On April 24, 2008, the state of Maryland declared Smith Island cake its official dessert. This is cake of many layers (8-15) with much variation allowed in the flavours, fillings and frostings and almost as much in the stories of its origin.
It has proved remarkably difficult so far to track down any authentic recipes for a cake which has supposedly been made on the island for at least a century. Perhaps it is the sort of thing that requires some local sleuthing.
I cannot help but notice the similarity in concept between Smith Island cake and several well-known and longstanding traditional European baked goods such as:
- Dutch spekkoek or layered spice cake, which gave rise to the
- Dutch-Indonesian lapis legit.
- German baumkuchen - which is very difficult to make at home as the layers of batter are progressively rolled around a rotating spit, so that the layers resemble tree-rings, and which is surprisingly popular in Japan.
Perhaps the Maryland version is the legacy of an early migrant from one of these European nations? If you have any local knowledge, do please share it with us in the comments.
In the meanwhile, as the detective work goes on in the background, a recipe from an Arizona paper would seem as appropriate as any other, would it not? From the Phoenix Arizona Republic of May 1, 1977, please enjoy the following version of a Dutch spice cake.
(Layered Spice Cake)
2 sticks butter
3 ½ cups powdered sugar
10 egg yolks
8 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla flavored powdered sugar
1⅛ cups flour
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cloves.
1 stick butter for spreading between layers.
Beat butter until creamy. Add sugar. Add 1 yolk at a time, beating thoroughly. Beat whites until stiff. Add to batter. Sprinkle in flour until thoroughly mixed. Use a folding motion for combining ingredients. Do not just stir in.
Divide batter into two equal parts. Add spices to half. Add vanilla sugar to half. Butter a springform pan. Cut a piece of wax paper to fit the bottom of the round pan. Spread a thin layer of vanilla batter on bottom of pan. Bake at 375 degrees 10 minutes. Turn off oven. Cook remaining layers under broiler heat. This cake is a series of thin layers, baked one on top of the other.
After first layer is baked, spread with butter. Spread a thin layer of spiced batter on the baked, buttered, bottom layer. Place the pan at the bottom of the oven. Bake dark layer 3 to 4 minuts. Again, spread butter over the baked layer. Spread with a layer of vanilla batter. Return to the bottom of the oven. Bake 3 to 4 minutes. Continue layering alternately using the two batters and spreading with butter until all the batter is used. There will be about 15 layers. This cake freezws well. Several can be done at once.