Smith Island Cake Recipe with Ingredients

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Smith Island Cake Recipe. A beloved Maryland tradition, the official Maryland State Dessert is a standout on any table. With its thin layers of delicate yellow cake, each slathered in a decadent schmear of icing, Smith Island cake would be too beautiful to eat…. if it weren’t so darned delicious! Try it with traditional chocolate icing, or a festive cooked coconut topping for a brighter treat.

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smith island cake recipe from scratch

About – Smith Island Cake History

Smith Island Cakes have been hand-baked since the 1800s when ladies on the island would send them with their husbands during the fall oyster harvest season. The cakes were supposed to remind the watermen of the community they had left behind by symbolizing camaraderie and togetherness.

Smith Island Cakes were the ideal way for the watermen’s families to show them how much they were loved and missed, as well as to assure them that they were in their thoughts and prayers for a successful harvest and a safe reunion.

What you’ll need to prepare Smith Island Cake recipes


Layer cake

☐ 2 cups sugar

☐ 2 sticks unsalted butter, chunked

☐ 5 eggs

☐ 3 cups unbleached flour

☐ ¼ teaspoon salt

☐ 1 heaping teaspoon baking powder

☐ 1 cup evaporated milk

☐ 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

☐ ½ cup water

Chocolate Icing

☐ 2 cups sugar

☐ 1 cup evaporated milk

☐ 5 ounces unsweetened chocolate

☐ 1 stick unsalted butter

☐ 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

INGREDIENTS Cooked Coconut Icing

☐ 2½ cups sugar

☐ 2 sticks unsalted butter

☐ 2 cans (12 oz.) evaporated milk

☐ 1 pound flaked coconut

☐ 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS – Layer Cakes

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350° with rack in middle setting. A traditional Smith Island Cake has 8 to 12 layers. Most ovens can fit three 9-inch cake pans, so for a nine-layer cake, bake three layers at a time. Lightly butter three pans, and re-butter after each set.

Step 2: Cream together sugar and butter, add eggs, and beat until smooth with mixer. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder, then add to egg mixture one cup at a time mixing as you go.

Step 3: While beating with mixer, slowly add the evaporated milk, vanilla, and water. Mix until the batter has a smooth, even texture.

Step 4: Put about 2/3 of a cup of the batter into each of the three greased pans spreading evenly across the entire pan. Bake each in the preheated oven for 8 minutes. If you are reusing the pans (We’re guessing you don’t have nine cake pans!), let the layers cool in the pans, then gently remove the layers and set aside while you prepare the next batch. Running a spatula or butter knife around the inside edge can help free the cake. Stack the layers with a generous layer of icing between each cake.

DIRECTIONS – Chocolate Icing

Step 1: While the first cake layers are baking, begin making the icing. In a medium sauce pan, stir evaporated milk and sugar together over low heat until warm. Add chocolate and simmer until melted.

Step 2: Add butter and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 12-15 minutes stirring as needed adding vanilla at the end. Icing will be thin, but thicken as it cools.

Step 3: Try not to eat it all before it gets on the cake. Be prepared for a kitchen kerfuffle over who gets to lick the bowl clean.

DIRECTIONS – Coconut Icing

Step 1: This unexpected treat is surprisingly simple. Combine evaporated milk, butter and sugar in a medium sauce pan and, being careful not to bring to a boil, cook over medium heat until it begins to thicken, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Step 2: Remove from heat, add coconut and vanilla, and stir until the icing stiffens.

Where to buy Smith Island cake

There are several great options where to buy a Smith Island cake on the Eastern Shore, and many of them are quite good.

My favorite place to buy Smith Island cake is Classic Cakes, located in Salisbury, Maryland. They have a wide variety of flavors to choose from and supply cakes for many restaurants throughout the area.

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