A Cornish girl's food adventures

Smith Island cake

Smith Island cake

I recently discovered that some of the American states have an official ‘state dessert’ so obviously I had to look up what Maryland’s was. Turns out it’s this towering cake made up of thin layers of vanilla sponge and chocolate fudge icing. I was kind of hoping that it would just be chocolate chip cookies.
It (apparently) hails from an area with a lot of Cornish heritage so seeing as I’ve shared a Cornish dessert this month for St Piran’s Day I thought I would share this for Maryland Day. And yes I was a little daunted by it.
This is not a cake to be embarked upon without some serious consideration. Unless you have a huge oven and happen to own 8-10 identical cake tins it’s going to take you quite some time. You’re also going to need a very large mixing bowl for this one and preferably a stand mixer. My poor long-suffering hand mixer really started to struggle as I got to the end of mixing the batter. I will be glad to get back to my Kenwood Chef when I return to the U.K this summer!

Smith Island cake
That’s not to say that this cake isn’t worth the effort. It’s not actually complicated to make and the results are certainly impressive. I was surprised that it wasn’t more sickly (there’s a lot of sugar in this) but I suppose with it being quite tall you’re inclined to only eat a thin sliver.

I realise that the golden syrup in the icing isn’t very American but I find that it gives it much shinier finish than just using sugar.


sponge layers
225g butter (soft)
400g sugar
5 eggs
400g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
250ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
chocolate fudge icing
100g golden syrup
200g sugar
250ml evaporated milk
100g butter
100g dark chocolate, chopped

Smith Island cake

Pre-heat your oven to 180°c and grease and line as many identical 8″ cake tins as you can get your hands on.
Using a very large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until it is quite fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition.
Sift in the flour and baking powder, a third at a time, and beat well. Continue to beat at a slow speed and gradually pour in the milk and the vanilla, leaving you with a thick, smooth batter.
Spoon the batter equally into the prepared tins, I used about 150g of batter for each layer. Spread the batter quite thinly and smooth off the tops. If like me you only have a couple of sandwich tins to work with then keep the remaining batter in the fridge whilst the layers are baking. Bake the sponges for 15 minutes. They probably won’t brown but they should be cooked through. Turn each sponge out onto a wire rack to cool whilst you bake the remaining layers. You can stack them up with sheets of grease-proof paper if you start to run out of space.
Once you have 8-10 layers of sponge baked and ready to go, you can get started on the icing.

Smith Island cake
Combine the syrup, evaporated milk and sugar in a large pan and stir together over a moderate heat. Keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture starts to bubble. Allow it to continue to bubble for a few minutes, like making fudge.
Reduce the heat a little and add the chocolate and butter. Stir them in so that they melt into the mixture and then let it come to boiling point again. Boil the mixture for a few minutes more and then, once it has thickened to the consistency of chocolate sauce remove it from the heat.
Leave the mixture to cool so that it is just warm and then beat it well. It should have thickened and become spreadable by now. Place a layer of the sponge onto a serving plate or cake stand and then spread on a thin layer of icing. continue to build up the layers finishing the cake by spreading the remaining icing over the top and sides. Pop the cake in the fridge so that the icing can set before serving.

Smith Island cake

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