Thursday, June 3, 2010

Smith Island Cake

Maryland has a state dinosaur (it's the astrodon in case you were wondering). We also have a state exercise (walking), not one but two state sports (jousting and the team sport is lacrosse), a state boat (the skipjack), a state crustacean (the blue crab, of course) and as of October 1, 2008, we have a state dessert, the Smith Island Cake. 10 layers of yellow cake with chocolate icing, containing nearly half a dozen eggs, a pound of butter, 2 pounds of powdered sugar, and almost 3 cans of evaporated milk, this cake is not for the faint of heart. Or diabetics. But for everyone else, this almost seussical (as in something out of a Dr. Seuss book) cake is delicious. It is quite the cake, certainly not an everyday cake, and so I had been waiting for an excuse to make it for awhile. But thank goodness my sister moved home, bringing a gentleman friend who had never really been to Maryland before with her, and just like that I found my excuse. This is an intense cake but it isn't all that difficult to make. The worst part for me was the icing, but a good deal of that has to do with my lack of patience and not wanting to wait for it to cool before slapping the cake together, resulting in a topsy turvy creation; which I remedied with several strategically placed skewers. The recipe can be found here.

Like most good things, it starts with butter. And sugar.

Next you beat in the eggs, one at time. All 5 of them.

Then you sift together your dry ingredients, which you then slowly add to the butter and sugar and eggs. Once the flour is in you don't want to over mix the batter, heaven forbid it gets tough, it's one thing to have one or two over-mixed layers, but when you have nine or ten it's a whole other ball game, each layer raises expectations.

Add your liquids, evaporated milk, water and whatnot, and mix it until it is uniform. The batter will be wet, don't be alarmed.

Split the batter between your lightly greased pans. I would recommend using those disposable cake pans as it will make you life much easier, unless of course you happen to have 10 matching cake pans hanging around your house. It will be easier to split the batter evenly, and you won't have to wait for the layers to cool and wash the pans before popping the next layers in the oven.

Bake the layers in sets of three, it takes about 9 minutes a set. You can tell a layer is done by listening to it, which sounds like one of those ridiculous things you sometimes find in recipes, but it actually works. If you hold the cake up to your ear and it's not done you will hear it sizzle, when it is done it is quiet. The change happens fast, you check it once and then thirty seconds later all is quiet. I honestly don't know how I would have told when it was done otherwise.

When the cake is done it's time for the icing. You basically mix melted butter, evaporated milk, cocoa powder and powdered sugar together and cook it over moderate heat until it thickens some. Then you wait, until your icing cools.

Once the icing cools you can put it all together. Start with a layer of cake.

Grab your icing.

And spoon some onto the cake. The recipe calls for two or three serving spoonfuls of icing, if you figure out what that is, let me know. Anything that oozes out between the layers can always be pushed up onto the sides, or puddle on the plate in a delicious goopy pile.

Repeat until you run out of cake.

Ta da!! Doesn't it look funny? Part of that is due to the scalloped edges of the disposable cake pans, which I thought was an interesting choice on the part of the manufacturer. This was about the time I started to explain about how I had never made this before and that I am generally a much better baker than this and so on...

...but then I cut into it and it looked just like the picture (you know, minus the skewers), and all was well in the world.