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smith island maryland cake recipes

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Smith Island Treasure
Ten Layer Cake

Courtesy of The Baltimore Sun Newspaper.
Sun photo by Lloyd Fox, 2008

The Smith Island Cake was designated Maryland's state dessert in 2008.

This confection that traditionally is made up of eight to 10 pencil-thin layers of yellow cake separated by sweet chocolate frosting has become an important part of Smith Island's culture. Historically, the cake was "made from the stump" or from scratch by Smith Islanders. Nobody is really sure who first developed the concept of the Smith Island Cake, though Frances Kitching, the great doyenne of Smith Island cookery, is credited with making the first one. These days, most of the island's cooks prefer to make their cakes using a boxed mix as the base. However, during a taste test for both methods; the 'from scratch' cake had the better flavor. We could have told them that!

Cake Layers

1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 1/4 cups whole milk, plus more if needed
2 boxes Duncan Hines butter-cake mix
2 sticks butter
8 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla


2 sticks butter
two 12-ounce cans evaporated milk
8 heaping tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 pounds confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees when ready to bake.

1. Mix evaporated milk and enough whole milk to make 2 3/4 cups.
2. Place cake mixes, butter, eggs, vanilla and half of the milk mixture in a large mixing bowl.
3. Stir very slowly to blend. Mix on low speed for approximately 5 minutes.
4. Add the rest of the milk mixture and blend on medium-high speed for 10 minutes or until the batter has a smooth cake consistency. (In 10 minutes, batter will form ribbons).
5. Spray ten 9-inch cake pans.
6. Spread 1 cup of cake batter into each of the pans evenly. Bake 10 minutes (will slightly brown and pull away from sides of pan). Repeat this until you have 10 layers.

To make the icing:

7. Melt the butter.
8. Stir in evaporated milk (off heat).
9. Whisk in cocoa until smooth, return to heat and cook for approximately 10 minutes. Do not boil or scorch.
10. Remove from heat and whisk in confectioners' sugar slowly.
11. Return icing to low heat and cook slowly, stirring often, until icing has thickened and will stick to back of spoon or whisk (it will form a ribbon when you drizzle a spoonful onto mixture while cooking). This will take at least 45 minutes to an hour.
12. To assemble the cake, spread 1 slightly cooled layer with cooled frosting.
13. Add next layer and repeat the process until the 10th layer. Finish by frosting cake top and sides.