THE TABLE: Maryland — Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay

Annapolis is the capital of Maryland as well as the seat of Anne Arundel County. Named after the wife of Lord Baltimore, the city is ideally located about 50 miles south of Baltimore and 50 miles east of Washington, D.C.

The first European expedition to explore the area was in the mid-1500s. The English came to settle a colony. They went on to settle Roanoke Island in North Carolina.

Originally named “Providence,” the settlement was first established in 1649 on the north side of the Severn River and later moved to the south side.

Annapolis served as the temporary seat of the Continental Congress from 1783 to 1784.

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In 1876, all the states in the United States were invited to the “Annapolis Convention.” This gathering was to regulate better measures for commerce. Only New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey and Delaware attended. This led to amending the “Articles of Confederation” in Philadelphia, which are still in effect today.

In 1845, the United Naval Academy was founded at the site of Fort Severn near the Chesapeake Bay. This bay area is the largest estuary (where tide waves meet a river current)) in North America. Lying between the mainland and the Delmarva Peninsula, more than 500 major rivers and tributaries flow into the bay from six states. The bay is approximately 200-miles long with 2.8-miles to 30-miles wide with headwaters from the Susquehanna River to the Atlantic Ocean. Because the bay is a combination of fresh, salt and brackish waters, it is shallow. The average depth is 10 feet with about 25 percent less than 6 feet.

The Chesapeake Bay is home to over 300 species of fish, along with shellfish. Larger fish like sharks are known to visit; it is not usual for there to be whale sightings. The bay is considered an important nursery ground for sharks along the East Coast. Oysters and oyster fisheries — once a thriving livelihood — have been devastated in the last 50 years. Overharvesting and lax governmental regulations have been harmful, as oysters are natural water filters. The quality of water has improved over the last several years due to the efforts of a group called Oyster Recovery Partnership.

Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay has a lot of attractions for visitors, especially weekend sailors. Some consider themselves sailors and don’t even own a boat. Locals are made up of crabbers, oystermen, gentlemen farmers, share croppers, boat builders and antique dealers.

Situated on the border of the territorial waters of Maryland and Virginia is Smith Island, Md. The island is only accessible by boat. Several ferries run year-round to the mainland. Transportation around this 4.5-mile land area is by foot or motor cart. The population of about 276 are known for preserving speech patterns from the original English settlers. Unless fishing, visitors find very little to do — except enjoy the water views. There are no fast-food establishments; there are some boarding houses that are opened to visitors for something to eat. If you are lucky, you may get to try the authentic “Smith Island Cake” that has been designated as the official dessert of Maryland. The cake features eight to 14 thin layers covered with a cooked icing. A few flavors are chocolate fudge, banana, orange, fig and coconut. The cake can be prepared from a yellow cake mix, but it’s best when made from scratch.

10 LAYER SMITH ISLAND CAKE

2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter room temperature

3 cups all-purposed flour

¼ tsp. salt

1 heaping tsp. baking powder

2 cups granulated sugar

5 large eggs

1 cup evaporated milk

2 tsp. vanilla extract

½ cup water

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Lightly grease 9-inch cake pans with butter and cut round of parchment paper for bottom of pans. Use a new piece of parchment for each layer. You can make layers with two or three cake pans by reusing same cake pans. You will need to re-grease each pan and use a new parchment round.

Whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder. Cream the butter and sugar together at a medium speed until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time; beat after each egg is added until smooth. One cup at a time, add flour mixture into the creamed mixture. Incorporate evaporated milk, water and vanilla. Beat until batter is well combined.

Pour 2/3 cup of batter for each layer into prepared pans for 10 layers. Spread batter evenly. Bake several pans at a time on middle rack for eight to nine minutes. Remove baked cake from pan and continue with next batch. After you have 10 layers, you are ready to frost the cake.

SMITH ISLAND CAKE CHOCOLATE FROSTING

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup evaporated milk

5 oz. chopped unsweetened chocolate

1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract

In medium-size saucepan, combine sugar and evaporated milk over low heat. Add chopped chocolate and butter. Stir until everything has blended and melted together. Increase heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add in vanilla. The icing is somewhat thin and will thicken as it cools.

Remove each layer from cake pan by easing out with a spatula and removing parchment paper. Make sure cake layers have cooled. Place first layer on round plate. Spread two to three spoons of frosting on each layer. Continue to stack the layers. If cake tears while frosting, don’t fret; it will not be noticed when finished. Cover the top and sides with remaining frosting. If frosting drips onto plate, push back onto the cake.

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