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Maryland: Smith Island Cake~

2 min read

Here we are:

This delicious island is known for its refined layer cakes!
Smith Island is less and less inhabited. Once populated by over 800 people, the Methodist community twelve miles off the coast of Maryland now has fewer than 200 residents. The remaining men work mostly in a dwindling seafood industry, even as the coastline erodes and water levels rise. And the women from this remote place make something glamorous and delicious: Smith Island Cake!

Grandmothers on the quiet island assemble this elegant dessert using 8-12 layers of yellow dough. They sandwich cooked chocolate icing in between each fluffy layer, then use more of the same fudgy frosting to cover the cake. The exterior is simply and uniform, never decorated. Cutting a slice, however, reveals the sweet, alternating stripes of creamy chocolate and eggy cake.

Between them, Mary Ada Marshall is known like the Smith Island Cake lady. She bakes up to 10 of the many-layered delights per day, and her business operates entirely by word of mouth. Like most women who prepare this cake, the tradition come from her family. Modern mainland pastry chefs create all sorts of variations on the classic cake, some of which more closely resemble a New Orleans doberge cake (but this is another story!). Food gourmets even suspect the two cakes had the same Hungarian ancestor, despite Smith Island’s relative isolation….

Mary Ada Marshall, New York Times

In October of 2008, Maryland made Smith Island Cake its official dessert. The fudgy yellow cake happens to pair perfectly with the state’s official drink: milk. It’s possible to try the duo in its place of origin, but make haste! Even if the production made in Maryland is timeless, the culture of its off-shore homeland may not have a whole lot of time left. Bakeries around Maryland and Delaware are most likely to make Smith Island Cakes, and some restaurants offer a slice of them. But If you live outside the region, you can always order a whole one from Mary Ada Marshall herself! Below her adress:

Mary Ada Marshall’s
PO Box 665, Tylerton, Smith Island, Maryland, 21866, United States
She mails cakes anywhere also by boat. She also offers traditional island layer cake baking demonstrations in her home. Phone number: 410-425-2023

Sources: Msa.Maryland.gov, Cbsnews, SmithIsland.org, Nytimes.com
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