Recipe: Orange Madeira Cake with Aperol

Sometimes, only cake will do. And it’s got to be a good cake. Not just a slice of supermarket fluff cake that tastes more like cotton wool than cake. Proper homemade, buttery, sugary, textural, CAKE. 

And despite trying to ignore the craving, it still sits with you. All day.

Then you give in. Despite the fact that it’s now half past eight, and you know you’ll barely be able to eat a slice before bed, but you still can’t shake that craving (and it’s possibly hormonally related, because periods sometimes make you want big slices of tasty cake). So you think fuck it, and head into the kitchen to bake. 

All you’ve got is a bag of oranges you picked up at the supermarket because you had a vague idea about homemade marmalade. So orange in the cake it is. And then a light goes off in your brain. 

You see when most kids wanted chocolate cake for their birthday – in fact my sisters, and my brother would regularly have a tray bake topped with chocolate and Smarties for theirs – I didn’t. I didn’t much like chocolate cake. To be honest, I still don’t. Instead,  my mum would bake something different for me, Madeira cake. It’s rich, it’s buttery, almost custardy and preferably laced with juice and citrus zest that makes it a contrast between bitter and sweet. My citrus leanings started young.

So, this bake is a short, and sweet, (no pun intended) very last minute, craving fuelled bake. You can tell, because the top of the cake is speckled – I had no caster sugar in, so I substituted granulated. The latter doesn’t always mix as well as it should (especially in a rush). I also didn’t have my favourite flour for sponges (Sainsbury’s Extra Fine Sponge Flour) – no advert, I just genuinely rate it for cakes. So the texture wasn’t perhaps as fine and velvety as I’d have liked. 

Finally, while I was making it last night, I decided to beef it up a little bit with a big fat splash of Aperol. Aperol’s bitter sweet orange goes so well with the cake, and with an adjustment or two, it’s given the flavour levels a bit of oomph. If you don’t have Aperol, Cointreau would work too, a citrussy gin, or you could just omit the booze altogether. 

Whether you’ve got a craving like me, or just fancy getting your bake on, I hope you enjoy.

Orange Madeira Cake with Aperol

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 9 Squares


  • 150 grams Softened salted butter
  • 175 grams Caster sugar
  • 5 Medium eggs, separated
  • 250 grams Self raising flour
  • 75 ml Aperol
  • 3 Large oranges (zest and juice)


  1. Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 4 (180°C). 

  2. Grease and line a 22cm square baking tin with parchment paper. 

  3. Cream together the butter and sugar, until pale and fluffy. Then add the egg yolks and combine. 

  4. Add the juice and zest of the oranges, and the Aperol, and again combine. The acid in the juice will react with with butter, and it'll look odd, but don't worry, it will all come together!

  5. Sift in the flour, and stir until it's all just combined. 

  6. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they are white and fluffy. I cheated a little and set them going in my food processor while I beat together the other ingredients by hand.

  7. Take a spoon of the fluffy egg whites and roughly mix into the cake batter. This little sacrifice will lighten the batter and make folding the rest of the egg whites in a little bit easier. 

  8. Finally, tip in the last of the egg whites, and fold in gently, again until it's all just combined. Pour into the cake tin, smooth the top a little and pop it into the oven. 

  9. The cake will take around 30 minutes to bake, but to test, take a skewer and insert it into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, the batter is cooked all the way through. If it's smeared with batter, pop it back in for another five minutes, and test again. 

  10. Remove from the oven and set to cool on a rack. Or if you're impatient like me, put the kettle on while you slice it frantically so you can eat it as soon as possible. 




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