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Unconventional Diner - credit Simo.jpg
At Unconventional Diner, pastry chef Ana Deshaies crosses a carrot cake with Smith Island cake. (Image: Simo Ahmadi/ Photography by Simo)

Level up: 9 Smith Island cakes paying homage to the Maryland tradition

As the legend goes, well over a century ago, the wives of watermen on Smith Island in Chesapeake Bay sought to devise a dessert that would stay fresh when their husbands were out at sea. They ultimately created the isle’s namesake cake, which intersperses eight or more thin layers of yellow cake with fudgy chocolate icing. Now pastry chefs are putting their spins on the towering treat, which became Maryland’s official state dessert in 2008.

Unconventional Diner

Pastry chef Ana Deshaies crosses a carrot cake with Smith Island cake. Pineapple sweetens the cake, while citrus adds a subtly tart edge. The thick ginger frosting features a mix of mascarpone and cream cheese.


There’s a Middle Eastern vibe to this interpretation of the Old Line State classic. Dark chocolate ganache sheaths slender layers of brown butter sponge cake interspersed with raspberry jam and sweet pistachio hummus. It’s served with medjool date ice cream.

Smith Island Baking Company

Many Marylanders consider this the OG. That’s because it’s crafted on Smith Island by homegrown bakers whose families have been making it for generations. There are a variety of flavors beyond the iconic iteration, including chocolate peanut butter, cooked coconut, strawberry cream, red velvet, and vanilla buttercream.

SugarBakers Cakes

The team at Reese’s would love this cake. There’s the usual yellow cake and fudge icing, but then the bakers stud it with melted peanut butter cups. There’s no wrong way to eat a slice.

Silver Diner

They take their Smith Island cake seriously here. Each kitchen manager gets to weigh in on what flavors will be offered. Options have included lemon cream, caramel cream, red velvet, chocolate peanut butter, strawberry cream, carrot, and cooked coconut.

Rusty Scupper

You may want to share this whopping wedge. Standing 16 layers tall, it features alternating levels of yellow cake and chocolate fudge icing, and is accompanied by ice cream, whipped, cream, and berry compote. On second thought, we won’t judge if you eat it all by yourself.

Loch Bar

A triangular tower of cake is an impressive 17 layers high. It’s made with the traditional combo of yellow cake and chocolate ganache. Every bite is a reminder why this dessert is a stone cold classic.

Old Maryland Grill

Take a picture before you take a bite. This Instagram-worthy iteration packs plenty of fudgy icing in between tender layers of cake. It arrives with a quenelle of chocolate ice cream and a dollop of crème fraiche.


Both the D.C. and the Bethesda location have a double chocolate Smith Island cake on offer. Get it solo or a la mode. Either way, you’re in for a treat.