July 12, 2007

Smearcase


Ingredients:
for the cake:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs, at room temperature
pinch of salt

for the filling:
16 oz cream cheese*, at room temperature
12 oz evaporated milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs, at room temperature

For sprinkling:
cinnamon


*Use brick cream cheese, not the spreadable kind that comes in tubs.

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325. In a large bowl, mix together all of the cake ingredients. It should look more like a dough than cake batter. Press into a 13x9 baking dish, covering the bottom and at least 1/2 the way up the sides. In another bowl, whisk together all of the filling ingredients until smooth. The batter will be quite thin. Pour over the cake and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until it looks set. It should not be browned, just sort of custard colored. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into squares and serve.


My thoughts:
In the Pennsylvania Dutch community, smearcase is cottage cheese. In Baltimore, however, smearcase is the name of a particular sweet cake. It is a hold over from the days when the majority of the city was made up of German immigrants. It is one of those foods that seems to be unique to Baltimore, and I am sure it is probably an Americanization of some Germanic recipe. A handful of locally owned grocery stores and bakeries still make and sell it but beyond that, smearcase has all but vanished. I grew up eating it as a special treat (we rarely got anything from a bakery beyond the occasional doughnut) because it was one of my grandfather's favorite cakes. The best way to describe it is that it is sort of a flat, not too sweet custardy variation of cheesecake that is sold in large, rectangular slabs and is always sprinkled with cinnamon. I have never seen a recipe for it, but then I was researching regional Baltimore foods online I came across a mention of smearcase that gave some hints as to what some of the ingredients might be. That, combined with a trip to Graul's, a local grocery store and smearcase stronghold, where I was able to check out their ingredient list, I think I figured it out. I had guessed it must have a fair amount of cream cheese in it (I did wonder if there was a cottage cheese in there, but when I experimented with that it just didn't have the right flavor) and the article mentioned evaporated milk. I made it easy on myself and just used 2 bricks of cream cheese and 1 can of the evaporated milk, rather than trying figure out complicated proportions and it worked. From past experience I thought the texture of the "cake" part seemed like it was oil based dough (dry crumb, not fluffy or cakey) and I knew it was sweetened, so I just made a basic cake batter but since the cake is on the dry side, left out any extra liquids. It tastes just like I remember it. I love making regional American food, especially those of my hometown of Baltimore. If we don't keep making them, they will disappear forever. As a sidenote: really is a testament to my love for my 93 year old grandpop that I made him this on a day when the temperature loomed near 100. I hope he likes it! Matt liked it, he said it had sort of an old fashioned taste to it. I agree, it tastes like something you'd get in a luncheonette in 1930, very wholesome and comforting.

49 comments:

  1. ive never heard of this but it sounds really tasty. i love your dedication to figuring out the ingredients and making it your own.

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  2. I think they have that at the bakery in Cross St. Mkt. I think it's labeled German Cheesecake or something b/c most people wouldn't know Smearcase. I'll have to see if my PA Dutch/German grandfather likes it!

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  3. I have never heard of it, but it sounds wonderful!!

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  4. That was a great post - I love regional food, too, and esp. the stories that come with it! More!

    Looks yummy and makes me think of something my grandmother would keep on the counter on a regular basis.

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  5. Someone in my family makes this, tho not that often. I think it is my grandmother and they call it smearcase as well. I'll try to find out exactly who makes it. It is like a very thick cheesecake. I remember enjoying it and even taking home some leftovers.

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  6. Hi Rachel, thanks for all of the great information surrounding this treat! I've never heard of smearcase before, but would love to try making it sometime!

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  7. I've never heard of smearcase, but I'm glad you cracked the recipe code. I would definately like to give this a try.

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  8. Oh, man! I am going to the market thisverysecond to buy cream cheese to make this. Thanks for sharing!

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  9. The local grocery store in my community (Lauer's in Pasadena) makes Smearcase. I have seen it there for years and never tried it myself. It just sounded wierd. :-) Well, now you've convinced me to make it and try it myself.

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  10. I have been looking for the recipe for Baltimore Cheesecake as we call it in PA for years. Thank you so much!!!!! This is the only kind of cheesecake I ever liked.

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  11. It looks delicious! I've also never heard of it...

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  12. Smearcase is not a very promising name although it looks and sounds delicious.

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  13. This is a new one to me. Looks creamy and delicious!

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  14. oh wow! This brings back so many memories! My grandfather used to come by our house every saturday morning and bring us some of this. I never knew it was a Baltimore thing...I just thought it was a different type of cheesecake. Maybe I'll make it for my family the next time I visit.

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  15. I am with everyone else - I have never heard of a Smearcase....but it sounds wonderful!

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  16. You never cease to amaze me! I love your passion! I constantly am learning something new from your blog! Keep up the good work and happy eating!

