Recipe from Emily Dickinson: Coconut Cake!

Emily Dickinson's Coconut Cake, Retouched for the 21st Century
(This recipe was adapted and modified from the original — Letter #665 in The Letters of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas Johnson, and is indebted to several measurement suggestions in Emily Dickinson: Profile of the Poet as Cook.)
2 cups Coconut Secret® coconut sap sugar
1 cup Earth Balance® butter substitute
2 cups brown rice flour (Arrowhead Mills® gluten-free "Improved Texture" mix works well)
6 eggs (separate yolks and whites)
1 ½ to 2 cups shredded, unsweetened coconut (can also use flaked coconut, coarsely chopped)
1 cup coconut milk
Rather than make a simple icing, standard fare in the 19th-century, based partly on the ingredients I had lying around, I decided to go with this topping instead. It worked very well.
1-2 cups flaked coconut, unsweetened
½ cup orange blossom honey
Zest of four limes
Juice of two limes
Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, blend butter-substitute and coconut sugar. Add brown rice flour and beaten egg yolks. Beat egg whites until slightly frothy and add to batter. Gradually add shredded coconut and coconut milk, blending all ingredients thoroughly. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with coconut oil. Pour batter into the greased dish (the baking dish should be half full). Bake for 25 minutes in a convection oven (probably 30-35 minutes in a regular oven). Mix the coconut-lime topping. Remove from heat, let cool for a few minutes, spread the topping evenly over the cake.

Full NPR Article by Nelly Lambert here:

A Coconut Cake From Emily Dickinson: Reclusive Poet, Passionate Baker

~ Kells
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  1. Rather than using Ms. lambert's "edit" -- as you reprint here -- I recommend trying the recipe according to the original. I've made it numerous times the poet's way. Lambert mentions what a baker she was but doesn't connect that to how much time Emily Dickinson would have needed to spend in the kitchen. Take a look at chapter three of Maid as Muse: how servants changed Emily Dickinson's Life & Language.

  2. I'd go for the original too, I wouldn't know what to substitute for half the ingredients in the updated version that we can't get here in New Zealand (real butter and real flour for me thanks, half our family are allergic to gluten free flour anyway)


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