Appalachian Food Christmas

Stack Cakes at Christmas

traditional apple stack cake from appalachia

“Christmas was a big time for us. We would make stack cakes. They would be in real thin layers and we would get dried fruit, cook it, and put it in between the layers. My mother would stack them up and put them in a high lard can. She’d close them up until Christmas. They were better—moister—after they had set awhile. Mama would bake about four or five of these cakes at Christmas if relatives were coming. And there would be stalks of bananas hung in the closet at Christmas.”

—Lilian Stiner – “A Foxfire Christmas”


Times have certainly changed. Not many folks go to the trouble of making stack cakes these days and bananas are common in most kitchens year round.


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  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    December 20, 2019 at 5:16 pm

    Tipper I made a stack cake like miss Julie’s as I was going to the church basement for a Christmas dinner two men followed me down I looked around and spoke they said we followed the stack cake down soon the beautiful cake glass peddle cake stand stood gracefully empty with much memories the cake of Miss Julie it had held

  • Reply
    John L Reese
    December 20, 2019 at 9:56 am

    I absolutely love this post as I do every post. I always learn something and they always bring back lots of great memories. I read your posts every day. I got to have my fix. Thanks and keep on keepin on.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    December 19, 2019 at 9:16 pm

    You know I love stack cakes. A picture of one is on the cover of my cookbook. I know a lot of the old recipes calls for dried apples, but I find using applesauce and adding spices makes a delicious one and is a lot less easier to make. Mine tastes just the way I remember Grandma’s tasting.

  • Reply
    December 18, 2019 at 7:32 am

    Bananas on the stalk! I’ve only seen that in places where they grow. I wonder if folks like Lilian Stiner hung the stalks the way they grow, with the bananas pointing up?

  • Reply
    December 17, 2019 at 10:01 am

    My husband bought applesauce instead of canned apples, so I found a recipe for applesauce cake with brown butter icing on the Land O’ Lakes website. It is so good and moist, so I am making one for Christmas. It reminds me of plum pudding. Our church used to make and sell plum puddings for a fundraiser, but not any more. It is a big undertaking, and they tried it again a few years ago, but that was the end.

  • Reply
    December 16, 2019 at 9:01 pm

    I can remember my Mama making a stack cake. I have never attempted it. Now I just want somebody else to cook!

  • Reply
    Sue McIntyre
    December 16, 2019 at 8:47 pm

    My Aut Bea made apple stack cakes out of dried fruit for Christmas. We were not allowed to touch them for at least 7 days. They had to “rest.” Her mother passed away when she was just 18 months old, it was her father (my grandfather) that taught her.

  • Reply
    December 16, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    My mother always made a stacked apple cake for me when I came back home after marrying and moving away. She dried the apples herself and made the cake layers in cast iron skillets. They were so good! I’m miss her so much.

  • Reply
    John T
    December 16, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    Those look like a tasty Christmas treat. Much better than Lefse and Lutefisk.

  • Reply
    Patricia Small
    December 16, 2019 at 6:48 pm

    My daddy always talked about apple stack that my grandma made. My mother always made fresh coconut cake at Christmas…it was yummy!

  • Reply
    December 16, 2019 at 5:15 pm

    Been a few years since i made a stack cake 🙂 guess the kids were little last time i did…hubby had never had one til we married and had never heard of them…me however, we they was just a part of every celebration…might just have to go make up one for Christmas

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 16, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    Making stack cakes was a family affair at my mother-in-laws home at Christmas…Well, at least all the daughters joined in the project. Only dried apples were used and cooked back to the right consistency with the proper spices…Yes, there was a lot of tasting going on to make sure the center of all those layers was perfection. The making of the cakes also took on a production line event, many a pan of mixing, pouring and baking to the right size, etc. Sometimes the cakes were stacked so high I wondered if they would slide and fall over…Never did…My Mother-in-law was known for her stack cakes…the recipe coming from her Mother who was a famous cake baker in her own right. People would ask her to please bake them a stack cake often bringing dried fruit for her to use in the process…My Mother only made one or two that I ever remember back in those days…Dad grew up on them and much preferred coconut cake or a good old chocolate cake..He said he was wore out on fruit and never offer him any type of a dry old fruit cake….LOL
    Sure miss those good ole days…I know my husband does…he loved his Moms stack cake at Christmas…Nope, I don’t bake those myself…so unless one of his sisters bakes one…it will just have to be a memory in our household…
    I do have some good dried apples ready to cook up for some fried pies…One of my favorites..
    Thanks Tipper for the memories…

