The Inn of Silent Music is attractive, wonderfully decorated in seaside trinkets and old school appeal. It has a completely decked out country kitchen for Linda to work her culinary magic.We had a filling breakfast every morning of nutmeg and honey yogurt, homemade granola, fresh fruit, corn cakes, frittata, crab cakes, and special foods for special people like me (including gluten free/dairy free biscuits that were to die for). In the evenings, we enjoyed gently pan fried local soft shelled crab, a crab dip using freshly picked crab, rockfish baked in parchment topped with delicate olive tapenade, and fresh corn succotash. Dessert was baked fruit over ice cream or Smith Island Layer Cake, the newly appointed state dessert of Maryland. I would not and cannot say anything unpleasant about our stay at the Inn of Silent Music. Linda and Rob are a magical addition to this enchanting island.
The Inn of Silent Music also provides kayaks, canoes and bikes to help visitors enjoy all Smith island has to offer. The winding marshes are a kayaker’s dream with places to come ashore and artfully dig through the wet earth to find trinkets from the past.
We spent the weekend talking to our fellow inn-mates, kayaking, walking, biking, eating, gazing at the endless water views, and reading Tom Horton’s novel about Smith Island called An Island Out of Time. We were also lucky enough to meet Tom since he was guiding the photography workshop, and doing his best to help them capture the natural essence of the island. Like many who have spent time there, he is in love with the island and it shows.
The culinary highlight of our trip was spending the afternoon at Mary Ada Marshall’s house where she exploited her unreserved charm, local accent, and spitball sense of humor to make us feel at home while she showed us how to make an eight layer Smith Island Cake. Mary Ada is the Cake Lady herself, and takes great pride in her towering sugary creations. She is the trust worthy keeper of Smith Island traditions and a Jack-of-all-trades. She wakes at 3:00 am every morning to help her waterman husband Dwight. Then she takes care of her beautiful home, picks crabs at the Co-Op, builds giant crab cakes for the Drum Point Market, and pumps out perfect Smith Island layer cakes like nobody's business.
For many Marylanders, a slice of this decadent layer cake is the only piece of the island they know. After spending a long weekend basking in the island’s glow, I can without a doubt say they make the best cakes, I made many new friends, and my heart is that much more filled because of them.
Transcribed by Zoe on July 28, 2012
- 1 box of Duncan Hines classic “Yellow Cake” mix. (Do not substitute with “All Butter” and do not use Betty Crocker brand)
- a pinch of salt
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- ¼ c. Carnation evaporated milk (use the “good stuff”)
- ¼ c. tap water
- 1 c. water
- 1/3 c. vegetable oil – “any kind of oil except peanut”
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Use cooking spray to coat the bottoms and sides of 8 aluminum 8” cake pans. Do not flour the pans. Mary Ada hints: do not use butter because that makes the cakes porous, and they would suck up the liquid, which you do not want to do in this cake.The butter would also make the cakes pull away from the sides. The cake pans must be identical so that the cakes are the same dimensions.
- Put the eggs into a bowl of your electric standing mixer. Mix up the eggs for a minute. Combine the ¼ c. evaporated milk and the ¼ c. water together and then add to the bowl. Add the 1 c. water. Add half the box of cake mix, then the other half after a minute. Let it mix for 8 - 10 minutes.
- Using her mother’s silver berry spoon, she spooned 1 ½ spoonfuls of batter into each pan. Then she went back and “steals from one to another” until they are all equal. “Make sure you push the batter out to the sides of the pan.” The first one has a little more than it needs, the last 2 have a little less than they need. “I always go back to the first one and steal a little for the last one.”
- Put the cakes into the oven all at the same time. Bake for 8-10 minutes until you see “a little brown edge.”
- Take the cakes out of the oven and let them cool.
Mary Ada Marshall’s Chocolate Cooked Frosting
- Into a large sauce pan add the following:
- 1 lb. 10X confectioner’s sugar
- 3 heaping spoonfuls “plus a tad more” of Hershey’s dry powdered cocoa
- ½ c. Carnation evaporated milk
Mix it until well blended and consistent in color and texture – about 5 minutes.
6 T. or ¾ stick of unsalted butter
Turn on the stove on High and start stirring, and keep stirring
“Let ‘er rip” til the butter is melted, with no visible streaks of butter.
Then “2-3 whips extra”. Turn off the heat, but leave the frosting in the pot. Stir it occasionally while you are in the process of assembling the cake, once a minute or so, so that it doesn’t start to harden up.
First, put a tiny bit of frosting on the plate or whatever you are putting the cake on. This is “Baker’s Glue.”
“Walk your hand under it” around the edge of the cake until you have your whole hand under it, and pick it up and put center it on the plate. (As each of the layers 2-8 is added, it must be centered on top of others perfectly).
Spread a modest and equal amount of frosting on each layer, keeping enough to use for the top and the sides which should be a slightly thicker layer than the frosting in between layers.
Spread frosting with a firm hand, and spread frosting all the way out to the edges all the way around.Use a firm hand to push down and around on the cakes. Spin as the frosting is added to the sides.
Mary Ada Marshall’s Cream Cheese Frosting
Mix an 8oz block of cream cheese with
2 lbs. 10X sugar
No vanilla extract unless you don’t care about keeping it white. “Vanilla extract turns the color.”
Flavors Mary Ada Bakes and Ships:
- Classic Chocolate “State Dessert”
- Oreos (her favorite pictured above) using cream cheese frosting, and sprinkling crushed oreos, “these are crushed in food processor”
- Peaches and Cream (the hardest one) using Cream Cheese frosting recipe with pieces of fresh fruit
- Strawberries and Cream using the Cream Cheese frosting recipe, with pieces of fresh fruit
- Orange Glazed (use real OJ) it is a clear glaze
- Lemon Glaze
- Lemon Cream
- Peanut Butter Fudge with Yellow Cake, use creamy JIF
- Devil’s Food cake with Peanut Butter whipped
- Banana Cream
- Caramel Apple
- “Chocolate Lovers” devil’s food cake and chocolate cooked frosting
- “Almond Joy” devil’s food cake and coconut icing “Nut’s the one that eats it.” Almonds go on top.
- Smith Island Fig or Fig Preserves: the island has 5 trees, and you need a whole pint of figs put into the cream cheese frosting.
- Cherry – use one whole can of cherries in the cream cheese frosting
- Carrot Cake
- Pumpkin cake
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Cake using whipped cream cheese frosting
- Peanut Butter and Jelly, alternating peanut butter and grape jelly in between the layers with peanut butter frosting on top and sides.
- Turtle – using caramel and chocolate and pecans
- Different color layers using food color or gelatin
- German chocolate, using coconut and pecan frosting on the top and sides, and chocolate cooked frosting in between the layers
- Hazlenut and milk chocolate, praline
- Crème de menthe or Andes candies in the chocolate frosting
- Cream cheese frosting with crushed candy canes in it, and chocolate frosting in between the layers