What’s for Tea? Lemon Madeira Cake

Madeira Cake Pam Corbin Cakes

I make a cake maybe once a month or so – I try not to eat all the cake myself but share it with people. We had a very nice coffee and walnut cake last time which took me forever to make as I cracked a whole bag of walnuts to do it, as the prepacked ones in the shops always look and smell rancid to me and today for tea we had a lemony Madeira cake from Pam Corbin’s Cake book.

I used a narrow based high sided Matfer tin, the one I use mostly for making high rye tinned breads  which holds a litre of water, so I hoped that is what Pam Corbin meant by a litre tin. Most mysterious.

This produces a nice slim cake, with the possibility of lots of small slices.

I adapted the recipe to use a proportion of Light at Heart stevia sweetened sugar and, oh horror of horrors, some Stork margarine, curious to see if I could taste either if I only used a bit of each. Well I can’t taste either of them in these proportions.  So I can hear you thinking, what next? Is she going to go all processed food on us? Is she going to start making cakes with coconut oil and icecream from cauliflower? Who knows? I might, but I think it is fairly unlikely.

I don’t like Stork and I don’t like margarine but I know lots of people who prefer the taste of both to butter. Cake is cake and infinitely adaptable.

So for my version of this cake, perfect for a lunch box or just for carving small slices off at random and as necessary


Lemon Madeira cake adapted from Pam Corbin’s recipe in Cakes

  • 200g of self-raising flour
  • 100 g unsalted butter
  • 50g Stork margarine
  • One large lemon finely zested
  • 1/2 tsp of Sicilian Limone essence from Bakery Bits
  • 4 large eggs
  • 100 g of organic granulated sugar
  • 25 g of Light at Heart
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice

For the icing

  • 100 g icing sugar
  • lemon juice as needed and a bit more Sicilian Limone essence

And then it is the usual thing of beating softened butter with sugar till light and fluffly, mine always looks wet and fluffy, not sure why and mixing in the zest and limone essence.

At some point I give up and get to the nitty gritty of the affair. I advance towards the hurdles of adding the eggs one at a time with a few teaspoons of flour with each one, Very similar to hurdles at which I was rubbish at school I may add.  I warm the eggs first and wish very hard that they don’t curdle. I am getting better at it slowly, but my heart is always in my mouth and my brow furrowed slightly while I do this.

Usually somewhere just after the first egg has gone in, I remember the tin, in fact I have a minor tin panic attack and rush around pulling tins out and staring at them as if I hope they will speak to me and say ‘Me, me, pick me’ but they never do.  Remember to turn the oven to 180 C (conventional electric not fan) /Gas Mark 4 if I am on a winning streak at this point.

I went for my old Matfer tin, greased it with butter, and popped a symbolic piece of baking parchment in the bottom. Turned the oven to 180 C/Gas 4. Did I mention nothing has ever stuck to this tin so far. The silver lining of my sometimes dark and thunderous cake making attempts is this tin and a couple of others. If you have a tin that won’t let go of your cakes, let go of the tin, you won’t regret it, I promise.  Sorry where were we?

Oh yes fold in the rest of the flour. Add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice,  Wince a bit more, waiting for the cake mixture to scream and separate. Feel slightly disappointed when it doesn’t curdle for once.

Plop the mixture in the tin, set the oven time for 40 minutes, long narrow tin bakes quicker than a more traditional low slung loaf tin. Leave to bake, test with wooden stickie thing. Take out. Leave to cool in tin for ten minutes. Tip out onto cooling rack…

Next day.. mix up 100 g of icing sugar with a little lemon juice and plop it on the top. Go out in the garden and in a homage to the seriously good cake makers out there, pick some primroses, violets and geranium flowers and stick them on the top. Don’t they look fancy?

To those of you who have read this blog for a while a big apology that I still have mild panic attacks about making cakes, I think it is something to do with knowing that the ingredients are much more costly than for making bread and therefore there is more pressure on me to get it right, also there is in my eyes at least more that can go wrong. I don’t trust that the process will replicate itself each time I do it and while a slightly misshapen loaf is charming and rustic, a sunken cake that has left a big chunk of itself in the tin is just sad.

Find a pretty spot in the garden to take a photo and test at teatime.  Well, it’s cake innit?  Mine all mine, and even with those suspicious ingredients, still far nicer than most cake you can buy in the regular shops. And you can’t buy fresh flowers in a packet…

PS As there is a little bit of interest in the Matfer tin I used, judging by the comments, here it is:

 They aren’t cheap, but it has lasted and looks almost as good as when I bought it. It measures 10” x 3.5” (250 mm x 85 mm) around the top, narrowing by half an inch at the base. It is 3.25 “ deep and is deceptive in that it holds around 750-800g dough / a litre of water.  It has a rolled edge and sharp clean corners. I also have the smaller sized one of these which holds approximately 400g dough.

