In spite of what some of the locals may tell you, there is indeed intelligent life south of the Dewey Beach Corporate city limits. In fact, there are some delectible little gems just a click away in the Other Area Reviews box on this page.
If you venture down to the southern hinterlands and find yourself peckish, a few well-placed clicks might uncover some secrets. And one of those is the Smith Island Cake Co. in West Ocean City.
On October 1, 2008, the Maryland State Legislature established the Smith Island Cake as the Official State Dessert. Sounds like a pretty tasty use of Marylanders' tax dollars. The recipe and proprietary look originated on Maryland's only inhabited island in the Chesapeake Bay, located 12 miles west of Crisfield, MD. Total population is about 400 people and the entire place is only 8 miles by 4 miles.
Because of Smith Island's up-close-and-personal relationship with the Chesapeake, the Smith Island Cake Company is dedicated to the restoration of the Bay's estuaries and ecosystem in general. Buy a cake, a cupcake or even a Cappuccino, and some of that money will go to environmental initiatives like the Coastal Bay Foundation. OK, that's all very nice, and we all love the Chesapeake Bay, but it all comes down to this: Are the cakes good?
So exactly what makes a cake a Smith Island Cake? The main distinguishing feature (other than the fact that it's sold at a store of the same name) is the 8-12 pencil-thin layers, stratified by rich icing. My favorite, hands down, is the Electric Red Velvet cake [pictured, right]. Now, those of you who have been granted access to Mission Control know that I make a pretty good Red Velvet Cake. Theirs is better -- and don't think that I'm not a little miffed. The complex taste (brought about in part by the reaction among vinegar, baking soda and cocoa powder). There's no vinegar taste, it's not too sweet, and it tastes like ... well, for lack of a better word ... velvet. They usually sell slices at Rehoboth's annual Sea Witch Festival in October, so let me know what you think.
The original SIC [pictured, left] is a yellow cake with chocolate fudge separating the wafer-thin layers. According to Laura, our behind-the-counter tour guide, the creators of the original cake (out there on that island) used monofilament (fishing line) to carefully slice the standard circular cake layer into 3 or 4 very thin circular cake layers [though Wendy, a site visitor, took exception to that in a comment posted below]. There are tools for doing that very thing (I have one, of course) and the easiest gadget to use is the one that looks like a tall hacksaw, but with a tiny silver wire where the blade would be. It takes practice.
In order to facilitate production, Laura tells me that the layers are now baked to that thickness (poured into a regular cake pan and spun until the batter evenly covers the bottom of the pan). Cool huh? They also sell mini-cakes [pictured, right and below left] designed to serve two people (or one-and-a-half Foodies). There are Smith Island cupcakes (including the red velvet and the deliciously iced coconut). Note the originals with cherries on top [pictured, left]. Now just how cute are they!?!
It's hard to believe, but they ship these things all over the world. I won't tell you about the debacle that ensued the first (and last) time I tried to ship a cake. It arrived at its destination looking very much like a big thick milkshake-in-a-box. Still tasted good, but it wouldn't have won any beauty contests. They've solved that problem by freezing the cake, sliding it into a form-fitting tin and surrounding the tin with cold packs. Thin dowels inserted vertically into the cake (just push a little icing over the tiny holes when it thaws) keep the lid from contacting the top of the icing (sort of like those little 3-legged doohickies that sit on your delivery pizza to keep the box top away from your cheese).
I have tried over and over (who loves ya, baby?) to find something there that doesn't taste good. I will unselfishly continue to order slice after slice, carefully evaluating each one from start to finish in a desperate attempt to uncover something wrong with these darn things.
Smith Island Cakes is located at 12741 Ocean Gateway, Unit 916, in the Ocean Gateway Shopping Center about a minute west of the Rt. 50 drawbridge at the south end of OC. I suggest you check their hours by calling (877) 760-2253.
You can see even more by going to www.originalsmithislandcakeco.com. Skip the trek to OC by ordering one through the Giant Food in Rehoboth Beach. Laura says that the manager will be happy to facilitate the process.