Madeira cake did not originate in the Madeira Islands, rather from the Portuguese Madeira wine that would have traditionally been served with this tea cake in Ireland and the UK many years ago. This wildly popular (and, once new-to-me), beautifully buttery, dense cake is normally prepared with just a touch of lemon zest, but I’ve pushed the limits and made it rich with summer fruits, balanced with a creamy mascarpone, cassis-spiked icing. I added blackcurrant jam and a touch of smoked sea salt to the frosting, which is lovely, but definitely optional and not necessary if you prefer a less profound flavour profile. The pretty green plums in the photos were not used in the cake mix; sweet, ripe plums are a must for this recipe.
You could cut the recipe in half and leave out the layers and icing altogether for a simple summer fruit Madeira.
- 350 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 350 g caster sugar
- 6 free-range eggs
- 500 g (3⅓ cups) self-raising flour
- 90 ml milk
- 300 g sweet plums, peeled, pitted, thinly sliced
- 200 g blackcurrant conserve
- 450 g mascarpone cheese, softened
- 350 g unsalted butter, softened
- 450 g confectioners’ (icing) sugar, sifted
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2–3 tbsp crème de cassis (see note)
- ¾ tsp oak-smoked sea salt (optional)
- 3 tsp blackcurrant conserve (optional)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling time 4 hours 20 minutes
Cooling time 30 minutes
Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease two 18 cm round cake tins, line the base with baking paper and grease the paper.
To make the cakes, cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating the mixture well between each one and adding 1 tablespoon of the flour with the last egg to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Sift over the flour and gently fold in, with enough milk to give a mixture that falls slowly from the spoon. Fold in the sliced plums.
Spoon the mixture equally into the prepared tins and gently level the tops. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 40–50 minutes or until golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
Level out each cake layer with a serrated cake knife so that they easily lay flat on top of one another.
Spread a thick layer of black currant conserve on top of the bottom cake layer.
Meanwhile, to make the icing, in a large bowl, beat the mascarpone and butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until very smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the icing sugar, vanilla, crème de cassis, and sea salt and blackcurrant conserve, if using, and beat on medium-high until blended and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Cover the icing and set aside at room temperature until ready to ice the cake.
Dab a bit of the icing on the cake plate. Carefully set the bottom layer of the cake (the piece with the blackcurrant conserve on top) down on the icing. Sandwich the second layer on top.
Using a metal spatula, evenly spread a thin layer (about ⅓ cup) of icing over the entire cake to seal in any crumbs and fill in any gaps between the layers. Refrigerate until the icing is cold and firm, about 20 minutes.
Spread the entire cake with the remaining icing. Refrigerate the cake for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days. This cake is best served slightly chilled or at room temperature.
• Crème de cassis is a liqueur made from blackcurrants. Available from selected bottle shops.
Recipe from Farmette by Imen McDonnell, with photographs by Imen McDonnell.
Read our interview with Imen McDonnell and view more recipes by her.