Appalachia Appalachian Food

Apple Stack Cake

traditional apple stack cake from appalachia

Appalachia is known for its Apple Stack Cake, but I never even tasted one until I assisted in a cooking class at the folk school several years ago. After my first taste of the cake I fully understood what everyone was so crazy about. The cake is delicious.

I think of Apple Stack Cake as the fanciest of traditional Appalachian cakes. It’s not terribly difficult to make, but it is time consuming.

My favorite recipe for the cake comes from “More than Moonshine: Appalachian Recipes and Recollections” by Sidney Saylor Farr. The recipe was the one Farr’s mother used. According to the book you can use fresh apples to make the cake, but I prefer using dried apples because they impart such a richer taste to the cake.

Apple Stack Cake

Part 1: the cake

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1/3 cup sorghum syrup
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3 1/2 cup plain flour (all purpose)
  • 1/2 teaspoon soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream together sugar and shortening.

Add egg, sorghum, and buttermilk, mix well.

Sift together flour, soda, salt, and ginger.

Ms. Farr says to make a hole in the center of the dry ingredients; add the creamed mixture; and stir until blended.

Since I use a mixer, I add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture a little at a time until the mixture is blended. Add vanilla and mix till the consistency is like a soft cookie dough.

You’ll need to add additional flour as you roll out the dough to make the layers. The layers need to be the size of a 9 inch pan. I shape the dough into a loaf shape and divide it into equal portions. The recipe says it will make seven layers, but sometimes I end up with eight 🙂

Apple filling for stack cake

Using the bottom of my 9 inch cake pan for a template, I draw a circle on a piece of parchment paper. Using the circle as a guide: I roll the dough out to slightly larger than the circle; lay the 9 inch cake pan on the dough and cut around the edges. I add the excess dough I cut off to the next portion of dough.

Bake the layers at 350 for 10 to 12 minutes or until light brown.

Once the layers are baked set them aside to cool.

Part 2: Apple filling

  • 1 pound of dried apples (that’s about 14 cups of dried apples)
  • water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice

Put apples in a pot with water and cook; keep a fairly close eye on the apples as you may have to add additional water while they cook. Once apples are soft enough to mash, add the other ingredients and mix well.

placing layers of apple stack cake

Part 3: Assembly

Place a cake layer on a cake plate and spread with apple filling. Repeat until you reach the last layer.

Whether you put apple filling on the top layer is up to you. Many cooks put apple filling all over the outside of the cake like you would any other icing.

The cake needs to sit overnight before its ready to eat. This allow the apples to fully soak into the cake layers.

Part 4: Custard Sauce

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups half-n-half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of salt

Custard sauce is not part of the traditional apple stack cake recipe, however in my opinion it makes a good thing an even better thing.

To make the sauce: beat yolks in a metal bowl that will fit over a saucepan in the manner of a double boiler. As you beat the yolks, add sugar a little at a time.

Once sugar is added, increase the mixer speed scraping bowl as needed and beat until mixture is thick and lemon colored.

Add half-n-half and mix well. Move bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook custard over water stirring often until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add vanilla and salt. Remove from heat and cool in frig or by immersing in a bowl of ice water.

This is a thin custard, which makes it perfect for pouring over a piece of cake.

Apple stack cake from brasstown nc

Part 5: EAT

After the apple stack cake has sit over night slice a piece and drizzle custard over it or under it or don’t drizzle custard over it or under it at all and eat!


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  • Reply
    Dwayne Jenkins
    November 30, 2021 at 7:15 pm

    You might not remember, but Granny would also make that dough and make little cookies out of it. She used to call them her little sweet cookies. She used her old snuff jars to cut the cookies, and they were like a little biscuit…… And they were always best right after they came out of the oven. And, granny made what she called her “fruit cake” with the thin layers, seven or eight layers high, too. I remember she used to do dried apples, and now it makes me wonder if her fruit cakes were made with the dried apples. I don’t remember ever eating one of the applesauce cakes that you described.

    • Reply
      December 1, 2021 at 8:29 am

      Dwayne-I so wish I had paid more attention and spent more time with Granny Gazzie. So many things I wish I could have asked her about. I do make her gingerbread recipe every Christmas so thank you for telling me about how she used the snuff jars I’ll definitely do that this year. I hope you are well! Love you cuz.

