Happy birthday, Gwendolyn Brooks!

Gwendolyn Brooks was born on June 7, 1917, in Topeka, Kansas. She is often recognized for her time as Poet Laureate of Illinois (1968-2000) and Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress
(1985-1986), and for being the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize in any category (1950).

While many materials in the Gwendolyn Brooks Collection (MS00086) document her professional life, there are also many materials that offer a glimpse into her personal life—including her time spent as a homemaker. One such treasure is her recipe box, whose how-tos range from Never-Fail Pie Crust to a Cure for Hiccups. Join us as we celebrate 107 years of Gwendolyn Brooks by making her recipe for Light and Dark Cake!

Left: recipe for Light and Dark Cake. Right: Gwendolyn Brooks standing in her kitchen. "Gwendolyn Brooks' Light and Dark Cake' are superimposed over the top of the image.

Left: Box 541 (Digital image 147), Right: Box 354, Folder 3

You will need: Three bowls: large, medium, and small Two 8-inch cake pans, greased Whisk or electric mixer Rubber spatula (optional) 2 cups cake flour, sifted 1 tsp baking soda 1 tsp salt ½ cup soft shortening 1 cup sugar 1 tsp vanilla extract 2 eggs ¼ cup white vinegar ½ cup milk 1 square baking chocolate, melted

Instructions (edited for clarity)
1. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl (“dry ingredients”) and set aside
2. In a large bowl, beat shortening, sugar, and vanilla extract until fluffy. Then, beat in eggs (“creamed mixture”) and set aside
3. In a small bowl, add vinegar to milk (“liquid”) and stir
4. Alternate adding dry ingredients and liquid to creamed mixture. Beat well after each addition
5. Pour half of the batter into one bowl. To the poured half, add baking chocolate and mix throughout. Leave the remaining half as is. (Note: Ms. Brooks did her mixing in the pan instead)
6. Pour each bowl of batter into its own pan and spread evenly
7. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes
8. Cool the cakes. Then, stack, frost, and enjoy

This recipe did not include a frosting recipe, so we decided to use a simple Butter Cream Icing recipe courtesy of Martha Holmes (Peoples Gas Home Service).

Butter Cream Icing by Martha Holmes Recipes You will need: 6 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened 3 cups confectioners’ (or powdered) sugar, sifted 3 tablespoons warm milk or light cream 1 teaspoon vanilla Instructions: 1. Cream butter 2. Add confectioners’ sugar gradually, mixing after each addition 3. Add vanilla and continue to beat until light and fluffy

Right: Box 541 (Digital image 144)

Voilà! Now you have a delicious two-layer cake. We hope you enjoyed this birthday celebration for Gwendolyn Brooks. If you followed along, let us know how your cake turned out!

For more from Gwendolyn Brooks’ recipe box (and other digitized content), browse the Gwendolyn Brooks Digital Collection.

For a video tutorial on how to make her Light and Dark Cake, in addition to her Orange Cake, visit our YouTube channel.

Left: Image of a two-layer cake slice with a cartoon candle placed on top. Right: Gwendolyn Brooks opening presents at her 80th birthday party. "Happy Birthday, Ms. Brooks" is centered over both images.

Right: Box 350, Folder 32

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