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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Emily Dickinson, The Baker

A friend posted this to Facebook and I thought it was a great find to pass along.

It seems that Emily Dickinson was not only a brilliant poet, she was also a baker.  Although reclusive, she did bake and cook and send out care packages to friends and those in need.

Below is a recipe for Coconut Cake in Ms. Dickinson's own hand.  It is very faint but I think you will be able to make out most of it.

      Image courtesy of Poet’s House c/o President and Fellows of Harvard College


Emily Dickinson's Coconut Cake

2 cups flour
1 tsp cream of tartar + 1/2 tsp baking soda OR 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup shredded coconut

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour and cream of tartar + baking soda OR baking powder. I used my antique sifter to get in the "Emily Dickinson" mood.
In a medium mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together till the mixture is light and fluffy, and the sugar is well incorporated into the butter. I did this by hand, the old fashioned way, like Emily Dickinson would have. It took several minutes. You can do it much faster with an electric mixer.

Mix in the eggs, then the milk. Add liquid ingredients to dry and stir till just incorporated. A thick batter will form. Do not overmix. Fold in the shredded coconut. If your shredded coconut is dry (not fresh), rehydrate it with a little warm water and drain well before mixing it into the batter. Again, don't overmix.

Spread the batter into a small loaf pan.  

Bake the cake for 50-60 minutes on the middle rack of your oven till cooked through and golden brown around the edges. Test with a skewer or toothpick for doneness in a few places-- if the toothpick comes out clean (no wet batter sticking to it), it's done. The cake is not overly sweet, which was perfect for me (I don't like my desserts too sweet). If you want to sweeten it up, use a bit more sugar, or use sweetened coconut instead of regular coconut. Enjoy!

All of this history and dessert can be found at The History Kitchen.

Have fun and keep it simple!

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