  • Reply
    Glenda montgomery
    February 11, 2019 at 10:41 pm

    Just recently took a trip to north Ga. Blairsville and Hiawassee to be exact sorghum syrup to be found.
    I was told that this past fall was the 3rd year in a row that the sorghum cane did no produce well.

    • Reply
      katherine king
      February 7, 2022 at 3:36 pm

      best sorghum can be found out of Mennifee County Kentucky ! That’s where we get it from even though we live in Ohio now at a little farm market in Blue Ball right outside Middletown Ohio.

  • Reply
    Mary Rutherford
    February 11, 2019 at 9:00 pm

    My “Grandma-on-the-Mountain-Road” put so much love into her Apple stack cakes! I can picture her clear as can be, wrapped in her feed sack apron and crowned by snow white hair. I love the warm memories your posts bring, thank you Tipper.

  • Reply
    Barbara Gantt
    February 11, 2019 at 4:42 pm

    My Granny Nichols made with with leftover biscuits. She would slice them then layer with the apple filling. My Dad loved to tell about these. Im sure she didnt have the money to make the cake so sued what she had in her kitchen.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    February 11, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    Dear Tipper, Apple stack cake and fried apple pies are favorite desserts around here. Over the years my family has preferred these desserts over traditional apple pie or apple dumplings. You can’t, however, go wrong with any kind of apple dessert in my opinion. I remember how often stack cakes showed up at church suppers in the past. I remember one lady who took the time to scallop all her layers with a scalloped pie pan. It made a beautiful cake, but I would not have the patience to do it that way. I dry apples every year just so I will have them on hand for stack cake and fried pies.

  • Reply
    February 11, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    Tipper, my mother, God Bless her heart , would make us these as kids. We love em. I guess of all yhe cakes my mom made , i remember the Apple Stack Cake most of all. Thanks for that memory. God Bless!

  • Reply
    February 11, 2019 at 12:19 pm

    I actually prefer my apple stack cakes to be a bit thicker than in the picture…we sometimes used apple butter in between the layers…granny always said it made ’em moister without getting soggy…

  • Reply
    February 11, 2019 at 11:11 am

    It looks so good! I’ve never had it.

  • Reply
    February 11, 2019 at 8:53 am

    My mother-in-law made stack cakes using a totally different recipe. She used homemade apple butter as the filling between 10 or 12 thin, spicy cake-like layers. I never cared for them. They must have been good, as folks would ask her to bake them one and paid a high price for them. She sold them at church fund raisers for as much as $50. Your recipe sounds better than hers.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 11, 2019 at 8:51 am

    I’ve eaten one of these cakes but I’ve never made one. They are very good!
    I also remember someone a long time age saying they put the cake away tightly wrapped for a long period of time before cutting it in order to allow it to completely blend together.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 11, 2019 at 8:34 am

    I want some. My Grandma made apple stack cake. I have not had any in years but it is a favorite. Somebody like Cracker Barrel should have it on their menu all the time. You could be their consultant to teach them how to make it. If I had any influence with them I would ask’em.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    February 11, 2019 at 7:46 am

    Hi tipper. This is the only cake I ever remember my grandma making. I have it in my cookbook and a pic of it on my front cover. I usually let it set at least 2 days before eating it. I don’t use dried apples. I didn’t have the recipe grandma made, but I think my finished product tastes just like hers did. I love it and each time I eat a piece I’m transported back in time of when I was a child. I can still hear the screen door slamming behind me as I walk out the door with a piece of it in my hand. It’s a tradition we should never forget.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    February 11, 2019 at 7:39 am

    Tipper–Stack cake has always been a favorite of mine. After I was grown and away from home Grandma Minnie, my paternal grandmother, always made one anytime she got word I was coming home. She did that until she was well into her 80s. She almost always used dried apples but I remember stack cakes being made with blackberry jam once or twice, and I’m sure dried peaches would have worked as well. Farr’s recipe differs a bit from hers but not much.
    The thin custard is new to me. Grandma liked for her stack cakes to sit two or three days in a cool place so the flavors could marry.
    One final thought, shame on you–you’ve done laid a craving on me this morning.
    Jim Casada

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