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  17. Hi Rachel. The smearcase looks great & I really enjoyed reading this post. It reminds me of the custard pie my grandma always had sitting on her counter when we visited. I'm going to have to give this a try.

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  18. This is new for me too but it looks delicious! Now I know what to make with all the cream cheese in my fridge! Thanks!

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  19. I made it Saturday night to bring to my Sacred Harp sing on Sunday. Everyone liked it. It came out a lot more cakey than I expected, which was cheesecake in a crust. Not too sweet, maybe could use even more cinnamon. I might try it with apples next time. And there will be a next time.

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  20. Wow, another native Baltimorean checking in to say I had no idea smearcase was unique to us! I figured it just a German version of cheesecake you might find anywhere with strong German roots. I have to admit, I suddenly feel an increased fondness for it, knowing Baltimore can call it its own.

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  21. I grew up in Southern Maryland - and you know how we won't socialize with those Baltimore folks. LOL We don't have it down here - but up in Pasadena there's a Grocery Store called Laurer's and they make a great smearcase! My family discoverd it one day while up there visiting friends. We know will drive an hour each way just to get some smearcase - yeah it's that good!

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  22. You are all so lucky to have such a good smearcase recipe. In my family we have smearcase at every holiday dinner and it is nothing like this. Our version is cottage cheese, red horseradish, sour cream and hard boiled eggs. Perhpas it is from a different region. Well, I think I am going to request this version of smearcase from now on!!!

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  23. I remember smearcase on Sunday mornings when my Mother-In-Law would pick it up at a bakery after church. Oddly enough I had a conversation about it a month ago with an older gentlemen and quite accidently found it at Lauer's today. I was surprised when I had difficulty finding it on line so that I could check out the recipe. I never imagined it was such a local delicacy. YUM, it was just as good as I remember it was 40 years ago.

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  24. never heard the word smearcase, and no, it is not an appetizing word, but it not only sounds delicious, but (you won't like this) it sounds like a from-scratch version of Paula Deen's gooey butter cake variations (using a cake mix) with a few more eggs. Probably much better than the cake mix version, but that one is pretty good, albeit overly sweet.

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  25. mdgibbs@aol.comMay 20, 2008 9:30 AM

    Rachel,

    I don't know if this thread is still active, but I would also suggest using Farmer's Cheese in the recipe in place of cream cheese. I have worked in bakeries on and off for years and the classic recipe in most bakeries uses farmers cheese. It tends to gie that bit of a tang that many old timers remember. I had a customer at my shop ask for it last week and I am trying to find the recipe that we used at the old Bi-Rite on Belair Rd, but I am going to give your recipe a run as well!

    Thanks,
    Mark

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  26. Farmer's cheese* would work great in smearcase, but it is a lot harder for my readers to find. I like to use ingredients that are easy to find, so I used and was quite satisfied with the cream cheese. It tasted just like the smearcase from the bakery, but fresher. I also found that most local bakeries no longer (if they did at all) use farmer's cheese.



    *Especially Amish smearcase, which is a farmer's cheese/cottage cheese type cheese.

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  27. David
    My mom god bless her soul loved this and yes her mom lived in Baltimore and a German GRANNY.The only place i can find Smerrcase is Laure's Suppermarket in Pasadena, yes that's how spell it. I will be makeing this at home now. thank's

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  28. Rachel,
    something interesting regarding smearcase... I wonder how it adds up to yours!

    http://www.citypaper.com/bob/story.asp?id=16484

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  29. Thank you!! I'm from Baltimore and a German family. But I discovered smearcase at the Shepherdstown bakery when I was an undergrad at Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, WV in the 1990's. The bakery has changed hands since then and no longer makes smearcase. Thank you for bringing back memories and allowing me to make this at home!!

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  30. I am happy to see that you posted this! You have the recipe almost 100%, the crust is a little different from the original - particularly with the eggs, and there is no "evaporated milk" in the original recipe, just whole milk. But you did a really nice job of figuring everything out. We have the recipe passed down many many years....

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  31. Anon-Thanks for your input! I suggest you try it with the evaporated milk & eggs, the flavor was so much better than with just plain milk-creamier and smooth.

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  32. my grandmother made smearcase back around 1935. i didn't like the sound of it and didn't eat it until 1948. I love it now! you can get it at Mar's stores in baltimore ,Md.

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  33. I have been looking for a recipe for Smearcase for a while. I remember it from the 50's when I was a young girl. My grandmother, who was of german decent, and I would pick it up from the bakery in Glen Burnie after church on Sunday morning. I remember the dough being thicker and chewier than you picture it. My girlfriend brought me Smearcase the other day from a bakery in Bel Air but it had a custardy filling and the crust was heavy and hard. I did not like that at all, so I went internet searching and found this site. I'm going to try your recipe and see if I can duplicate what I remember from the 50's. Thanks.

