BK American Lit. Reading Group discussion

Near Irrelevance > Dickinson's Kitchen and the 'Black Cake'

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message 1: by Jordan (new)

Jordan St. Stier | 71 comments Mod
Emily Dickinson was a fervent baker, but her most (in)famous recipe was her Black Cake, a baking monstrosity not unlike a fruitcake in size or inedibility.
Let's just say it makes 20 lbs of batter (in sum) and uses 19 eggs, as well as 5 pounds of raisins. Oy vey. Here is the recipe below:

message 2: by Jordan (last edited Apr 09, 2019 05:10PM) (new)

Jordan St. Stier | 71 comments Mod
3 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 cup brandy, or more as needed
1 3/4 pounds raisins
8 ounces dried currants
8 ounces dried apricots, cut into pieces the size of raisins
8 ounces pitted dried prunes, cut into pieces the size of raisins
2 ounces dried pears, cut into pieces the size of raisins
4 ounces pitted dates, cut into pieces the size of raisins
1/2 cup brandy
3 1/4 cups unbleached flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cloves
1 1/4 teaspoons ground mace
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
48 tablespoons (6 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
13 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup molasses

message 3: by Jordan (new)

Jordan St. Stier | 71 comments Mod
For the syrup: Combine the sugar and water in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat; cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Let cool, then transfer to a lidded container. Stir in the cup of brandy, or more (to your taste). Cover and refrigerate.

For the fruit: Toss together the raisins, currants, apricots, prunes, pears and dates with 1/2 cup brandy in a large bowl, until evenly moistened. Let stand for at least 1 hour, and preferably overnight.

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the pans with cooking oil spray, then line them with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, mace, nutmeg, cardamom and ginger in a mixing bowl.

Beat the butter in the very large bowl (5-quart) of a stand mixer on medium speed, until creamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating until the mixture is light in color and texture. Add the eggs 3 at a time (adding 4 in the last addition), beating well each time, and stopping to scrape down the bowl, as needed. On medium speed, add the vanilla extract and pour in the molasses. The batter may look curdled, but that's okay.

Transfer to a very large mixing bowl. Gradually add the flour mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon just until no trace of dry ingredients remains.

Drain the macerating fruit, reserving its liquid. Fold the fruit into the batter, taking care not to over-mix. If the batter becomes to stiff to stir, feel free to use your clean hands as mixing tools.

Divide among batter the pans, filling each one about two-thirds full. Smooth the tops. Bake until the top of the cakes are firm to the touch at the center. (Nine-inch rounds will take 30 to 35 minutes; check doneness often). The cakes will be very dark on top and slightly sunken. Let the cake cool in the pans.

Use a skewer to poke holes in the cake at 1-inch intervals. Add the reserved macerating liquid to your brandy syrup. Begin brushing or pouring the brandy syrup evenly over each cake, allowing a few minutes' soaking-in time before applying more. If the cakes seem moist enough, it might not be necessary to use all the syrup.

Wrap the cakes (in their pans) well in plastic wrap, or slide each one into its own large zip-top bag. Let stand for at least 1 hour in a cool place, and preferably up to a day or two before serving.

When ready to serve, run a round-edged knife around the edges of the cakes to loosen them from the sides of the pans. Invert onto a serving platter and discard the parchment paper before slicing.

message 4: by Jordan (last edited Apr 09, 2019 05:13PM) (new)

Jordan St. Stier | 71 comments Mod
From the WaPo: Democracy Dies in Darkness.

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