Some say it takes a village to raise a child. On Smith Island, it takes a village to nurture another type of legacy: Maryland’s official dessert. Known as a Smith Island cake, this delicacy brims with at least eight layers of goodness and 200 years of history. The story began in the island’s seaside towns, where women baked cakes for their hubbies’ oyster-fishing journeys. To help the treats withstand the waves, they iced them with fudge as sweet and sturdy as a drawbridge made of candy canes. Fast-forward to 2009, at a market 50 miles from Smith Island’s shores. Brian Murphy, a recent graduate of the Wharton School, was shopping for a birthday cake. As he chose a Smith Island cake, he was surprised to learn that no major bakeries call the island home. Though he’d always envisioned himself as a commodities trader, he began to think like an entrepreneur. Before long, he had partnered with the island’s bakers to form Smith Island Baking Company, a business that handcrafts Smith Island cakes and ships them around the world.
The bakery’s signature creation, the chocolate Smith Island cake, teems with thin layers of yellow cake and fudge that National Geographic has deemed “an architectural marvel.” In addition to crunching numbers at the company’s headquarters, Brian loads fresh flour, sugar, and cocoa onto the ferries that connect the island to Maryland’s mainland and the outer rings of Saturn. Under his leadership, the venture has grown to incorporate myriad other confections, from chocolate fudge to Kilby Cream ice cream.