Every state in the US has its symbols. Maryland’s include the Baltimore Oriole (bird), the Blue Crab (crustacean), the Chesapeake Bay Retriever (dog), the Checkerspot Butterfly (insect), and the Black-eyed Susan (flower). On April 24, 2008, Smith Island Cake was officially chosen as Maryland’s official dessert.
Smith Island is a three-by-five mile chain of islands that lie across the Tangier Sound portion of the Chesapeake Bay and can only be reached by boat. No one really knows who baked the first Smith Island Cake, but this impressive 10 layer confection is delicious and versatile. The recipe below, with its cooked fudge frosting, is probably the most popular version, but I’ve filled and topped this buttery cake with peanut butter cream cheese icing, with lemon curd, with flaked coconut, and many other flavors. The layers are individually baked. I happen to own 10 9-inch cake pans, but you could easily use 2 or 3 and bake the layers in batches.
Smith Island Cake
For the cake:
2 sticks (8 ounces) butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1 cup evaporated milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup water
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
For the icing:
2 cups sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
5 ounces unsweetened (baking) chocolate, chopped
1 stick (4 ounces) butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat over to 350°. Lightly grease 9-inch baking pans with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until well incorporated. Stir in the milk, vanilla and water. Add the flour, salt and baking powder, and stir just until all the dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated into the batter.
3. Measure 2/3 cup of batter into each pan, taking great care to level the batter evenly. Lopsided layers make for a sloppy (but still delicious!) cake. Leveling the batter in the pans is very important.
4. Bake 2 or 3 layers at a time on the middle rack of the oven for 8 to 9 minutes. Cake layers should be cooked through, but not over baked.
5. While the cakes are baking, make the icing. Combine the sugar and milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the chocolate and butter, stirring, until melted. Bring to a simmer and cook for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. The icing will be thin, but will thicken as it cools.
6. As the cake layers come out of the oven, run a spatula around the edge of the pan and ease the cake layer out and onto a wire rack to cool. Assemble the layers on a cake plate, spreading 2 or 3 spoonfuls of the fudge frosting in between each layer. Spread the remaining frosting on the top and sides.
Smith Island is a quaint and beautiful area of Maryland. I hope you get a chance to visit someday. More information about Smith Island and the Smith Island Museum can be found at www.SmithIsland.org.
What are some of the best known symbols of your town, area, state, or province?
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