As I posted elsewhere, but haven’t gotten around to making this year; I’ll try to get some made by the first of December, and they’ll be ready by Christmas.
People’s opinions of fruitcake varies. This is the recipe I’ve used for years, and am using today. It works very well for those who either like fruitcake or are willing to try it. The rest of you, no desert two months from today.
The link for the excellent Emily Dickinson Blackcake has gone dead; I’ve resurrected a copy from the Wayback Machine and put it below. Make it this weekend or next for use at Christmas time; keep the wrapped cakes in the back of the refrigerator.
I sometimes use a half pound of chopped, floured dates for a half pound of the raisins.
Black Cake Recipe
updated for modern kitchens
Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom of the oven. Preheat oven to 225 F.
2 cups sugar
1/2 pound butter
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp mace
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 nutmeg, ground
1/4-1/2 cup brandy
1 pound raisins
2/3 pound currants
2/3 pound citron
Add sugar gradually to butter; blend until light and creamy. Add unbeaten eggs & molasses. Beat well. Resift flour with soda and spices. If you’re using unsalted butter, add 1/2 tsp salt.
Beat sifted ingredients into mixture, alternately adding brandy. Stir in raisins, currants, and citron.
Pour batter into two loaf pans lined with waxed paper.
Bake at 225 F for 3 hours (this is not a typo). Remove pan of water for last 1/2 hour. Let loaves cool before removing from pans.
Remove paper and wrap in fresh paper.
The submitter’s notes from experience:
Keep the water pan 1 inch full; otherwise, you’ll have a black brick.
I find that kitchen parchment works better than waxed paper. This cake is so rich, you’ll think you’re tasting heaven (well, of course you are). I usually use only half the listed amounts of raisins, currants, and citron—and the cake still weighs a ton.
The longer the cake sits (in a cool, dark spot), the better it will taste. ED used to put hers in the cellar for a month, but I think 19th century people had a different attitude toward mold than we do ... Smile
I’ve had great success with this recipe and make it every year on ED’s birthday.
Additional note: Emily Dickinson: Profile of the Poet as a Cook is available from Jeffrey Amherst Bookshop for US$4.95 + US$2.00 shipping. If you’re familiar with the letters, you already know that ED was quite a good cook!
Originally posted to the emweb e-mail discussion group in 1995.