Smith Island Cake: The Local Legend

Eva Niessner

Maryland is well-known for a lot of savory things -- when we say Maryland food, you're probably thinking steamed crabs crusted with Old Bay, or fries eaten at the beach, or crab chips, or pit beef. But we know how to make sweet things, too! If you know Maryland desserts, you probably know the Smith Island Cake.

If you're unfamiliar, the Smith Island Cake is a dessert that features many thin layers of yellow cake with fudgy frosting in between, and a coating of chocolate on the cake's exterior. When you cut into it, you'll be rewarded with the beautiful contrasting layers of cake and frosting. (How many layers? We've seen everything from 8-10, but we'll let you decide.)

Here in Maryland, we take the cake seriously. How seriously? For the last fifteen years, it's been the official dessert of the Old Line State! And the sweet treat has a history as rich as its chocolate frosting.

Only about 200 people live on Smith Island now, but it was first settled in the 1600s, and is one of America's oldest communities that was settled by the British. That's why the locals still retain a very particular accent that sounds more English than American. Traditionally, the men of the island would go off to harvest oysters, and the women baked these cakes to hearten them during the journey. 

Of course, you don't need to an oysterman to enjoy this treat. There are many establishments on the Eastern Shore that sell these cakes, but if you're feeling ambitious, you can whip one up yourself! Keep in mind that the secret ingredients are the fudgy frosting that is sturdier than buttercream and the evaporated milk that makes it extra delicious. Here's a recipe you can try!

Feeling hungry yet? It's time to get baking -- or buying. Enjoy! 

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