A bit of a plain Jane, you might think. But we still all love it. There are times when a piece of really good plain cake is all you want. In this case I would choose to serve it with a glass of chilled Madeira wine, which is in fact what it was invented for.
Start by sifting the flour, salt and baking powder into a roomy mixing bowl, lifting the sieve quite high to give the flour a good airing as it goes down.
Then simply add the butter, eggs, sugar and grated zest and, using an electric hand whisk, combine them for about 1 minute until you have a smooth consistency.
Then add the milk, a tablespoon at a time – you need enough to make a creamy consistency that drops off a spoon easily when tapped on the side of the bowl. Be careful not to add too much milk – it needs to be a little stiffer than a sponge cake mix.
Now spoon the mixture into the loaf tin, levelling it off with the back of a tablespoon, and bake on a lower shelf so that the top of the tin is aligned with the centre of the oven for 1 hour or until it feels springy in the centre.
Leave in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
Store in an airtight tin in its liner.
If you like to follow tradition you can lightly place a thin slice of candied citron peel on the surface before baking.