Famous Food from Maryland

Famous food from Maryland, crab cakes, piled on a plate.

Guest post by Nichole Little

When you hear “Maryland,” most people think of the Chesapeake Bay and steamed crabs. Which is fine because that’s what we’re known for. Crabs are the most famous food from Maryland! But what non-residents are shocked to find is that one of our other nicknames is “Little America” as we have mountains, beaches, farmlands, forests, and large cities all packed into one little state. We experience all four weather seasons, sometimes even on the same day! 

Crab Cakes

For such a simple, but delicious dish, crab cakes are highly controversial in Maryland. The controversy begins with the creation of the crab cake. The recipe gained fame outside of the state lines when it was published in a 1930 New York World’s Fair cookbook listed as “Baltimore Crab Cake.” But crab cakes were in print as far back as the late 1800s. And they were definitely being made in homes for many, many years prior.

The next part of the controversy surrounding crab cakes is how they are made. Some claim that unless it is made with jumbo lump crab meat it’s not worth being called a crab cake at all. Personally, I have to disagree. A lump or even backfin crab cake can be just as delicious. But there is one thing all Maryland crab cake lovers will agree on – it’s all about the filler. If a crab cake is made with too much bread or crackers that they outshine the crab meat. That’s not a good crab cake and not worthy of being called a Maryland crab cake. And there is nothing like a real Maryland crab cake. We invite you to visit us to get a taste of the real thing!

3 crab cakes on a dark grey plate, with lemon wedges in between them.

Corn on the Cob 

As a child, I remember taking the 3-hour trips to the beach. After crossing over the Bay Bridge my patience would wane and my boredom would increase. Partially because I was a child, but also because there was nothing to look at but cornfields for miles and miles. Of course, the area has become more populated over the years, but there are still spots where for as far as the eye can see, there is nothing but row after row of corn. 

For many years Maryland was known for the creation of the sweet white corn on the cob known as Silver Queen. With a short harvest season, long ears, and sweetness it quickly became the standard corn on the cob to eat. I remember how excited my mom would get when she could find it in the grocery stores (she doesn’t like yellow corn on the cob at all) We would sometimes have it with dinner multiple times in a week. There’s a plentitude of ways to prepare corn on the cob and all are equally delicious. You can’t go wrong with boiling it and then seasoning it with butter and salt. But it is also delicious when thrown into a pot with the crabs you’re steaming up. Or cut it off the cob, mix in some butter and Old Bay and you have a great side dish. 

Pile of shucked corn on the cob on the counter.

Smith Island Cake 

Smith Island is a small island in the Chesapeake Bay. It is Maryland’s last inhabited island. Only accessible by boat and with a dwindling population, it seems strange that this tiny landmass in the bay would create what would later become the State Dessert and a very famous food from Maryland. But that’s because you haven’t had it yet. No one knows where the recipe actually originated. Many of the island’s residents learned how to make the cake from their grandmother (who learned from their grandmother), and none thought it unusual or different from any other cake you’d find. 

But that’s where they were wrong. (And of course, they learned this quickly, because once the cake became known, flocks of Marylanders and tourists alike were heading to the tiny island to try a slice.) A Smith Island Cake is a work of culinary beauty. In the traditional version, thin layers of yellow cake are stacked 8 (yes, EIGHT!) layers high, filled with a chocolate frosting that is somewhere between fudge and ganache.

Ambitious bakers will sometimes take the cake to a towering 12 layers high. So why the thin layers? If you can believe it, the island didn’t have electricity prior to the 1950s. It was much easier to bake a thin layer of cake in a wood-burning oven. As for the frosting? Well, women made the cake for the watermen. Buttercream doesn’t hold up to the heat and humidity of a Maryland summer, but the thick fudge-like frosting did. 

A large slice of Smith Island Cake on a plate. The rest of the cake is in the backround.

Famous Food from Maryland Menu

Maryland State Facts

  • Maryland is the 7th state in the US
  • The U.S. National Anthem was written by Maryland native, Francis Scott Key
  • The first school in the United States opened in Maryland in 1696
  • King Charles I, of England, gave Maryland its name in honor of his wife, Queen Henrietta Maria
  • Famous people from Maryland include: Harriet Tubman, Babe Ruth, and Jada Pinkett-Smith

About the Author

Headshot of author Nichole Little

Nichole Little is the author of Cookaholic Wife, a food blog featuring a wide variety of recipes, from savory to decadent and everything in between. A lifelong Maryland resident and former picky eater turned foodie, Nichole lives by the tagline of her blog, “Cook, Bake, Enjoy” finding great pleasure in cooking and baking for others. 

Connect with her on Instagram at https://instagram.com/cookaholicwife

If this is the first state dinner you have enjoyed with us, check out our journey from the beginning, starting here.

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