The "taste" test is the final test for baker and partner Shannan Johnson of the Bay Queen Galley and Bakery in Pocomoke City. Above, a red velvet BabyCake is tested by, from left, John Riggi, Johnson, Dustin Johnson and Mary Ann Riggi, Johnson's partner. (Milt Savage photo)
While brownies and lemon bars and cookies lined the counter, customers skipped over the standard treats, said MaryAnn Riggi, who co-owns the cafe. It seemed people couldn't get enough of the bakery's miniature Smith Island cakes, affectionately known as BabyCakes.
"The BabyCakes have kind of taken over," Riggi said. "We are a bakery, but we really seem to be the BabyCake bakery."
Although other things can be made to order, Shannan Johnson, the Bay Queen's baker, is responsible for providing a steady supply of at least 10 flavors of the five-layer, two-serving version on the Maryland state cake.
"She does other things, but at the moment those cakes have been the thing," Riggi said. "You have to go with what works, and the public wants the cakes."
Riggi and her husband John opened the Bay Queen Galley in the fall of 2009. The cafe serves both hungry passersby and caters for the river cruise boat that shares its name.
"We've been running the tour boat for four years," Riggi said. "We started by using local restaurants, but we couldn't guarantee the product was consistent."
But when they opened the Market Street cafe, serving sandwiches and coffee, the couple felt they needed more to lure people in and away from the convenience of nearby fast food restaurants. At the time, the galley was selling Smith Island cakes provided by a distributor, but Riggi said it seemed she never had the flavors people wanted.
"Everybody wanted banana, but banana doesn't have a good shelf life, so I thought maybe we should bring on a baker," she said.
The couple spent the winter searching for the perfect baker. Riggi and her husband were on a diet at the time, so they wanted someone who could produce such a good cake that they could not help but finish the whole thing.
Then Johnson came along."She has such a passion," Riggi said. "She's a wonderful baker -- but her passion when she talks about baking, she gets goosebumps.
More importantly, Riggi added, when she tried one of Johnson's cakes, "I took one taste and walked away with the plate. That was it."
But while the cakes were good, the cafe found that people weren't interested in buying a big one.
"If you are a single person or a couple, you don't want to buy a whole Smith Island cake and have it sitting around the house," she said.
So Johnson, an Eastern Shore native, experimented with miniaturizing it. The BabyCake was born.
At five layers -- much higher and it will fall over, Riggi said -- the cakes cost $5.95, come in 10 different flavors including lemon, strawberry, peanut butter, chocolate, cookies and cream, key lime pie and red velvet, and are the perfect size for two people. Buy two, and Riggi will tell you you've got twins.
As for which flavor is the best, Riggi said she can't really say.
"Everyone has their flavor," she said. "It changes for me. (Johnson) will make a new flavor and shove it in my mouth first thing in the morning and that will be my new favorite.