Friday, January 3, 2014

RK0012 - Emily Dickinson's two coconut cakes

Several years ago I heard a story on NPR about a recipe that Emily Dickinson had sent a friend in a letter. The recipe was for coconut cake.  And it is very simple:

1 lb. sugar
½ lb. butter
½ lb. flour
6 eggs
1 grated coconut

So this is recipe I used. Emily's exact recipe except I am figuring that when she wrote 1 Lb she used the equivalency chart and used 2 cups.

2 c sugar (Light brown sugar or half , makes the cake taste like a Butterscotch Krimpet)
2 c  flour
1 c butter (I use a high fat butter like Kerry Gold)
6 extra-large eggs or equivalent in duck eggs (these are fantastic for baking)
1 c finely chopped dry unsweetened coconut. (optional, you can use extract flavorings. A vanilla bean is terrific for this.)

(1 t kosher salt) add to eggs
(1 t cream of tartar) add to eggs
(1/2 t Gum Arabic or Guar Gum - mix in the flour)
  • All ingredients at room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 350ยบ.
  • Use a half sheet pan lined with paper
  • Beat eggs until frothy and gently add 1 cup of sugar, salt, flavoring, and cream of tartar.  After about 10 minutes the eggs will have increased seven-fold.  The eggs should be very thick and fall in ribbons off the beaters.
  • Cream the butter until glossy and add the second cup of sugar until they incorporated and smooth.
  • Add the flour and guar gum to the butter and work it with your fingers like you are making pie crust or shortbread. (This is reverse creaming.)
  • Add the beaten egg to the flour in 2 or 3 parts.  At first you are folding in the egg and when it's all in, beat for 2-3 minutes until it is a nice batter. Make sure to scrape the bottom and sides.
  • Fold in the coconut.  
  • Spread evenly on the sheet pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. Cake should be light brown. Test for doneness.
  • Let cool. Cut into 1 x 3 inch rectangles.

Leave a comment if you have any questions.

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