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    December 16, 2019 at 2:46 pm

    When Grandma’s first husband died from a bacterial infection, she was left with 8 kids and so she married my mama’s daddy, Hugh Passmore. They had 8 more kids, making them with 16 in all. Hugh, mama’s daddy, was the Foreman on the train from Asheville to Murphy and I suppose that’s where Mama gets her Love for trains. I remember Mama singing Train Songs, much like Paul does, only on the piano instead of a Guitar.

    She was paralyzed in her left side shortly after I was born, so daddy’s sister, Toots came and got me for a few months, till Mama got able to walk again. People were Tough, back then.

    Lori Holloway (when I got older) said I looked just like Gorden, one of Mama’s brothers from Grandma”s first Man. I told Lori, “I don’t even know who that is.” She told me that he was squirrel hunting on the back side of The Green Hole and shot his foot off. It was the next day before they found him and poisoning had set in and he didn’t make it. He was a teenager and I never knew him. …Ken

  • Reply
    December 16, 2019 at 2:09 pm

    I haven’t seen a stalk of bananas since I was a teenager. I do eat one or two bananas most days. They come packed in boxes now. I can’t remember the last time I had a chunk from a good stack cake. We have a neighbor that keeps 3-4 coconut cakes in her freezer for emergencies. We get one of those quite often and enjoy them immensely.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      December 16, 2019 at 9:44 pm

      Bananas used to come into the country by boat. They picked them green on the stalk so that they would keep for the long trip over. They ripened slowly and naturally. They still come by boat but in boxes and still arrive green but they are ripened in gas chambers, big rooms that are sealed up and pumped full of ethylene gas. The length of time they stay in the ripening rooms determines the color of the bananas. Stores then buy whichever color they want depending on how long they expect to have to hold them before they sell. Some stores still buy green bananas which can be ripened naturally but they stand to lose more because bruised green bananas will rot before they ripen.

  • Reply
    December 16, 2019 at 11:59 am

    My Momma made Apple Butter stack cakes. They were a real treat at Christmas time. Hadn’t heard bout the stalks of bananas. Thats a new one on me.

  • Reply
    Debra Spindle
    December 16, 2019 at 11:44 am

    I first read about stack cakes being made in Maryland (see I love chocolate, but I think I’d like any version. They certainly seem like a lot of work.

    • Reply
      Colleen Holmes
      December 16, 2019 at 8:02 pm

      I’ve never heard of stack cakes before. I thought it was pancake stacks until the fruit came into play. I love learning news things from this blog. Merry Christmas.

  • Reply
    December 16, 2019 at 11:42 am

    I have never seen nor eaten a stack cake, and I have been in many homes in the WV and VA area. I have seen them mentioned on here and in country magazines. They seem to require a great deal of time, so I may not tackle. I have had more than my share of culinary flops, especially in the baking category.
    I do recall applesauce cakes and applesauce pies lining my Mother’s long freezer. It was common to give these for gifts to friends and family. We had a wonderful neighbor who made the best applesauce cakes, and I looked forward to receiving one each Christmas. I recently found a cookbook at a thrift store that I purchased solely because it had a recipe for applesauce pie. I haven’t gotten around to trying it, but I doubt it will ever taste as good as my dear Mom’s.

    • Reply
      December 17, 2019 at 9:59 am

      My husband bought applesauce instead of canned apples, so I found a recipe for applesauce cake with brown butter icing on the Land O’ Lakes website. It is so good and moist, so I am making one for Christmas. It reminds me of plum pudding. Our church used to make and sell plum puddings for a fundraiser, but not any more. It is a big undertaking, and they tried it again a few years ago, but that was the end.

