Aunty Shirley’s Orange Madeira Cake

Aunty Shirley makes the best madeira cake I’ve ever had. I prised the recipe off her several years ago and thought I must have written it down wrong, for it never turned out as light and orangey and altogether wonderful as hers. So last year I invited myself to her house for a masterclass and discovered I’d been doing it all wrong. Shirley, who is actually the Boy Wonder’s great aunt, beats the living daylights out of her cake. If it was a dog she’d be arrested. As it is, her cake is so good it should probably be illegal. It’s taken me until recently to get up the courage to try again. I channelled Shirley’s ‘take no prisoners’ attitude and let the beaters do their work.

Aunty Shirley’s Orange Madeira Cake
Actually, it turns out this isn’t Shirley’s cake at all, but the recipe of one Mrs E G A Mason. I love these old cookbooks with tried and trusted recipes from home kitchens – I suppose blogs have replaced them. This particular book also had recipes for ‘Darkies’, which probably ARE illegal now (and rightly so). Shirley bakes this in an extendable square tin but I make mine in a 24cm round one. She also ices it with an orange butter icing, but it’s almost as good left plain. Just remember to beat it soundly – Shirley uses electric handbeaters, I used my freestanding mixer – and all will be well.

4 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
125g butter, melted
3Tbsp milk
juice and grated rind of one small orange
2tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 23cm tin.
Beat the eggs and sugar until pale and thick (about five minutes), then add orange juice and zest, flour, milk and melted butter. Beat again for a couple of minutes (“you need to get air into the mixture,” says Shirley). Add the baking powder and beat again for about a minute. Pour into the tin and bake for 45-60 minutes. Cool, turn out of the tin and ice with orange butter icing.

Have a sweet, sweet Friday everyone. I’m going to spend the weekend planning The Kitchenmaid’s first birthday party…



  1. August 4, 2011 / 8:06 pm

    Sounds delicious, but you didn't actually say minute wise how long to beat it. I'm wondering is it about 10 minutes? Aunt Shirley is lovely looking!! Thanks in advance for the info.

  2. August 4, 2011 / 8:23 pm

    Yum!! This looks and sounds fantastic. Our older family members are some of the best cooks aren't they!

  3. August 4, 2011 / 9:14 pm

    I love Madeira cake and this orange one sounds delicious…I want an Aunt Shirley too!

  4. August 4, 2011 / 10:35 pm

    This is one of my favourite cakes.It s,ells and tastes fantastic.I am sure this one will be like that too;)

  5. August 5, 2011 / 7:41 am

    how fantastic to be able to get a masterclass! 🙂

  6. August 5, 2011 / 4:58 pm

    Awe – how lucky are you to be able to get a master-class from your Aunty, it makes baking all the more special when there is history behind it. Lovely post ;0)

  7. August 5, 2011 / 5:30 pm

    Sounds delicious! And I love to beat my cakes to death with my mixer, so I am sure I would enjoy this. 🙂

  8. August 5, 2011 / 7:28 pm

    Looks great – old cookery books are really interesting!

    Can't wait to see what you come up with to celebrate your first birthday!

  9. August 5, 2011 / 10:14 pm

    Such a good post. You did make me laugh.

  10. August 6, 2011 / 1:19 pm

    This cake sounds delicious – and I love the story that goes along with it!

  11. August 7, 2011 / 8:45 am

    Lovely! Yes you're right about blogs replacing those old cookbooks in a way – I do absolutely love going back and reading through them though. Nice to think that the women who contributed will have their recipes live on.

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