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Smith Island 10-Layer Cake

The state dessert of Maryland
Smith Island 10-Layer Cake recipe - The Daily Meal
Katherine Frey/Baltimore Sun

Smith Island Cake consists of a whopping 10 layers of yellow cake iced with chocolate fudge frosting in between each layer. This traditional dessert comes from Smith Island, which lies off Maryland's coast in the Chesapeake Bay. The origins of this regional treat remain unknown, but some attribute it to the English and Welsh who settled the island in the late 1600s. Local residents say this dessert, sometimes called “Frosting with the Cake,” has just always been around.

This recipe is adapted from a recipe by marylandtraditions.org and was originally published in The Baltimore Sun.

Ready in
4 h and 45 m
30 m
(prepare time)
4 h and 15 m
(cook time)
Calories Per Serving


  • 3 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk, plus more if needed
  • 2 boxes butter-cake mix, such as Duncan Hines
  • 4 sticks butter, divided
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 Teaspoons vanilla
  • 8 heaping tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 Pounds confectioners' sugar


Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Step 2: Mix 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk and enough whole milk to make 2 3/4 cups. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 boxes of cake mix, 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter, 8 eggs, 2 teaspoons vanilla and half of the evaporated milk-whole milk mixture. Stir very slowly to blend. With an electric mixer, mix on low speed for approximately 5 minutes.

Step 3: Add the rest of the milk mixture and blend on medium-high speed for 10 minutes or until the batter has a smooth cake consistency. (In 10 minutes, the batter will form ribbons).

Step 4: Spray 10 (9-inch) cake pans. Spread 1 cup of cake batter into each of the pans evenly. Bake each cake for 10 minutes (they will slightly brown and pull away from sides of pan). Repeat this until you have 10 layers.

Step 5: To make the icing: In a large saucepan, melt 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter. Take pan off the heat and stir in 2 cans evaporated milk. Whisk in 8 heaping tablespoons unsweetened cocoa until smooth. Return pan to heat and cook for approximately 10 minutes. Do not boil or scorch.

Step 6: Remove from heat and whisk in 2 pounds confectioners' sugar slowly. Return icing to low heat and cook slowly, stirring often, until icing has thickened and will stick to back of spoon or whisk (it will form a ribbon when you drizzle a spoonful onto mixture while cooking). This will take at least 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Step 7: To assemble the cake, spread 1 slightly cooled cake layer with cooled frosting. Add next layer and repeat the process until the 10th layer. Finish by frosting cake top and sides.