  • Reply
    December 16, 2019 at 10:44 am

    Never heard of stack cakes. What was the cake made of? Sounds really good

  • Reply
    Kenneth Ryan
    December 16, 2019 at 10:31 am

    Stack cakes are a new one on me…never heard of that.

  • Reply
    December 16, 2019 at 10:27 am

    Stack cakes are new to me. Wonder how long they’d keep? And bananas, you’re right, we take them for granted now. My mother used to dream of a single orange in her Christmas stocking. Some of us could use a good kick-in -the-pants reminder now and then of just how good and sweet life is.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 16, 2019 at 10:19 am

    Tipper–Along with Mom’s applesauce cake, stack cake has to rank at the top of my all-time dessert list. Grandma Minnie made wonderful seven-layer stack cakes, normally using sauce made from dried apples between the layers but occasionally using blackberry jam instead. Well after I was grown, married, and away from home she would have a stack cake awaiting me any time she got word I would be coming home for a visit. It is one of my fondest memories of her, and this post and picture resurrected it in magical fashion.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 16, 2019 at 9:44 am

    I’d never heard of a stack cake until I found your blog a few years ago. I’ve still never seen or tasted one. My mother canned all her fruit and sometimes made applesauce cakes with it but they were either two or four layers. She also made what she called a stack pie with split biscuits and fruit (applesauce). I preferred those over the cakes.
    When you’re feeding a family of eight time consuming recipes are not an option.

  • Reply
    December 16, 2019 at 9:20 am

    Stack cakes are still a favorite dessert back home in Eastern KY. The older women who still make them can ask and receive top dollar for their cakes this time of year. I remember the tall lard cans that were present in nearly every kitchen and sometimes served as a seat for the children.

  • Reply
    December 16, 2019 at 8:50 am

    OMGosh, these sound so wonderful. I’ve been divorced for 21 years and I cook all sorts of dishes for Christmas (and Thanksgiving) that are not traditional foods. Everyone can’t wait to see what’s to eat..but these stack cakes sound so great. I checked out recipes…by gosh I’m adding these to this year’s menu. I already have dried apples…using a Tennesee apple stack cake recipe. Thanks so much……

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 16, 2019 at 8:38 am

    I know I have posted this before but . . my Grandma made apple stack cake. She was the only one in the family who did. I have not had any in years and years. That is another thing Cracker Barrel should have on their menu, at least as a seasonal offering. And fried pies of course. But they do not ask me and I can’t say I blame them.

  • Reply
    Thelma Hedgecock
    December 16, 2019 at 8:07 am

    sounds like it would be really good, will see if i can find an old recipe and give it a try!

  • Reply
    William P Dotson
    December 16, 2019 at 7:59 am

    We never had a stack cake but Mom always made blackberry jam cake with raisins in it at (at Dad’s request) and she made the icing with lots of brown sugar.

  • Reply
    carol harrison
    December 16, 2019 at 7:47 am

    I know what stack cakes are because i had a friend who’s grandmother was from West Virginia and she made them all the time. i remember sitting quietly at the table when she brought the cake and started to cut it so that we could have a big piece with a big glass of ice cold milk. It was heaven on a plate. I spent lots of time at that house playing Canasta and eating her grandma’s cooking.

  • Reply
    December 16, 2019 at 7:29 am

    That is so cool. Its the little tips like that “letting the dried fruit set a while” that make Foxfire books so well loved and respected. I have yet to make stack cake, as I’m the only sweet eater in the house…. but I’d really like to. Perhaps my neighbors will enjoy one with me.

  • Reply
    Mack Lee
    December 16, 2019 at 7:27 am

    I read “Stack Cakes For Christmas” with great interest. I had not heard of stack cakes before, but they sure sound tasty.
    They remind me of jelly cakes which I found in communities originally settled by Germans in Central Texas.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 16, 2019 at 7:26 am

    I’ve never seen or heard family talk of bananas on a stalk. I am guessing that bananas were just a one time a year treat so it was a whole stalk and now we buy them every week at the grocery.

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