Smith Island Cake History

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Smith Island Cake
Photo from the Bayside Inn Restaurant, Smith Island, MD.

 

Unless you are from Smith Island (Maryland’s only inhabited off-shore island), in Chesapeake Bay, you probably have not heard of Smith Island Cake.  Smith Island, Maryland, is a 400-year-old fishing village of only 250 residents.  Located 10 miles offshore in the Chesapeake Bay.  Smith Island has been home to watermen and their families for centuries. These watermen harvest blue crabs, oysters and fish, shipping them to markets throughout the world.

This cake has been the area’s dessert of choice for residents and visitors of this island for generations.  It is definitely a distinctive regional tradition spanning many decades.

This decadent cake can contain anywhere from 8 to 15 pencil-thin buttery yellow cake layers that are layered with chocolate fudge icing that sets like fidge.  Smith Island Cake has also been know to be called “Frosting with the Cake”.  The number of layers is determined by the baker.  As you can probably guess, you do not need a big slice to get your cake and chocolate fix!

The origins of this cake are unknown.  Residents just say, “It’s always been here.”  Some say this Smith Island Cake can be traced to Welsh and English settlers who came to the island in the late 1600s.

The recipe for the Smith Island Cake was first published in 1981 in a cookbook called Mrs. Kitching’s Smith Island Cookbook.  The cake was originally four layers, but the women started to stack the cake even higher as a form of competition.

In 2008, Senate House Bill 315 in Maryland’s legislature approved Smith Island Cake as Maryland’s official dessert.

 

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