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  34. My husband and I picked up a piece of smearcase from the City Market in Hagerstown today and it is awesome!!!! The guy we bought it from said that it was similar to cheesecake and he got the recipe from a friend in Baltimore. Our cake is almost gone, so I am very happy that I found this recipe.

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  35. Thanks for this recipe! Just came back from visiting my 94-year old grandmother in Pasadena. I live in Austin now, and although the area has a strong German history, I've never met anyone here who has heard of smearcase. I didn't even know anyone besides Lauer's still made it. I stuff myself with it every time I visit, then freeze a bunch and put it in my suitcase. Here's the weird thing: they list eggs, milk and custard as ingredients. Isn't custard made of eggs and milk? And they put nutmeg on the top, not cinnamon. It also doesn't seem to have cake and a filling, just the same taste and texture throughout. It's got to be heavenly either way, though. Think I'll try it -- the suitcase thing is getting old . . .

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  36. "Baltimore" SandyJuly 19, 2009 7:21 PM

    I was introduced to Smearcase 34 yrs ago by my husband, a 2nd generation German-American. It is not as rich & creamy as New York cheesecake but has always seemed "healthier" to me. That may be wishful thinking! I was curious when I could not find it mentioned in any of my food books. Do you think there is a Jewish connection to the cake? Fenwick Bakery (also uniquely Baltimore) still makes it. I just ate a piece before I started this search!

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  37. I'm originally from Baltimore and thoughts of smearcase cake brings back memories of Fenwick Bakery. I have two recipes out of the Baltimore Sun (I think) from a column called "Calling All Cooks) by Flossie Taylor. You could write in and she would try to get the recipe you were looking for. One recipe calls for cream cheese and cottage cheese. The other had only cottage cheese and sour cream. My family is German and my grandmother made her own cottage cheese. I'm 68 so you know how long ago that was. If anyone wants the recipe let me know. Judy

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  38. I just saw an article about Smearcase, and you, in the Washington Post online. I went to your blog and checked it out. I love cheesecake and I love Pennsylvania Dutch food so I thought I would give it a try. It's fantastic! Really easy, no cracking issues like a cheesecake and much lighter in texture and flavor. (I admit that I ommitted the cinnamon and instead used some homemade apricot jam to top it.) Very good!

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  39. I was just dreaming of the Baltimore Bakery smearcase or the fruit ones with peaches or strawberry and the ever popular coconut custard . Oh I miss them, thank you for the smearcase recipe

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  40. Found Smearcase Cheesecake at Graul's on Bellona Road this weekend!

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  41. 3 B's Bakery in Pasadena and Simon's Bakery in Cockeysville also make a great smearcase cake. Old timers from South Baltimore will remember Simon's when it used to be on S. Hanover St.

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  42. Thank you so much for the recipe!! My Cousin used to bring us Smearcase when she would come visit us in Washington State. My Dad was born and raised in Baltimore and my Mom was raised in Baltimore and they always talked about Smearcase.

    My Cousin and parents have since died and I really have been craving some smearcase but they just have never heard of it out here on the West Coast. Might have to make a trip back to Baltimore!!

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  43. My grandfather grew up in Baltimore and he loved Smearcase. Sometimes he had dessert after every meal. He lived to be 99 so who are we to argue. We always bought ours at Graul's Market. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

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  44. As a child, I used to live a few blocks away from Simon's bakery on Hanover Street in South Baltimore and we used to wait outside in the evening for them to open. You could smell all the pastries and things being baked all day long and their smearcase was a little more custardy than the smearcase from Lauer's and ironically, my daughter lived in the apartments across the street from the Simon's bakery in Cockeysville. I went there and asked about the old cheesecake they use to make and was told the original baker had died and I guess he took the old recipe with him. Anyway, another note on the smearcase subject, I read or was told years ago that it was called smearcase, because the children used to press up against the glass cases that held the pastries and cakes and therefore got its name, smear case.

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  45. This was my father-in-laws favorite dessert. They would purchase it from a bakery on Route 40. I have the recipe from the bakery and it is spelled Schmierkase Cake and the recipe calls for cottage cheese.

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  46. I'm so happy to find this recipe thank you!
    BTW...they still sell it at Lauer's in Pasadena. Excellent!

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  47. My father is in his 70's and grew up in Baltimore. Whenever we or I am in the Baltimore area we get Smearcase and bring some home to WV. It is 5+ hours away so it is not often that we indulge. If this recipe is like Graul's I will be incredibly happy. Graul's has the best smearcase in Baltimore so if this is close to theirs it will be awsome!

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  48. I grew up in Baltimore thinking this was cheesecake - my dad would buy it every week from a bakery in Arbutus. Imagine my surprise when I ordered cheesecake for dessert at a restaurant one day and was served ... cheesecake. I now love cheesecake, but I adore smearcase, and I'm thrilled to have a recipe to try!

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    Replies
    1. How fun! Enjoy making it!! I went to Arbutus Middle, I bet I've been to that bakery!

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