A cake made for sharing
We’re all proud of our home states, aren’t we? Well, “proud” could sometimes be interchanged with “protective.” No state or county or town is without its issues, but hearing a negative comment about it is like a bully picking on your sibling: you can make fun of that bum, but if anyone else does? Well.
In that vein, I’m a proud Marylander who happily sings the praises of everything from our seafood to our scenery to our awesome state flag. I recently came home with a windsock bearing the iconic coat of arms of one George Calvert, Lord Baltimore, and asked my husband to hang it on the porch.
Spencer looked at it skeptically.
“It’s for Oliver!” I said, gesturing to our toddler. “He loves looking out the window. I thought it would give him something to watch.”
This was true, of course — just not the whole story. But it did help justify the dumb amount of money I paid for something emblazoned with the Maryland flag instead of just buying the flag itself. Spencer saw right through me, of course; I’m just Old Line State crazy.
I’m never more ridiculous or smug than when I’m educating non-Marylanders on the glories of our fair state. My friend Tiffany can hardly be called an outsider, being from Bowie and all, but she was born in New York — so I often take it upon myself to introduce her to my favorite delicacies. Enter: Smith Island Cake. If you haven’t experienced the sublime pleasure of Maryland’s official state dessert, I suggest you start plotting how you’ll fix that. You could make one yourself, of course, as a good friend once did — even bringing a slice for us to squabble over at work. Baking is one of my favorite pastimes, and I make a pretty wicked Key lime cupcake. But I would never attempt this on my own.
It’s eight to 15 layers, to start. And these layers are so thin that, before baking, each pan is filled with only a few tablespoons of batter. The cooled cakes are then stacked with frosting in between and finished with a perfectly slight amount, too. The result? Magic.
The classic Smith Island creation is yellow cake with fudge frosting, described as “the original” by an island-based bakery. The kind I first had was actually caramel with yellow cake, and that’s the one I can’t get out of my head.
Tiffany and I talked about getting a belated birthday lunch together, and the choice was left to me. I went online to drool over menus. When I stumbled upon a Waldorf diner’s “We have Smith Island Cake!”style pronouncement, though, the browsing was officially over. I slammed the laptop lid, grabbed my keys and yanked Tiffany out by the arm.
OK — not quite. It was actually a day too early. And she drove, given my ancient but mostly-reliable car had a flat tire. But still! It all only served to build the anticipation.
Because I’m too lazy to make a Smith Island Cake from scratch, I’m more than happy to pay for a pricey slice elsewhere. Tucked into a booth on a weekday afternoon, I was tempted to bypass lunch completely and just order the cake. Thankfully, my bathroom scale sent me a creepy text at the last minute: ”I know what you weighed this morning.”
Now in my early thirties, I know I can’t afford to make the youthful mistakes — or dietary choices — I once did. After having my son, my lingering blood pressure concerns were enough to make my doctor raise not one but both her eyebrows. When we talked about longterm issues, I remember stalling.
“I mean, aren’t I a little young to officially have high blood pressure?” I asked.
“You’re not that young,” the doctor said politely. Ouch. The thing is . . . she was right. I was 30, after all — and I’m even older now. My days of eating ice cream for breakfast and shunning vegetables are long over. I’m a pretty clean eater about, oh, 70 percent of the time.
Last Wednesday was definitely the other 30 percent.
When the slice of Smith Island Cake arrived, I showed remarkable self-restraint and geniality by handing one of two spoons to Tiffany. It was yellow cake with lemon filling, not chocolate — a minor disappointment that lasted only until I lapped up the raspberry drizzle. Sometimes it’s good to try new things.
My native New Yorker friend was pleased. I was pleased, too — especially because I didn’t have to pay to have this thing shipped overnight to me.
Because they’ll do that, you know.
Not that I’ve researched anything.