January 5, 2015

Traditional Smith Island Cake: An Impressive Treat

Posted by Kayris

In my family, we have three members with birthdays that fall close to a holiday.  My son’s birthday usually falls on or around Labor Day.  My daughter, with her late November birthday, sometimes turns a year older on Thanksgiving Day, and my husband was born six days before Christmas.  It’s important to me that their birthdays not get lost in the shuffle of the busy holiday season.  So each gets to choose a special birthday dinner and whatever kind of birthday cake they want.  (This is how my family knows that I really love them, because I really hate to bake.)

This year, my husband requested Smith Island Cake.  If you haven’t heard of it, Smith Island Cake is the official dessert of the state of Maryland.  Smith Island is in the lower Chesapeake Bay and is only reachable by boat.  The cake consists of eight to ten layers of yellow cake, with thick chocolate frosting between each layer and spread over the top of the entire cake.  We’ve had it at restaurants, but I had never made it from scratch at home.

One of the most important parts of the cake is the layers. They are thin layers baked in round pans and it is vital that they come out of the pan in one piece.  That means a good coating for the pans.  This cake is not difficult to make, but it is labor intensive and messy.  My kitchen was a disaster when it was all over.

Since I used ShopRite olive oil cooking spray to coat my pans, the process of getting the layers out of the pans intact went well.  Since the spray is also calorie and fat free, it didn’t add anything to my already rich dessert.  Baking is stressful for me, and this helped reduce my anxiety.

The family loves the cake and my son has already requested it for his next birthday, so I’ll be sure to have ShopRite olive oil cooking spray around.


recipe source: MD State Archives


2 sticks butter
2-12 oz. cans evaporated milk
8 heaping Tablespoons unsweetened Cocoa
2 lbs. confectioners Sugar

Melt butter. Stir in evaporated milk (off heat).
Whisk in Cocoa until smooth, return to heat and cook for approximately 10 minutes. DO NOT BOIL or Scorch.
Remove from heat and whisk in confectioners sugar slowly.
Cook slowly until thickened and will stick to back of a spoon or to the whisk (It will form a ribbon when you drizzle a spoonful onto mixture while cooking).


2 cups sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks
5 – eggs
3 – cups flour
¼ – teaspoon salt
heaping teaspoon baking powder
1 cup evaporated milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ cup water

Cream together sugar and butter. Add eggs one at a time and beat until smooth. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Mix into egg mixture one cup at a time. With mixer running, slowly pour in the evaporated milk, then the vanilla and water. Mix just until uniform. Put three serving spoonfuls of batter in each of ten 9-inch lightly greased pans, using the back of the spoon to spread evenly. Bake three layers at a time on the middle rack of the oven at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. A layer is done when you hold it near your ear and you don’t hear it sizzle.

Start making the icing when the first layer goes in the oven. Let the layers cool a couple of minutes in the pans. Put the cake together as the layers are finished. Run a spatula around the edge of the pan and ease the layer out of the pan. Use two or three serving spoonfuls of icing between each layer. Cover the top and sides of the cake with the rest of the icing. Push icing that runs onto the plate back onto the cake.

A note on the pans: I borrowed pans from my mom because I only own two round pans. These are the pans that I coated with the ShopRite cooking spray.  Depending on how thick you pour the batter into your pans, you may not get ten layers. My cake had eight.

Kayris layered cake 2

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