Smith Island Cake

  • Serves

    serves 10-12


Our recipe for this towering dessert, featuring eight layers of buttery yellow cake with chocolate-fudge icing, was inspired by a decadent version served at Becca's Smith Island Cakes in Tasley, Virginia. This recipe first appeared in our March 2012 issue, with Jane and Michel Stern's piece Surf and Turf.


For the Cake

  • 24 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pans
  • 3 12 cups flour, plus more for pans
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 12 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 14 cups sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 6 eggs

For the Icing

  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 2 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract


Step 1

Make the cake: Heat oven to 350°. Butter and flour four 9″ cake pans; set aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; set dry ingredients aside. Whisk together butter, sugar, milk, vanilla, and eggs in another bowl. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients, and using a whisk, stir together until just combined; let batter sit for 15 minutes. Stir batter again until smooth, and then divide half the batter among prepared pans; tilt cake pans around to let batter cover entire bottom. Bake cakes, rotating pans halfway through cooking, until barely browned, about 15 minutes. Let cakes cool for 20 minutes in pans, and then invert onto wire racks to cool completely. Clean and dry pans, and grease and flour again; divide remaining batter among pans, and repeat baking process.

Step 2

Make the icing and assemble the cake: Bring both chocolates, sugar, milk, and butter to a boil in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat; cook, stirring often, until sugar dissolves, chocolate melts, and mixture is smooth and shiny, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla; let icing sit until thick enough to spread, about 30 minutes. Place one cake on a cake stand and, using an offset spatula, spread with 1⁄4 cup icing; repeat with remaining cakes and 1 1⁄2 cups icing, leaving top cake un-iced. Chill cake to set icing between cakes, about 30 minutes. Rewarm remaining icing, if necessary, and spread over top and sides of the cake; let icing cool before serving.

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