Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Sep 1, 2013 04:05 PM

Three Recipes: Crab Imperial, Crabcakes, Smith Island Cake?

My partner is a Baltimore native and for the years we have been together, there are three foods that he's talked about missing since he first moved south and then to the West Coast:

* Crab Imperial
* Crabcakes
* Smith Island Cake

For his birthday this year, I'm saving-up to order some real blue crab meat. But I need recipes! I've been looking online (and here on CH, of course) and found some that look good, but I don't know what is / is not traditional. Also, with the two recipes involving crab, do I want jumbo lump, regular lump, or claw meat?

(I also looked at having steamed crabs shipped, and am still considering that option, but can't see having to pick them once they arrive in order to make the two dishes.)

With the Smith Island Cake, I want to stay with the yellow cake with chocolate frosting, I think, but keep coming across variations. Any recipes you'd recommend?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Ok, I'll weigh in on 2 of them, because I think crab imperial is sort of creamed crab served over a starch, & I like crabcakes more-I think backfin is fine, as long as you use mostly crab, & minimal binder, you need egg, & a touch of cracker crumbs or panko, & what makes it good- fresh herbs-basil, thyme, lemongrass, a little green onion, panfry in a bit of olive oil & finish in the oven.

    I haven't ever tried Smith Island cake, but I'd do a standard pound or yellow cake, freeze it, slice the layers thin, & do a chocolate-cappuccino icing in between all the layers...or you could just take a trip back to the east coast & try it there. It's nice of you to try & cook things that your partner will like.

    1 Reply
    1. re: thistle5

      thank you, thistle. Unfortunately, the crab imperial is a very specific dish, near as I can tell, and I want to get it as close to his memory as possible.

      As for the Smith Island Cake - my favorite cake is a yellow cake with chocolate-cappuccino icing, so I thank you for that reminder that it's about time to bake a cake to celebrate me *grinning*.

    2. My Family's Recipe for Crab Cakes

      M.D. Crab Cakes

      1# Lump Back Fin Crab
      2 T Chopped Parsley
      3 T fresh Bread Crumbs
      1/4 cup Mayo
      1 tsp Old Bay (opt.)
      2 Eggs beaten
      2 tsp Worcestershire

      Crab with Parsley and Bread Crumbs ( do not break up lumps)
      Combine remaining ingredients and mix.
      Add Egg- Mayo mixture to Crab Mixture and fold together, try not to break up lumps of crab.
      Scoop mounds of the mixture in a large saute pan on med heat ( do not try to form cakes)
      Pan fry till the bottom is golden brown and the mix has started to set then turn and brown the other side.

      Here are a bunch more from an older thread,

      Crab imperial is not creamed and should be baked either in an Crab Back or a Gratin Dish not usually served over anything.

      3 Replies
      1. re: chefj

        Thank you for sharing that recipe, chefj. Is there a reason why you prefer lump back fin to jumbo or claw? (I know little of crab.) Also, do you add any sort of oil or butter to the saute pan?

        1. re: ElsieDee

          The recipe works with any Crab Meat. we use Lump because of price/effect ratio. If you want to use Jumbo Lump go for it
          Yes you need a bit of fat in the pan not very much though, what kind is up to you, Bacon fat is nice. You can also broil them.

        2. re: chefj

          This is the recipe I use as well, well sort of. I usually skip the crumbs if I can and less mayo but it's great, fragile but great and tastes of crab rather than filler.

        3. I've made this Crab Imperial recipe for years. Very simple and tasty. Crab Imperial is a baked dish and never served over anything. The crab cake recipe is a recent find. I like that they're broiled, and not fried. I leave out the herbs. I don't go for red pepper, shallots, etc. either in my cakes. I like the crab to stand on its own! Whether you use jumbo, or lump is up to you. I prefer the jumbo lump. Less shell to pick. And... it's the best!

          1 lb Jumbo Lump Crab meat
          1 beaten egg
          2 tbsp mayo
          1-2 tsp Old Bay (or to taste)
          1 tbsp parsley
          1 tsp dry mustard
          1/2 cup cream or half & half
          a few grinds of black pepper
          panko bread crumbs for topping

          Mix all ingredients (except crab meat & panko) together, first. Then GENTLY fold in the crab meat, being careful not to break up the large lumps. Bake in a buttered casserole dish or small ramekins. Top with panko crumbs. You can place a few "dots" of butter on top too, if you like.

          Bake @ 350* for 30 minutes, or til bubbly.

          Here's the Crab Cake recipe:

          3 Replies
          1. re: Phoebe

            Oh, Phoebe, that crab imperial recipe looks so simple and perfect! And I'm leaning toward a broiled crab cake because my SO thinks that his fondest crab cakes of yesteryear "were not greasy or crunchy" which makes me think they weren't fried or sauteed (though I know sauteing might not end up with a "crunch," too).

            1. re: Phoebe

              We always had our Crab Imperial served in clam shells. Made a nice presentation! We would find the shells on the beach in the summer, clean them up, and use them for the crab.

              The recipe was:
              1. Make a white sauce (4T butter, 2T flour, 2/3 cup milk)
              2. When thickened, stir in 2 tsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp. yelow mustard and 1 tsp. mild horseradish
              3. Put in shells or casserole dish.
              4. Top with a spread of Miracle Whip (don't's really good!)
              5. Bake at 350 about 30 minutes (until bubbly and nicely colored)


              1. re: Seeker19104

                Ah, this is the one I was thinking about making! Have you baked it, Seeker? I'm wondering about the (paraphrasing here) "a layer is done when you hold it near your ear and don't hear sizzling" instruction.

              2. If you live on the west coast, why not use dungeness crab? During the winter, when I can't go crabbing on LI, I've made crabcakes from live dungeness. I get 1 or 2, depending on the size. Steam them, serve the legs separately and make crabcakes from the body meat. My recipe is similar to the others, but I add some corn and a few capers to the mix, along with a minced small hot pepper. I go very easy on the Old Bay, as I find the flavor overpowering.

                3 Replies
                1. re: EricMM

                  As a Native MD'er, Dungeness is just not the the same thing and does not fill that want for Blue Crab.
                  Dungeness Crabs are great in their own right just a very different thing.

                  1. re: chefj

                    Absolutely correct. And, given the OP's stated intention of preparing foods from home to please her Baltimorean partner, no way that the crab cake should include corn, hot peppers or capers.

                  2. re: EricMM

                    Eric, what you're describing - your recipe, I mean - is very close to how my west coast family makes crab cakes. And they always use freshly caught dungeness (we go crabbing on family vacations), too. However, with the rather different taste of blue crab and dungeness, I'm going to have to go with the blue crab and a more East Coast-ish / Baltimorian style of crab cake.