Matfer Loaf Tin

34 thoughts on “What’s for Tea? Lemon Madeira Cake

  1. Jeannette

    Just made the Welsh cakes from the same book, Joanna, I use it for other cakes too. Some very good recipes in there. Have you tried Welsh cakes, you don’t have to be Welsh to like them! Your cake looks very good, I love a nice Madeira.

    1. Joanna Post author

      It is a good book isn’t it? I like its compact size and the no fuss styling to the recipes. I haven’t tried the Welsh cakes, so I will give them a go as you recommend them! x Jo

  2. heidiannie

    Love the fresh flowers decorating the top- and that is such a pretty spot to photograph in your garden. I have had cakes split in half- each falling off of its side of the plate- I understand about being nervous about cakes.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I must admit you were in my mind’s eye when I did this Heidi, though they did try to blow away when I took the cake out to the wall where the clematis is finally flowering. It is silly to be nervous about cakes I guess, just the way I am, I am glad you understand xx

  3. sallybr

    Being a full fledged cake-phobic, your mild panic attacks are safe with me… Cakes are trouble in my kitchen, what can I say? ;-)

    Your picture is worthy of the cover of a patissiere magazine, too beautiful!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Maybe by the time we are in our nineties we will have cracked it ? Thanks for the compliment Sally !

  4. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    It’s actually very good cake innit? ;-) You’ve done a beautiful job – I remember having trouble with this cake when I tried it, and having to rejig the quantities a bit. That cake tin of yours sounds like it’s worth its weight in gold! xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      If it keeps the cake monster happy it’s fine with me. (denying that I ever eat any cake of course ;) ) x Jo

  5. wisejourney

    a lovely old fashioned classic cake….i want to make one again…you have inspired me..thank you

    1. Joanna Post author

      I have so many cake and patisserie books and most of them scare me a bit or have too much buttercreamy stuff on them, so it’s nice to make these ‘basic’ ones and I reckon if I keep practising I will get calmer about them.

  6. Sal

    A litre (of water) weighs one kilo which equals 2.2 pounds. So I guess she means a standard two pound loaf tin, roughly 8.5 x 4.5 inches or 22 x 11cm.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Yes you are right. It chiefly affects the cooking times if you have a differently proportioned tin, even if the volume or weight it can hold is the same. The loaf tins I know Sal, are all long and wide and give you a sort of flat rectangle of a slice and I don’t like them very much, they also have rounded corners inside which I don’t like and I find them difficult to line when they are rounded inside.

  7. bakecakecrumbs

    What a beautiful cake, lemony and fresh for spring (well it must be spring now musn’t it!). I love your pretty flowers – so much more attractive than the buttercream look I usually go for!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks C, the trees think it’s spring now and I have spotted a few bees, so it must be. Temperature still bobbing up and down like a yo-yo though. The flowers are fun aren’t they? If I had patience I would try to preserve some with the eggwhite and sugar thing, but I don’t think it is going to happen somehow.

  8. ardysez

    Gorgeous! Cover photo material for sure! The stevia and Splenda do work in recipes as long as you use some sugar as well, I find. I too have panic attacks when making cakes. My Mum made pies when I was growing up and so my cake baking skills are sketchy. Cherry pie anyone?

    1. Joanna Post author

      I love cherry pie! Cherries and damsons are my favourites. I am working on cutting back both sugar and fat in cakes as I don’t have that sweet a tooth and I find, a bit like salt, if you cut it back a bit at a time, you should get used to it. We’ll see how it goes.

  9. timethief

    I love your presentation and I also love Madeira cake. My gramma used to make it and it’s time to revive the cake. Thanks so much for sharing your recipe.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thank you so much! I think it is a gramma sort of cake, I can’t remember what my Grandma made, I think she made Victoria Sandwiches with jam in the middle and a dusted doily pattern. Brian’s Gran was the Cake Maker, she made Battenburg and all sorts of traditional cakes.

  10. Abby

    That is the most gorgeous photo! It just says SPRING. I enjoyed the play-by-play post…for some reason I never remember to find the right pan ahead of time either. :-)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Abby! This is why it always takes me far longer than the ‘stated time’ they say, because I do things in a bad order. If I am good I weigh everything out first like they do on TV shows in little bowls and do the tin and read the recipe three times etc etc. but I am not often very good and just start in there. Sometimes though the weighing out thing works against you, because you weigh out something like the sugar or the flour and start following the recipe and then realise that in fact, in the recipe it says ‘put 100g sugar in with the butter’, and you tip your weighed out sugar in, and then later on it says ‘now add the other 50 grams of sugar’ or whatever and you realise you put the whole lot in at the first point… anyway that is my most common mistake. I think writing foolproof recipes for people must be a real challenge, I certainly can’t do it :)

