It’s all about the filling.
At first glance, the similarly delicate layers of yellow cake and rich fudge frosting might lead you to mistake Maryland’s Smith Island cake for New Orleans’ Doberge cake—or vice versa. But while the two candies look similar in appearance, the residents of both places will be the first to tell you that they are not the same, especially when it comes to their history.
So what’s the difference between Maryland’s Smith Island pie and New Orleans’ Doberge pie? We spoke to local experts to find out.
First, a true Doberge cake has at least six layers of yellow butter cake. In the classic version, the layers of filling are chocolate or lemon, made from pudding or custard, chocolate ganache or lemon curd, used in combination with a glaze cooked and poured on top, explains Charlotte McGehee, bakery owner. Debbie from New Orleans. She makes Doberge.
This is a main point of difference from a Smith Island cake, which is usually filled and covered with cooked fudge frosting or, more modernly, chocolate buttercream. The Smith Island cake also typically has more layers (at least seven, but sometimes as many as a dozen).
When done correctly, the Doberge cake should be moist, thanks to the many layers of filling, but not too much frosting. “Less should be more with the icing,” says McGehee. “No mounds of buttercream for ‘I don’t eat frosting’ people to scrape off; just a delicate layer of ganache.” Due to the nature of the filling, Doberge cakes should be kept in the refrigerator.
Various New Orleans bakeries have varied interpretations of the Doberge pie, so it can be difficult to define what is the “real” Doberge these days. For example, McGehee’s 16 different flavors of Doberge cakes have seven layers, mainly due to production technique and the height of the shipping box, and white layers instead of yellow.
McGehee’s team is also tougher on fillers than other Doberge makers. “Our pudding layers serve almost as layers in their own right,” she says. They finish the cakes with a buttercream crumb coat topped with poured fondant icing.
Aside from the appearance and fillings of the Doberge pie, its history is very different from that of the Smith Island pie, which dates back a century when fishermen’s wives shipped large chunks of the pie with their husbands for sustenance at sea. .
Doberge dates back to the 1930s to a New Orleans pastry chef named Beulah Levy Ledner, who adapted the Hungarian/Austrian cake known as Dobos torte from a heavy, multi-layered, buttercream-filled cake to a lighter version. using custard that was more suited to the New Orleans climate, says McGehee.
Along with the changes he made to the cake, Ledner also decided to change the name of his new creation to “Doberge,” for no other reason than that it sounded more French, says Poppy Tooker, host of “Louisiana Eats!” radio show and a New Orleans food authority. “The people of New Orleans are a bit peculiar. [in that] we pronounce things that are spelled the same completely differently,” he explains. (Ask a local how they say Terpsichore Street, and he’ll see what he means.) If he’s talking about the pie in The Big Easy, some might pronounce it “dough-bear-g.” while others may say “dough punch,” says Tooker.
Ledner sold the pies from his bakery which he eventually sold to Gambino’s Bakery, which is still around today and is known for its Doberge pies. She’s largely responsible for the New Orleans tradition of celebrating in these indulgent layers (and perhaps enjoying a leftover slice from the fridge the next morning with a cup of coffee).
“If you’re from here, you probably grew up on Doberge birthdays,” says McGehee. “New Orleanians decide they love something and they love it very much.”
Whether you’re serving a Smith Island pie or a Doberge pie, the differences become peripheral once your guests take their first bite.
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