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How to Make a Smith Island Cake

If you have ever tasted a Smith Island cake, you know what an amazing treat it can be. Multiple layers of moist, buttery cake and fudgey, chocolatey goodness layered on top and throughout.

You know what they say...the only thing better than cake is more cake. And Smith Island Cake is the type of dessert that makes you want more.

What is the history of the Smith Island Cake?

People have been making Smith Island Cakes for generations. The true origins of this delicacy are unknown but some trace it back to the English and Welsh settlers of the island in the 1600s.

There are also many rumors and stories about the origin and about the amount of layers - but we will allow you to visit Smith Island and speak to the locals yourself.

Known mostly by residents of Smith Island, Maryland and the visitors to this tiny island in the Chesapeake Bay, this cake has been brought to national prominence in recent years. It is now the official dessert of the state of Maryland.

Where is Smith Island?

Smith Island is Maryland’s only inhabited offshore island in the Chesapeake Bay, It is a 400-year-old fishing village with only 250 residents located 10 miles offshore and accessible only by boat.

Watermen have been harvesting blue crabs, oysters and several varieties of fish from the waters around the island for centuries.

Smith Island is like a place lost in time. It may be hard to reach, but that makes it so much more worthwhile. There’s no hurry here, and that’s good because there are only 3 cars on the island.

It’s the kind of place where you spend the afternoon sitting by the dock watching the watermen come in. One other thing that makes this tiny island so special is that it is the birthplace of the absolutely delicious Smith Island Cake.

How Does Smith Island Cake Taste?

A Smith Island Cake tastes like heaven. Seriously. This multi-layer traditional chocolate cake is so rich, moist and delicious. It has quickly become a favorite of celebrities and everyday people across the country.

The Smith Island Cake is made up of many thin pancake-like layers of yellow cake that are separated by a layer of decadent chocolate ganache frosting.

The traditional Smith Island Cake is butter-flavored with fudge icing. However, bakeries on Smith Island and Maryland’s Eastern Coast have begun to buck tradition and making cakes with flavors like lemon, pumpkin, and even red velvet.

If you are really lucky, you’ll get to taste the matriarch of Smith Island cakes, Mary Ada Marshall, who continues to welcome groups into her kitchen for baking lessons as well as bake and ship cakes around the world.

If you can’t get one of Mary Ada’s cakes, maybe you can make one of your own! Check it out!

Smith Island Cake Recipe

Cake Ingredients

  • 1 cup water

  • 4 eggs

  • 1/3 vegetable oil

  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk

  • 1/2 stick butter (softened)

  • 1 box yellow cake mix


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly butter or spray 8 pans with non-stick cooking spray.

  2. Mix ingredients and beat until smooth with an even texture.

  3. Put an even amount of the batter into each of the greased pans, making sure it is spread across the entire pan. Bake four on each rack in the preheated oven for 8 minutes.

  4. Run a spatula around the inside edge of each pan. Stack the layers with a generous, even layer of icing between each cake layer.

Smith Island Frosting Recipe


  • 1 box confectioners sugar

  • 1/2 cup helping Hershey’s cocoa

  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk

  • 1 stick unsalted butter


  1. In a medium saucepan, stir evaporated milk and confectioners sugar together over low heat until warm.

  2. Add chocolate slowly and simmer until melted.

  3. Add butter and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for about 12 minutes until the mixture bubbles around the edge of the plan. Stir as needed. Icing thickens as it cools so get it on the cake quickly.


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