Emily Dickinson's Black Cake: A Delicious Slice of Literary History

When we think of Emily Dickinson, we often envision her secluded life as a poet, crafting verses that would shape the literary landscape. However, there is more to this enigmatic figure than meets the eye. In this blog post, we dive into the lesser-known world of Emily Dickinson's Black Cake—a rich, dark fruitcake that was a favorite in her family.
Emily Dickinson: A Poet in the Kitchen
While Emily Dickinson is renowned for her poetic brilliance, her passion extended beyond the written word. She was also a talented baker, known for her intricate cakes and pastries. Baking was not just a domestic duty for Dickinson; it was a creative outlet that allowed her to express herself in a different way.
The Black Cake: A Dickinson Family Tradition
The Black Cake, also known as the Dark Fruitcake, was a beloved tradition in the Dickinson household. It was a staple during special occasions and holidays, and Emily Dickinson's recipe has been passed down through generations. This rich and dense cake was a testament to the family's love for indulgent flavors and culinary craftsmanship.
Epicurean Tendencies: While Emily Dickinson is often portrayed as a recluse, she had a keen interest in culinary arts and appreciated fine dining experiences. She would often jot down recipes, culinary notes, and observations in her letters and personal writings, revealing her discerning palate.
Fascination with Food Preservation: Emily Dickinson was intrigued by the science of food preservation. She experimented with techniques like canning and drying fruits, allowing her to enjoy seasonal flavors year-round and incorporate them into her baking creations.
Love for Gardening: Dickinson had a deep connection with nature and cultivated an extensive garden at her home in Amherst, Massachusetts. Her love for gardening inspired her to incorporate fresh, homegrown ingredients into her baking, enhancing the flavors and aromas of her creations.
The Enigmatic Black Cake Recipe: A Journey into Flavor
Now, let's embark on a flavorful journey through Emily Dickinson's Black Cake recipe, unveiling the secrets behind this intriguing creation.
  • 1 pound raisins
  • 1 pound currants
  • 1 pound prunes, pitted
  • 1 pound dates, pitted
  • 1/2 pound citron, chopped
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup strong coffee
  • 1 cup brandy or rum
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 8 large eggs
  1. In a large bowl, combine the raisins, currants, prunes, dates, and citron. Pour in the coffee and brandy (or rum), allowing the fruits to soak and absorb the flavors. Cover the bowl and let it sit overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 275°F (135°C). Grease and line a 10-inch tube pan or two 9-inch loaf pans with parchment paper.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream together the softened butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Add the molasses and continue mixing until combined.
  5. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt.
  6. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture, alternating with the fruit mixture. Stir in the lemon and orange zest, as well as the lemon and orange juice.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) and smooth the top with a spatula.
  8. Bake for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Remove the cake(s) from the oven and let them cool completely in the pan(s) before removing.
Savoring the Flavors of Emily Dickinson's Black Cake
As you savor a slice of Emily Dickinson's Black Cake, you immerse yourself in the flavors that inspired her poetic genius. The rich, fruity essence intertwined with warm spices and subtle citrus notes takes you on a sensory journey through Dickinson's world. Allow the dense crumb and intoxicating aroma to transport you back in time, to an era when baking was an art form and culinary creations were a gateway to the soul.
Emily Dickinson's Black Cake offers a tantalizing glimpse into the multi-faceted world of this celebrated poet. Beyond her lyrical brilliance, Dickinson's culinary prowess showcases her creative spirit and love for the finer things in life. By exploring her lesser-known fascination with baking and the rich flavors of her Black Cake, we gain a deeper understanding of this enigmatic figure. So, embark on your own culinary adventure, embracing the legacy of Emily Dickinson, one slice of Black Cake at a time.