The Would-Be Contenders
Smith Island Cake is now Maryland’s state-sanctioned dessert, but local favorites deserve a taste
The Homegrown Candidate
When the hot Maryland summer sun blazes in July and August, a local favorite is finally ripe for the picking: Wild blackberries. In spite of suburban sprawl, these native brambles remain abundant along Maryland roads, hedgerows and old fields.
Berry pickers roam Maryland, buckets in hand, searching for the perfectly ripened summertime treat. In this time-honored tradition, a reliably bountiful patch is often a closely guarded secret.
As delicious as these berries taste plucked right off the bush, still warm from the sun, I think they are best made into a Blackberry Crisp. The crispy topping with its hint of spice is the perfect complement to the juicy berries. Plop on a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream and taste Maryland’s summer.
4-5 cups blackberries
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs. flour
3 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. orange zest
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
3 Tbs. butter, chilled
Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss blackberries, one tablespoon flour, sugar and orange zest in an eight-inch baking dish. Combine remaining ingredients, except butter, in a food processor or mixing bowl. Cut in butter until mixture becomes coarse, like a streusel topping. Sprinkle over blackberries.
Bake 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
Lady Baltimore Cake
Lady Baltimore cake is a real beauty, like the fluffy white frosting that gilds it and hides its flavorful, exotic filling. It was named for Anne Arundel, the wife of the second Lord Baltimore, who created the colony of Maryland.
The recipe first appeared in cookbooks in the early part of last century and continues to be included in Mid-Atlantic cookbooks. There are recipe variations, just as there are different stories of its provenance. The recipe I favor is a combination of the classic and the modern.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cake pans with buttered and floured waxed paper. Beat six room-temperature egg whites until stiff. Set aside.
Cream one and a half quarters butter with two cups sugar.
Embellish the mixture with two teaspoons sherry and a few drops lemon extract. Sift together two and half cups cake flour with three teaspoons baking powder and a smidgeon of salt. Add this to the butter mixture with a half-cup of milk and water each. Beat well. Fold in the egg whites.
Pour into prepared pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool.
Spread the cake layers with a filling made of one-third cup each of finely chopped raisins, figs, pecans and maraschino cherries folded into a third of a Seven Minute frosting. Frost the cake with the rest and decorate with cherries.
Admire this festive delicate beauty. Taste the luscious, dark fruit contrasted with the lightness of the white cake, a glorious ending for a Maryland feast.
The Dark (Chocolate) Horse
Who says Maryland’s state dessert has to be a cake? For my money and vote, Berger Cookies are the most qualified candidate.
Invented by two German immigrants in Baltimore, Berger Cookies are really a small piece of cake that holds an enormous amount of fudge frosting. The cookie averages about one and a fourth ounces of icing on every one-fourth ounce cookie. The Berger brothers began selling this sweet treat at Baltimore’s open air markets, where the smell of chocolate fudge wafted over the crowd, drawing hoards of customers to the bakery stands.
For an authentic experience, stop by Baltimore’s Lexington Market, where a Berger Cookie stand still sells Baltimore’s greatest contribution to culinary history. Oh, and they make cakes too…
Alternately, visit www.bergercookies.com and order a box. Wait one to four business days for home delivery.
Each pack holds at least 10 shots of sugary sweet bliss. With my no-muss, no-fuss recipe, the only clean up is washing the melted fudge from your fingers.