Bake Like a Literary Hero With 3 Recipes From Emily Dickinson

Amherst College, Flickr // Public Domain
Amherst College, Flickr // Public Domain

Poetry wasn’t Emily Dickinson’s only talent. She was also an incredibly talented baker who boasted that hers was the only bread her father would deign to eat. Writer Emily Temple gathered some of the poetry legend’s personal recipes at Lit Hub, and they’re some of the more delicious-sounding historical recipes we’ve come across. At least, as long as you’re willing to crack 19 eggs into a single cake.

Many of Dickinson’s papers are held at Amherst College and Harvard University, and there are handwritten recipes mixed in with the poetry drafts and letters. Unfortunately for us, Emily was a talented enough baker that for many recipes she didn’t need to write down instructions (or even the full quantity of certain ingredients), so 21st-century amateur bakers will just have to muddle through on their own.


Handwritten pages detailing Emily Dickinson's doughnut recipe
Amherst College

Who is Kate? We don’t know. But she seems to have had good taste in breakfast pastries.


1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 ct. yeast
1/2 nutmeg
2 cups milk


Handwritten pages of a recipe and a poem by Emily Dickinson
Amherst College

She didn’t write the directions for these coconut cookies down, but Dickinson did write a poem. The recipe currently held at Amherst College, labeled as "Mrs. Carmichael's," shares a page with a copy of her poem “The Things that never can come back, are several.” Dickinson seems to have liked coconut quite a bit—she also has a coconut cake recipe in her papers. (In this particular recipe, she may be using the dash marks in the image above as ditto marks to indicate pounds, but it's unclear, since she used dashes quite liberally in her other recipes.)

1 pound sugar
1/2 — butter
1/2 — flour
6 eggs
1 grated coconut


A handwritten recipe for black cake
Houghton Library, Harvard University

In 2016, several Harvard librarians took home a prize at the Association of Research Libraries’s first film festival for their video about trying to make Emily Dickinson’s famous black cake. The monstrous recipe ended up making a full 20 pounds of batter. Before you try this one, just know: Like a fruitcake, this cake requires three months of aging in a brandy-soaked cloth before it’s ready to eat.


2 pounds flour
2 sugar
2 butter
19 eggs
5 pounds raisins
1½ currants
1½ citron
1/2 pint brandy
1/2 molasses
2 nutmegs
5 teaspoons cloves—mace—cinnamon
2 teaspoons soda

Handwritten directions for baking black cake
Houghton Library, Harvard University


Beat butter and sugar together
Add eggs without beating and beat the mixture again
Bake 2½ or three hours, in cake pans, or 5 to 6 hours in milk pan, if full

See more Dickinson recipes at Lit Hub.

Florida Waffle House Is Giving Away Free Food to Hurricane Michael Victims

Barry Williams/Getty Images
Barry Williams/Getty Images

If your community has been hit by a hurricane and you want an idea of how it's coping, check your local Waffle House. The southern chain is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and only closes under extreme circumstances. The restaurant so rarely pauses its operations that FEMA has been using something called the Waffle House Index to gauge the severity of natural disasters since 2004. Now a Waffle House in Panama City, Florida, has shown that even a Category 4 storm isn't enough to shut it down for good.

After closing due to Hurricane Michael earlier in October, the Florida Waffle House set up a food truck in its parking lot to hand out free food to community members, ABC 7 reports. "We are giving out free food curbside until 6pm. #ScatteredSmotheredandRecover," the chain tweeted on Monday, October 15, along with a picture of its truck parked beneath a beat-up sign. Waffle House later tweeted that the truck would return to the same spot at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 16.

Hurricane Michael hit the Florida panhandle on October 10 and swept through the southern U.S., killing at least 19 people and leaving thousands without power. The Gulf Coast received the brunt of the storm, but Waffle House has reported that, along with its Panama City location, the Lynn Haven, Florida, restaurant is running on a generator and back open for business.

[h/t ABC 7]

The Nightmare Before Dinner Cookbook Features More Than 60 Tim Burton-Inspired Recipes

Fans of Tim Burton’s movies may already know about Beetle House, the eatery—one in New York City and one in Los Angeles—where “every day is Halloween.” The decor is spooky, the staff dress up like Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands, among others, and the menu is decidedly morbid.

You don’t have to make a special trip to sample their Frog's Breath & Nightshade Risotto, though. As Parade reports, the restaurateur behind Beetle House has created a cookbook titled The Nightmare Before Dinner: Recipes to Die For: The Beetle House Cookbook.

It's written by restaurant creator Zach Neil, whose love for Halloween came later in life. “Raised in a religious family that didn’t allow the celebration of Halloween, I dreamed of that amazing day when people dress up, express themselves, and, of course, get tricked or treated!” Neil writes in the cookbook’s introduction. That day finally came, and he now hopes to share that love with loyal fans of the restaurant, as well as those who haven’t had the chance to visit.

More than 60 recipes from the Beetle House are included in the cookbook, which is broken down into seven chapters. There are separate sections for sauces and dips (like the Dead Sauce), appetizers (Brains & Chips), soups and salads (The Butcher’s Stew), main dishes (Sweeney Beef), desserts (Bloodbath Cobbler), and cocktails (The Beetle’s Juice). Neil said the restaurant includes a vegan alternative to almost every dish on the menu, and some of those meat-free options are reflected in the cookbook.

The final section of the book, titled “Put the FUN Back in Funeral,” features ideas for Halloween and even Christmas parties. The Nightmare Before Dinner, priced at $16.51 in hardback or $11.99 for the Kindle version, is available for order on Amazon starting October 16.

[h/t Parade]