Appalachia Appalachian Food

Thankful November 2018 – Momma’s Applesauce Cake

Today’s guest post was written by Jim Casada. Be sure to stick around to the end of the post for another Thankful November giveaway.

Thankful-November 2018

MOMMA’S APPLESAUCE CAKE written by Jim Casada

As I’ve noted time and again over the years, a fair share of my most powerful and poignant holiday memories revolve around food, and each year at this season I find myself involved in some culinary time travel back to my boyhood. None of those recollections is deeper or more meaningful than ones associated with Momma. Not only was she a wonderful cook; she thoroughly enjoyed preparing dishes for the holiday season.

A half century ago, along with decades on either side of that time span, come this specific weekend (immediately on the heels of Thanksgiving), she would have set a specific task set for herself. While Daddy and her sons were gone on all-day rabbit hunts, and while her daughter likely hung out with some friends or perhaps worked on some sewing project, Momma went into full-scale baking mode. For this particular weekend, and it was a fixed part of her annual routine, she concentrated on making applesauce cake.

Maybe a bit of background information is in order at this point, because the setting and the way the ingredients were produced are an integral part of the story. Two of the key ingredients in her applesauce cake were the fruit which gave the wonderful dessert its name and black walnuts. We raised the apples and the “applesauce” which went into the cake came straight from our tiny orchard. We had a small apple orchard on the hillside below the house, and Dad tended the Red Delicious, Stayman, and Golden Delicious trees with great care. That meant annual pruning, careful spraying, and hard if joyous work at harvest time.

Much of the apple crop would be canned in late September or early October, with Mom’s annual goal being 200 quarts of cooked apples. Thanks to those efforts, seldom did a day, especially in the colder months, go by when we didn’t have cooked apples on the table (it wasn’t really applesauce in the sense of that name as applied to store-bought stuff; just stewed apples cooked to the point of falling apart before being canned). Other apples would be dried, providing the key ingredient for a mainstay of hearty winter breakfasts, fried apple pies, as well as the layering for stack cakes.

The cream of the crop, those apples which were unblemished and not used in the frenetic period of peeling, cooking, and canning, was stored in a huge bin and airy baskets in the basement.One of my youthful jobs was to go through these every week or so to cull out rotting apples. Typically I would catch them when they just showed a spot, and Mom would turn these into a cobbler which was delicious and easily prepared.

By the end of November we had already gathered the year’s harvest of black walnuts as well, and these too went into a variety of Christmas delicacies. We cracked them as a family and picked out the meats. It was a tedious but ultimately rewarding process. A marriage of the oily, pungent flavor of walnut kernels with the juiciness of apples, the meaty tang of raisins, and just the right blend of spices made for a cake of incomparable delight.

By the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, Mom would have the year’s batch of applesauce cakes made, with all of the work being done while her sons and the man of the house were busy getting another rabbit season off to a rollicking start. Look back, I’m sure she was glad to have us out from under foot.

Come Sunday after Thanksgiving, she would have a bevy of perfectly baked applesauce cakes “aging” in a downstairs room we never heated. They got better with each passing week, thanks at least in part to the addition of a dollop of wine or apple cider to keep them moist and because, like fruit cakes, they benefited from a bit of time before being eaten. I think a few weeks just allowed the myriad flavors to mix, mingle, and eventually mate in a marriage of perfect taste. Whether that was the case or not, those cakes were sacred and inviolable until the week of Christmas. Not a bite was eaten up until that point.

But oh the glories of that first slice of her applesauce cake! It was so moist it literally shown in the light like dew or frost sparkling on grass as the sun clears the eastern horizon, and to take that first bite was to be transported into a hillbilly heaven of fine eating. Unlike many cooks, Momma was never selfish with any of her specialties. Unfortunately, when afflicted by Parkinson’s Disease late in life she went through a spell of “throwing away” which saw her dispose of many of her wonderful recipes. This one survived that purging though, and here it is. While the cake is delicious right out of the oven, I recommend the periodic anointing with moisture (just a couple of tablespoonfuls a week) for a fortnight or more.


