March 25th is Maryland Day, so I thought this week would be the perfect time to try my hand at a Maryland regional favorite – Smith Island Cake. For those who don’t know, Smith Island cake is a many layered white or yellow cake (or occasionally other flavors) filled with a fudge-like icing. Rich and decadent, it’s the source of local pride for many blue-ribbon bakers, who compete to see who can get the thinnest and most layers on each cake. While the real deal is almost universally made with several round cake pans, I decided to use square tins instead and reduce the layers for ease of assemble.
You, of course, can stick with round pans and more (thinner) layers for authenticity, but you’ll need to watch the layers even more carefully and reduce the cooking time! Want to be really ambitious? Double the recipe and make between 10 and 16 layers! Feel free to use disposable pans, if you have neither many pans nor much patience. To get the cleanest possible cut, you will need a cold cake and a (repeatedly cleaned) dry, hot knife. You can learn more about this cake here.
1 package Better Batter Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk or non dairy sub (we used double strength Van’s Darifree)
1/3 c water
3 Tbsp unsalted butter or non dairy margarine, softened
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
6c Better Batter Corn Free Powdered Sugar
1 stick (1/2 c) unsalted butter or non dairy margarine
1/8 tsp salt
1/4c unsweetened cocoa powder
3 Tbsp evaporated milk or non dairy sub (we used double strength Van’s Darifree)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a cardboard cake board for ease of decorating and set on a wire rack over a baking pan (to catch glaze drips)
Prepare pans by greasing and flouring them with a bit of Better Batter flour, then lining them with parchment paper cut to fit the bottom of the pan..
Note: If you plan on cooking all layers at once (or in quick succession), you’ll need 5 8 inch square or round cake pans. For thinner layers you may use up to 8 pans. If you plan on using only one or two pans, you will need to wash, dry, grease, flour and line the pans between batches.
In a stand mixer or bowl, combine the Better Batter cake mix, the evaporated milk or non dairy sub and water, the softened butter or non dairy margarine, vanilla, salt and eggs. Combine on LOW speed until smooth, then beat on medium low speed until fluffy – about 10 minutes.
FOR 5 LAYER CAKE: Divide batter into pans equally – you will use about 12-13 tbsp per layer
FOR 8 LAYER CAKE: Divide batter into pans equally – you will use about 1/2c (8tbsp) per layer
Spread each layer until the batter covers the bottom of the pan/parchment paper, making sure that the edges of the cake are slightly thicker than the center – this will allow the cake to level itself as it bakes.
Bake each layer until the cake is golden and the edges slightly pull away from the edge of the pan. For the thicker five layer cake, this will take about 10-15 minutes. For the thinner eight layer cake this will take between 8-10 minutes.
Allow each layer to cool for about 5-10 minutes, then prepare the glaze.
Prepare the frosting:
In a small saucepan, combine Better Batter Corn Free Powdered Sugar, butter or margarine, salt, cocoa powder, and evaporated milk or non dairy sub and melt together over medium heat until well combined and smooth, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute, then remove from heat and allow to cool 5 minutes.
Frost the cake: Note – this glaze sets up quickly so if you want a pretty cake, work fast!
Working quickly but carefully, unmold one layer of cake on a platter, removing/peeling away the parchment paper. Top the center of the layer with 1/2 c of the glaze (for 5 layer cake) or 1/4c of the glaze (for 8 layer cake) and use a metal spatula to spread the glaze thinly to the edge of the cake. The glaze will likely drip off the sides, which is just fine and will make ‘glazing’ the sides easier.
Repeat the glazing process with another layer of cake (remembering to remove the parchment paper when you unmold it!) and more glaze until all the cake layers are stacked and there is a small amount of glaze left in the pan – use this to ice the sides of the cake with the spatula if desired.
Allow to cool and set at least 2 to 3 hours before slicing and serving.
Note: this cake is relatively rustic looking. You may want to apply a thin layer of chocolate buttercream icing to ‘gild the lily’ if serving to company.