Sunday, March 22, 2009

Something Sweet for your Sunday

An extra long post. If you don't have a lotta time to read, get to the photos.

Every state lays claim to symbols that represent their cultures and histories. I came from Georgia, where they have everything from a state bird (the Brown Thrasher) to a state possum (the Pogo possum).

Maryland is the 42nd largest state, and they have laid claim to a lotta symbols:

State bird: Baltimore Oriole
State flower: Black-eyed Susan (we have a lot of those in Georgia!)
State Tree: White Oak
State Fish: Rockfish
Insect: Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly
Dog: Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Crustacean: Maryland Blue Crab (yum!)
Sport: Jousting
Cat: Calico (We have one of those!)
Fossil Shell: Ecphora gardnera gardnera or the Wilson
Dinosaur: Astrodon (early Cretaceous period, from 95 to 130 million years ago)
Drink: Milk
Boat: Skipjack
Excercise: Walking
Folk Dance: Square Dancing (that sounds like a Georgia thing)
Gem: Patuxent River Stone
Reptile: Diamondback Terrapin
Horse: Thoroughbred Horse
Song: Maryland, My Maryland
Theater: State Theater and the Center State Theater

Now you are thinking, "I don't see anything sweet about stones and theaters."

Last year, the Smith Island cake became our official state dessert.

The Smith Island cake was "cooked up" on the tiny waterman island (the only offshore inhabited island in the state), a 40 minute boat ride from Crisfield. Visitors can take the mail boat or tour boat, and go back in time to the island where Captain John Smith landed, around 1580-1631. Check out the history and put it on your day trip calendar the next time you visit Crisfield.

I don't think anyone knows the true origin of the cake. The residents can't remember a time when there was no Smith Island cake. And most think the recipe was brought to the island by the settlers.

While the waterman were out working the bay, the women stayed home, and there was plenty of time for them to work on the up to 12 layer cakes. The residents say the cake started with 4 layers, but competition among the women made it grow in size. Most of the layers now are around 8-10, but you can always request 12.

On the island, the tradition still continues. Today, there are several Maryland bakeries that make the delicate cakes.

My local favorite is The Sweet Shop in Crisfield. The owners are from Smith Island.

The cakes are made from scratch, the paper thin layers are baked separately (not sliced from larger cakes). Nothing but the best ingredients are used in the making of the cakes. The icing, also made from scratch, is divine. My grandmother could not make icing like that.

The Sweet Shop is expanding, and moving to a larger building. They are working on mail order catalog sales, but you don't have to wait for that. They have been shipping cakes all over the country for some time.

Now, as to not get myself in trouble, you can have Smith Island cakes shipped from other bakeries, and from Smith Island itself. They are all yummy. But the Sweet Shop is just a hop skip and a jump from my house (and this is a Crisfield, Maryland blog), so I am totally addicted to their cakes.

Nina, the manager who makes my cakes, always leaves me wanting for more. Last year, I took Nina a big bag of figs from our fig trees and had her make me two Smith Island cakes (a coconut and a chocolate cake with my figs). I am not sure if anyone has ever made a Smith Island chocolate or coconut fig cake before, but those were two mouth-watering cakes.

Try throwing a bag of fruit at your local bakery and telling them to make something up! I love small towns. People know how to improvise.
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Chocolate cake with white layers is one of the traditional flavors. I like to do it up right and order chocolate layers.

Below are photos of a banana cake being iced



This is manager Nina Gallion with the completed cake standing next to a chocolate cake. She knows how to make cakes!
Cakes waiting to be shipped out.
The small store front that will soon be vacated. They are moving to a large building, a few miles up the road.

11 comments:

Marilyn said...

OMGoodness.... I'm dizzy from the sugar-rush just reading this & lookin' at the pictures!! Yum-m-m-m....It would almost be worth the trip from NE Pa to get some!! (Gotta' have some seafood too!!
Thanks for the pics!!
Marilyn

Butler and Bagman said...

Not that long a post. And, dang, you make me realize how little I use my camera. I need to things like walk into a store and take pictures. Although Friday, driving home, I started taking "Pictures from FU" Fu Manchu is my car, probably visible as my identity photo. Named from the song, "Live like you were dying". So far just shots of traffic.

Patty said...

Marilyn: Sugar rush. Yes. The good thing about this cake is that it goes a long way. One teeny little slice with satisfy your sugar cravings.

Come on over. Crab season starts April 1. It has been so cold, I'm not sure how far those little buggers have dug themselves into the mud.

Noelle said...

mmmmm, I think I need to stop in Crisfield on my way home to NY this summer...if only for the cakes!

Patty said...

They can pack it up for you so it won't melt.

Give a yell if you pass through. But give yourself an extra few hours to check out our town. You will have your own personal tour guide.

CASEDILLA said...

This is by far the worst post EVER to read when you're on a diet!! Hahaha, my mouth is watering uncontrolably. They look like perfectly sized pancakes. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

My friend will be glad to hear that our state drink is milk, :D

The Pink Bird House said...

YUMMMMYYYY!! I am drooling over it. I could have used one of those cakes for the birthday party yesterday! I think it is time for me to get on back home to the states for a visit, and guess where I plan to drop by, yup, that sweet shop for a slice of that cake. thanks for the post, and the tip-off!! :-)

Barry said...

What a wonderful mouthwatering post! I've never seen a cake like that. It's like the dream of the ultimate dessert come true!

Michelle said...

You make small town life look so appealing!

GingerV said...

I hae a distant memory when I looked at your photos, like I have had something simular... layer were a bit thicker and between each layer homemad jam.... a grandmother perhaps - oh god 50 years ago?

Patty said...

Casedilla: They do come out looking like pancakes. And they put them together masterfully. I can't bake a box cake, so making and putting together all those layers is kind of magical to me.

Pink Bird House: When you get to the states, they can send you one. Well worth it for special occasions like Easter, Mother's Day, Christmas. I love their Valentine's cakes. They are heart shaped!

Barry: I had never seen a cake like that either until we moved to Maryland.

Michelle: I love a small town, especially Crisfield. Everyone knows you, and it is so nice to go out and have everyone wave and honk their horns. Especially the horn part. People are happy to see you, not trying to nudge you out of their way. LOL.

GingerV: Maybe something in your genes. If the stories are right those cakes come over with the first Smith Island settlers, some 500 years ago.