Destination: New England
Books and Play: The Belle of Amherst by William Luce; The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson; and a Recipe
You’ll forgive me if I’m a bit distracted, and offer you a blog post from last year, rewarmed. My excuse–I’m doing a final review of the galleys on a book that Charnell Havens and I wrote about Navajo artist Quincy Tahoma. Instead of Thanksgiving dinner, I’ll be stewing words. And if that isn’t bad enough, The Ohio State plays Michigan on Saturday. Go BUCKS!
Autumn makes me think of travel to New England, and New England makes me want to get out The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. In a former life, I played Emily in the play The Belle of Amherst[,and ever since, I have been making the black cake she is making at the beginning of that play. I make it on Thanksgiving weekend, wrap it in cheesecloth dipped in brandy and serve it on Christmas Eve. (Cut the recipe in half or one-quarter if you must, but DO NOT call it a fruitcake.)
EMILY DICKINSON’S BLACK CAKE
as adapted by Vera Marie Badertscher
- 2 Pounds flour (8 cups)
- 2 pounds sugar (4 cups)
- 2 pounds butter (4 cups)
- 19 eggs
- 5 pounds raisins
- 1 1/2 pounds citron
- 1 1/2 pounds currents
- 1/2 pint brandy* (1 cup)
- 1/2 pint molasses (1 cup)
- 2 nutmegs (4-6 tablespoons, ground)
- 5 tablespoons total: cloves, mace, cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
* Emily says, “Not my father’s BEST brandy.”
Sift flour, soda, spices, salt. Beat butter and sugar, add eggs a few at a time, beating after each addition. Add brandy alternately with flour mixture. Add molasses. Sprinkle in fruit, slowly as you stir.
Bake at 250 degrees one and a half to three hours depending on the size of the pans you use. Full recipe makes one large “angel food cake” pan; plus 2-3 loaf pans.
Remove from pan to cool. Wrap in cheesecloth dipped in brandy. Store in air tight container for several weeks, dribbling on some more brandy from time to time.
Note: I have looked at other recipes on the Internet and immodestly believe this version is best. Slow baking and thorough basting are key.
The photo comes from Flickr under a Creative Commons License. Click on the image for more information.