The United States of Desserts: Smith Island Cake
Photo by Alison Smith Island Cake
In this series, we examine the history and origins of famous sweets, confections, and desserts associated with American states.
I've long been a proponent of equal cake-to-icing ratios, which is why I ultimately favor the layer cake over the cupcake for celebrations.
The bakers of Smith Island, Maryland's only inhabited island, exceed these expectations by pairing eight to ten thin layers of yellow cake with the same number of layers of chocolate icing.
All cakes should aspire to such equal representation.
Most historians cite the cake's inception to the 19th century, though some say it appeared even earlier. While local oystermen were on their fall harvest, their better halves supposedly sent them the thin-layer style of cakes as souvenirs from home and, I guess, as sweet albeit not-so-subtle reminders that they had families waiting for them.
This ostensibly pedestrian confection has achieved haute media coverage in the past decade. Recipes abound online, or you can save yourself the trouble and order from the official unofficial Smith Island Bakery, which can ship the original version of the cake plus gourmet renditions (dark chocolate raspberry, red velvet, and strawberries & cream) to all 50 states.