Such a celebration wasn't surprising. The Emily Dickinson Collection at Houghton is the largest in the world devoted to the poet, and contains everything from hand-stitched manuscript copies of her poems to the small desk on which she wrote them. But the centerpiece of this party wasn't a poem. It was a recipe.
Emily Dickinson's handwritten recipe for Black Cake - the name comes from the dark color created by the ingredients - is a typical 19thc. cake for holidays and celebrations, rich in dried fruit and spices and laced with equal parts of molasses and rum. It's also dauntingly large, requiring nineteen eggs (!) and producing over twelve pounds of batter.
Two intrepid members of Houghton's staff recreated the recipe in all its glory (and beat all those eggs by hand) for the party. Emilie Hardman, Research, Instruction, and Digital Initiatives Librarian and Emily Walhout, Reference Assistant, are the stars of the above video, showing exactly how they made the cake - or rather, several cakes, since the amount of batter exceeded any modern cake pans.
Much like the Rich Cake for Twelfth Night that I featured here last week, this cake needed a month to "mature" and meld the flavors and alcohol. It was worth the wait: I can report that the cake was absolutely delicious, and as you can see, left, I wasn't the only one to think so.
If you want to try the cake yourself, here's the digital version of Emily Dickinson's original handwritten recipe, and here's the post from Houghton Library's blog with more information about the cake.