Here’s a look at our trip to Smith Island for Smith Island Baking Company…
Imagine a small island accessible only by boat. No police, no local government, no jails. Crab legs and fresh seafood in abundance. Golf carts buzzing around as the primary mode of transportation. The kind of place where nice ladies from the Methodist church remember your birthday and bring you homemade chili in the winter. Sounds serene, right?
Now imagine on this very same island you get to eat to your heart’s content the most amazing cake on earth.
When we ferried our gear 10 miles offshore into the Chesapeake Bay in late July. We had no idea the treat we were in for on Smith Island. And we’re not even talking about the cake—yet! The islanders deserve a blue ribbon for hospitality. They golf-carted us and our gear all over the island, and one glorious evening they loaded us down with 20 pounds of freshly caught soft shell crabs and instructions on how to cook them up for dinner. This kind of treatment would be considerate under any circumstances, but even more so since our visit coincided with soft shell crabbing season—which means 16-hour workdays for many of the island’s 300ish residents.
Like most of life on the island, Smith Island Baking Company owes its existence to the seafood business. Back in the 1800s when men went out on the water for months at a time to harvest oysters, their wives would send cakes to remind them of their families and the community they’d left behind. The bakers took pride in making the cakes with the thinnest possible layers, and they used fudge instead of the traditional buttercream frosting so that the cakes would last longer.
Over the centuries, “Smith Island Cakes” became locally renown and even earned the distinction of being named Maryland’s official state dessert. Then in 2009, a man bought a Smith Island Cake for his mother’s birthday. He was surprised to find out it had been baked on the mainland, and that, in fact, Smith Island itself had no bakeries.
Well, that was that.
Now, three years later, Smith Island Baking Company has shipped their multi-layer melt-in-your-mouth masterpieces to all 50 states and to more than 2,500 cities across the globe.
Since we were there to film a commercial for the Smith Island Baking Company, we felt it was our professional duty to perform multiple taste tests. And yes, the cakes are as delicious as they look.
If you’re curious about Smith Island, you may want to check out journalist Tom Horton’s memoir of life on the island. And if you’re curious about the cakes, you can either make a brave attempt at baking one of your own or, better yet, place an order from Smith Island Baking Company.
All in all, we had a delightful week of filming on Smith Island, and we learned a few things along the way:
1. A community can function well without local government (quite a shock for D.C. residents like us).
2. An 8-layer cake is delicious. A 15-layer cake is even better.
3. Smith Island has not only the yummiest cake on earth, it also has some of the world’s nicest people.