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Layers of Tradition in Maryland’s Official State Cake

18 August 2010 3,314 views 10 Comments

I’m part of a potluck group called Supperfly, hosted each month at a different home with a theme decided by the host. For some reason, I decided to try Smith Island Cake for a recent Supperfly where the theme was to make something that’s your favorite color. I’m not exactly sure what my favorite color is but chocolate is one of Adam and my favorite foods so it seemed close enough to the theme.

That same week, a recipe for Smith Island Cake, apparently the “Official Cake of the State of Maryland,” appeared in my email inbox. I was surprised to see it as I grew up in Maryland and had never tasted this cake or heard of Smith Island. I had to try it.
chocolate 9 layer cake

I have since learned that Smith Island is in the Chesapeake Bay and was home to less than 400 people at the time of the 2000 U.S. Census. They are most famous for a layered yellow cake with chocolate frosting of 8 to 15 thin layers. The layers took a long time to bake, let cool, and do the process over and over again. I only had two 8 inch pans to use and if I had eight to ten pans, I could have finished in much less time.

The result was attractive and many at the potluck showed a lot of appreciation for the flavor and amazingly thin layers. I felt that I did my home state proud and that was a good thing since it’s likely the last time I’ll venture beyond a four layer cake.

Smith Island cake
The Official Dessert of Maryland (as of 2008)

Note: Recipe adapted from Baltimore Sun. That recipe was adapted from Cooking Light. And so on.

Servings: 16

Cake:
Cooking spray formulated for baking
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 (8-ounce) carton fat-free sour cream
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk

Frosting:
16 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s since we had it at home)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottoms of 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper cut to fit. Coat parchment and sides with cooking spray. Set aside.

Combine butter and sour cream in a large bowl. Add sugar and vanilla. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs and beat 2 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix well after each addition.

Place 1/2 cup of batter into each cake pan. Spread evenly with the back of a spoon or small spatula. Bake in 350-degree oven for 8 minutes. Let cake cool slightly (between 5 and 10 minutes). Remove from pan and carefully peel off parchment paper. The parchment can be reused to bake the next layers.

Cool completely on a wire rack. Repeat until there are 8 thin layers of cake (I ended up with enough cake batter for 9 layers).

For frosting: Beat with a mixer at medium speed the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add sugar and mix well. Add cocoa powder, salt and vanilla and beat until smooth (The frosting was too thick for my liking and I was concerned about spreadability to  I added some water which helped).

Assembling the cake:
Top the first layer of cake with about 1/4 cup of frosting. Top with another cake layer and repeat, using remaining layers. Frost top and sides of. You may have some frosting left over. Store in refrigerator but serve at room temperature.

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  • linda

    you certainly did your state PROUD! this cake looks AWESOME!!

    i have this recipe in my “to bake” folder for sometime & have been doing a bit of research for the layers…googled & found this:
    recommended technique: if you buy inexpensive aluminum foil cake pans (they can be saved for another time as well), you will be able to knock out layers in no time…& no washing between baking!

  • jodibart

    You are so sweet, Linda. I was very proud of my effort! Funny you mention the aluminum foil cake plans as that's what I used. I only had two though so they cycled in and out 4+ times each! I probably should have gone out and bought more but it actually wasn't too much of a big deal. It got to be pretty zen filling the pans, baking them for 8 minutes, letting them cool, and starting the process over again.

  • Katherine

    Jodi–This cake is like a Dobos Torte, pronounced “DO-boash.”

    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dobos_torte

    Did Hungarians settle Maryland? It was the English, no?

    Anyway, fascinating… And looks delicious.

  • jodibart

    Katherine — Thank you so much for your comment. You know, you aren't the first person that was reminded of the famous Dobos Torte with this cake. In fact, my dad was born in Hungary and I'm very familiar with the Dobos Torte through him. My grandfather worked at New York Cafe in Budapest which served them of course.

    I don't think there was a large Hungarian settlement in Maryland but you never know. There was a huge settlement in Ohio of all places!

  • jodibart

    You are so sweet, Linda. I was very proud of my effort! Funny you mention the aluminum foil cake plans as that's what I used. I only had two though so they cycled in and out 4+ times each! I probably should have gone out and bought more but it actually wasn't too much of a big deal. It got to be pretty zen filling the pans, baking them for 8 minutes, letting them cool, and starting the process over again.

  • Katherine

    Jodi–This cake is like a Dobos Torte, pronounced “DO-boash.”

    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dobos_torte

    Did Hungarians settle Maryland? It was the English, no?

    Anyway, fascinating… And looks delicious.

  • jodibart

    Katherine — Thank you so much for your comment. You know, you aren't the first person that was reminded of the famous Dobos Torte with this cake. In fact, my dad was born in Hungary and I'm very familiar with the Dobos Torte through him. My grandfather worked at New York Cafe in Budapest which served them of course.

    I don't think there was a large Hungarian settlement in Maryland but you never know. There was a huge settlement in Ohio of all places!

  • jodibart

    You are so sweet, Linda. I was very proud of my effort! Funny you mention the aluminum foil cake plans as that's what I used. I only had two though so they cycled in and out 4+ times each! I probably should have gone out and bought more but it actually wasn't too much of a big deal. It got to be pretty zen filling the pans, baking them for 8 minutes, letting them cool, and starting the process over again.

  • Katherine

    Jodi–This cake is like a Dobos Torte, pronounced “DO-boash.”

    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D

    Did Hungarians settle Maryland? It was the English, no?

    Anyway, fascinating… And looks delicious.

  • jodibart

    Katherine — Thank you so much for your comment. You know, you aren't the first person that was reminded of the famous Dobos Torte with this cake. In fact, my dad was born in Hungary and I'm very familiar with the Dobos Torte through him. My grandfather worked at New York Cafe in Budapest which served them of course.

    I don't think there was a large Hungarian settlement in Maryland but you never know. There was a huge settlement in Ohio of all places!