Bake like Mrs Patmore, eat like the Crawleys with this delightful ‘Downton Abbey’ cake

Becky Krystal

THE WASHINGTON POST – This is the cake you’re likely to spot on a side table at the Crawley family’s afternoon tea on Downton Abbey. Madeira cake, named after the fortified Portuguese wine with which it was often paired, was a favorite throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries. We can see why: It has a delicate citrus flavor and a tender crumb that holds together well enough to not mar a beautiful dress. It may remind you of a lightened-up pound cake.

Dusting the pan with sugar instead of flour gives a slightly crunchy exterior.

Feel free to swap in orange or lime zest for the lemon.


Active: 25 minutes | Total: one hour

Eight to 10 servings (makes one 8 1/2-inch loaf)



3/4 cup plus two tablespoons (170 grammes) sugar, plus more for the pan

One cup (125 grammes) flour

Finely grated lemon zest from One large lemon (about one tablespoon)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Three large eggs

Eight tablespoons (one stick/113 grammes) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more, at room temperature, for the pan

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the middle. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan, then lightly coat with sugar, tapping out the excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, lemon zest and baking powder. Beat the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer on medium-high speed, until thick, pale yellow and creamy, three to five minutes. Gradually beat in the sugar until thoroughly combined, followed by the melted butter and vanilla. Carefully fold in the flour mixture just until combined, taking care not to deflate the egg mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Get the pan into the oven quickly, before the eggs have a chance to collapse. Bake for about 35 minutes, until the top of the cake is a rich golden brown and the sides have just started pulling away from the pan. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean.

Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then carefully turn the cake out onto the rack (a round-edge knife can help loosen it, if necessary), turn the cake upright and let cool completelybefore serving.

Nutrition (based on 10 servings)

Calories: 210; Total Fat: 10g; Saturated Fat: 7g; Cholesterol: 90mg; Sodium: 45mg; Carbohydrates: 27g; Dietary Fibre: 0g; Sugars: 17g; Protein: 3g.