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Emily Dickinson’s gingerbread cake

October 20, 2010

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Make one 9-inch cake

A gingerbread recipe attributed to poet Emily Dickinson was found among items belonging to her brother Austin’s wife, Susan. It’s one of the few recipes that contain exact amounts and was written in Emily’s handwriting. There are no instructions for how to make the cake, nor a recipe for glaze, though Dickinson was known to have glazed her gingerbread. In 1976, guides at the Emily Dickinson Museum experimented with several of her recipes, including this one, and published a small cookbook. The large amount of ginger is from the original recipe. Use less if you prefer.

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup molasses
1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square cake pan.

2. In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, and ginger.

3. In an electric mixer, beat the cream until thick but not stiff; transfer it to a bowl.

4. In the mixer, cream the butter until light. Beat in the cream just until blended. With mixer set on its lowest speed, add the flour mixture.

5. Add the molasses. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice, until blended.

6. Transfer the batter to the pan. Bake the cake for 35 minutes or until the top is firm and springs back when pressed lightly with a fingertip. Serve warm with whipped cream. Adapted from the Dickinson Museum