Poet Emily Dickinson’s Black Cake

Why I'm baking Emily's Black Cake, a Victorian holiday recipe from the poet  Dickinson (video) - cleveland.com
Emily sent her black cake recipe, now held at Houghton Library, to her friend Nelly Sweetser.
The recipe is stained and aged with use.

Ingredients {*Trumpeterhill added walnuts}:

2 c. sugar, 1/2 lb. butter, 5 eggs, 1/4 c molasses, 2c. sifted flour, 1.2 t baking soda, 1 t. cloves, 1t. mace, 1t. cinnamon, 1.2 t nutmeg, ground, 1/4 to 1/2 c. brandy, 1 lb. raisins, 2/3 lb. currants, 2/3 lb. citron, {*Walnuts to taste.}

Directions (Expanded directions for Emily’s handwritten recipe above were provided in Dec. 28, 1976 and Jan. 11, 1978 articles in the Milwaukee Journal and are provided here in italics and parenthesis):

Beat butter and sugar together. Add eggs without beating, and beat the mixture again. (Re-sift flour with soda and spices. If unsalted butter is used, add salt (about 1/2 t.) Beat sifted ingredients into mixture, alternately adding brandy. Stir in raisins, currants and citron {*and walnuts.} Pour batter into 2 loaf pans lined with a layer of heavy waxed {parchment} paper and place into a shallow pan of hot water on bottom of hot oven.)

Bake 2 1/2 to 3 hours in cake pans or 5 to 6 hours in milk pans. (Bake cakes at 225 degrees, 3 hours, removing pan of water for the last 1/2 hour of baking. Let loaves cool before removing from pans. Wrap in fresh waxed paper before string in a cool place. The flavor improves with storage for about a month. Makes 2 loaves.)

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