  11. Ann

    That is a seriously pretty cake and I bet it tastes as good as it looks. I do wish people would give measurements for loaf tins – round or square tins are usually in ins or cms which is fine but loaf tins often have me baffled and there seem to be so many different shapes of them just to make it even harder.
    PS Have had a repeat order for those buns with ginger and pear – apparently my grandson eats them for breakfast and as he is not much of a breakfast person this is to be encouraged!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Yes, exactly my feeling about the loaf tins, different shapes and sizes and they are definitely not standard. I have added the exact measurements of this tin and a photo above in case you are curious, it is very narrow for its volume. Brilliant on the buns! We have just finished them off this week and I should make some more. They are great for breakfast, for lunch, for tea…. How lovely that your grandson likes them, that’s made my day xx

  12. lovinghomemade

    Beautiful cake and great post. The flowers really look lovely. I often use Stork margarine in cakes, I don’t think it detracts from the taste at all. Although I only ever use margarine with non-hydrogenated fats for anything else and meant to check it out the other day as have a horrible feeling it may have them, and I will have to switch… I keep my eggs room temperature and sometimes the mixture curdles anyway but I had no idea that you were supposed to worry about it until I saw it on a baking programme somewhere – I don’t know that it really makes any difference. I think you clearly need to have more faith in your cake making skills!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thank you that’s very sweet of you and good advice. I think I like the taste of butter generally, maybe I am biased towards it. I know lots of people make cakes with oil too and prefer that, so each to their own :)

  13. Jan

    That cake looks so pretty Joanna, it looks perfect. I’m a bit of a panic merchant in the kitchen these days. I was making pita breads and a cake dessert at the weekend for dinner with friends and had the dry ingredients weighed out for both, but then I poured the water and oil meant for the bread into the dry dessert ingredients! Panic and hopping about ensued and I started again, but the dessert which I thought was going to be so yum because it had yogurt and raspberries in it was very ho hum – I have warned our friends that I don’t intend to give up! I have an email to you half finished – I’m pinching time at work just now.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Panic merchants of the world unite, we have nothing to lose but our ingredients Jan! Golly gosh! The only time I don’t have a little undercurrent of panic going on is when I am baking bread with no particular goal in mind. The moment I have to feed guests or make food to take somewhere I can feel small bubbles of panic gas beginning to ferment. I manage more or less but it’s like trying to write with the opposite hand, lots of concentration required and it always feels a bit odd and uncomfortable. As I always say, the blog is an illusion of domesticity and baking and dog walks, well the dog walks are real and so is the burnt flour on the floor of the oven xx Jo

  14. drfugawe

    I for one am very happy to see you experimenting with the non-sugars and butter substitutes – I have, for some time now, lumped granular sugar in with the ‘processed’ foods we often use freely in our baking. So, I would consider stevia as more natural than granular sugar itself (depending of course on just how stevia is processed for home use – something I know nothing about). Butter, otoh, is one of my true loves, and I shall be loyal to butter no matter what the food cops say about it – however, coconut oil is also one of my loves, and along with olive oil joins with butter to make the holy trinity of fats in my kitchen.

    So, what did you think of your finished cake? I think there may well be an adjustment phase to get one’s taste buds ready for full acceptance of the sugar subs – I’m currently up to 50/50 in my use of them, and have been stalled there for some time now – I think this is not just a taste issue, for when one completely eliminates sugar from a baked good, there is a sometime dramatic change in structure, crumb and crust, that is hard to make up for.

    1. Joanna Post author

      The cake is fine and I don’t have that artificial sugar taste that I get from aspartamine so I will probably carry on using it. I haven’t got as far as coconut oil yet. On the oil front I have come round lately to using cold pressed rapeseed oil, which I find doesn’t spit very much if you are using it to fry with and is locally produced, which is another of my considerations I guess. I have gone off sunflower oil in a big way, using mostly olive oil of various grades or the rapeseed oil, and a little sesame oil for stir fries and the like. It takes time to shift habits for me. I eat unsalted butter and don’t drink sweet drinks by and large. I like my sugar and salt where I add them, not where someone else does if that makes sense? I think butter and simply processed animal fats are fine myself, again if you are making your own food mostly and use sensibly – then you know how much is going in. Headlines and scare stories are just that aren’t they? The science behind them often doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and is disproved later, but people forget that and just remember the headlines. I also feel that maybe this obsession with ‘healthy food’ is people feeling bad about something else in their life maybe and trying to control the things that are within their grasp, and what you put in your mouth by way of food is often the focus in the introspective Western mind.

  15. Misky

    I just found that pan on the internet, and if I can find a spot in my kitchen to put it, I might buy the smaller size for making my rye bread. As for your gorgeous cake, goodness me – it looks very inviting!

    1. Joanna Post author

      One day soon we will get together for coffee and cake and a rye bread swap and our dogs can gallop around and sniff things. It is a good tin providing you want that small slice as opposed to a big chunky English slice :)

      1. Misky

        I would like that very much. I always live in hope that Molly will find a dog she isn’t afraid of. She hasn’t been comfortable around dogs after that Staff Terrier attacked her so horribly a few years ago. I often thought that a walk with another dog is the way to do it.

        1. Joanna Post author

          I think that’s a good idea, walking with other dogs who you know are fairly relaxed and friendly, they form a temporary pack when they do that and feel more confident because they are together.

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