For the adventurous eater who seeks unusual regional food, we recommend a pilgrimage to Hoehn’s Bakery in Baltimore. Open since 1927, it is the home of the city’s best smearcase.
Smearcase can mean a type of spreadable cheese. To the Amish, it is cottage cheese. Hoehn’s says it is German cheesecake, with a light, custardy top layer, dusted with cinnamon, resting upon a tall cake crust. Hoehn’s smearcases sit uncut in long trays in the display case. When I ordered one piece, they sliced off a 18″ x 10″ slab. It’s not nearly as dense or filling as typical cheesecake. Two of us had no difficulty polishing off this imposing, thoroughly satisfying dessert.
There is plenty else here to sate the sweet tooth. Marshmallow donuts are an especially popular item in Charm City; and Hoehn’s makes an exceptional version. The donut itself is plump and yeasty, covered in powdered sugar, with a rich marshmallow cream center that could not taste fresher. The dilemma: No matter where you bite into this overstuffed sinker, marshmallow will come oozing out the other end. Have plenty of napkins and be prepared to lick your fingers.
During warm months you will find another Baltimore favorite, peach cake. This is also baked in long trays, with so much sliced fruit you can barely see the pastry below. Even better is Hoehn’s peach bun. A close cousin of the Czech kolache, it nestles half a peach atop a faintly sweet, doughy roll. The taste is Summer itself.
We appreciate the civility of Hoehn’s Bakery. Friendly ladies behind the counter treat customers well, patiently answering all the questions from this smearcase neophyte. The inside of the place is tiny, so customers patiently wait outside until someone else leaves before entering.
To those interested in further smearcase study, Fenwick Bakery up in Parkville, Maryland, also makes a fine version.