxed. This doesn't happen often I assure you! What was even better than that was the taste. I don't think you could get a cake more moist without having it raw! With barely a touch you could hear the moisture in there. And the flavour. Oh my goodness the flavour. How anyone can call a Madeira plain is beyond me. When a cake can taste this gorgeous with the most basic of ingredients and methods it truly shows its worth. I just wonder if the next version I make with the extra flour will live up to this. I don't mind the sacrifice of testing the hypothesis. It's all in the name of kitchen scientific research after all.

print recipe

Madeira Cake
An incredibly moist, buttery cake that gets better with age.
  • 175g softened butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 125g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 75g ground almonds
1. Grease and line a 8-9" circular tin or if using a silicone case, grease with butter and dust with flour, getting into all the corners. Set the oven to 170 C/150 C fan.2. Beat butter until creamy then add in the caster sugar. Creamy together for at least 5 mins until pale and fluffy.3. Add the vanilla to the eggs and mix in on a low speed a little bit at a time. Add a bit of the measured flour with the last few additions.4. Sift the rest of the flour, almonds and baking powder together then fold into the creamed mixture in two batches with the zest until no flour is visible. 5. Spoon into the tin/mould and smooth the surface. Bake in the preheated oven for 45-50 mins, turning after 30 mins to get an even bake. When a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, turn the oven off and leave in for enough time for the hissing sound from the cake to almost stop. Remove and cool on a wire rack until almost cold then carefully remove from the tin. Enjoy!

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