1 cup butter (the real McCoy, no margarine substitutes)

2 cups sugar

4 cups flour

1/3 cup cocoa

4 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons allspice

2 cups raisins

3 cups applesauce

2 cups black walnut meats

2 teaspoons vanilla

Pinch of salt

Cream butter and sugar.  Add applesauce and remaining ingredients a small amount at a time, mixing as you go. When the batter is ready pour into a Bundt-type cake pan and bake for 50 minutes to an hour at 350 degrees. Check with toothpick to see if cake is done (toothpick will come out dry). Cool and then store in a cool place (the bedrooms in our home were unheated and a closet in the downstairs one became a temporary cake repository each December).


I hope you enjoyed Jim’s post as much as I did! I can’t wait to try his mother’s recipe.

Today’s Thankful November giveaway is the cookbook “Wild Fare & Wise Words” which Jim and his wife Ann contributed too. The book is signed by both of them and it contains a ton of delicious recipes! Giveaway ends Thursday November 29.


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  • Reply
    Patricia Owings
    March 24, 2021 at 9:26 pm

    This sounds exactly like my Granny Guyton ‘s Applesauce Cake recipe. I can remember it as a little girl and it was my favorite. The only difference is she spread applesauce on the top. I have always wanted that recipe, but she passed away and she had dementia for years before she passed and I never got to get her recipe. I have ask other family members and they didn’t know either. That cake really means so much to me. I thank you for sharing your recipe, now I can enjoy my childhood memories with my Granny’s Applesauce Cake again.

  • Reply
    Melissa P. (Misplaced Southerner)
    November 29, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    Wonderful story, Jim. I could almost smell those cakes cooking. I have the same kind of memories about my Mummo’s brownies. Thank goodness I had the foresight at a very young age to write down some of her recipes before her memory faded to oblivion. At Christmas when I bake those brownies and the smell permeates the house, I can almost see her standing at her oven.

  • Reply
    November 27, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    This cake sounds like a marvel, and Jim sure can tell a story! Sadly I won’t be making this cake – at least, not for myself – because although I love walnuts I’ve just recently had to stop eating them. It has really put a crimp in my sweets-eating, I can tell you. I don’t know what it means when something you’ve eaten your whole life suddenly becomes burns your mouth, but walnuts have followed bananas and I’m worried that potatoes might be next.
    Thank goodness for candy roaster squash, though! I’ve baked another today – the 4th, I think – and am hoping to space out the remaining few to enjoy throughout the winter. SO good! I’ll always be grateful to Tipper and her readers and guest writers, for teaching me about so many good things 🙂

  • Reply
    Jim Kennington
    November 26, 2018 at 11:54 pm

    Started gathering the Christmas baking recipes this past weekend, as it’s time to bake mini-loaves that I use as thank-you gifts for the postman, newspaper boy, the grocery clerk who always helps me, etc. This recipe, however, I’m gonna make for myself because it reads and sounds delicious. I grew up shelling hickory nuts and pecans, but don’t recall my aunts using black walnuts. Hope to win the book, but if not, I’m already a winner with this recipe. Thanks heaps for the story, Jim.

  • Reply
    November 26, 2018 at 11:45 pm

    Lovely collection of memories. This recipe sounds very much like one my mom made. I always preferred it over the fruitcakes. But then, apple pie is my favorite, too. And nothing like a sweet, crisp apple on a golden fall day. A family apple orchard would be a real treasure. Thank you for sharing the memories along with the recipe, Jim.

  • Reply
    Leslie Haynie
    November 26, 2018 at 7:58 pm

    I put that recipe on my to do list!

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    November 26, 2018 at 6:25 pm

    Tipper what a wonderful memories catchers in Jjm story brought back so many memories thanks Jim I can just see you loving mother wanting the best for her family. My Julie was a great cook had all the apples etc. I made stack cakes as mother Julie taught but not the tastes. Flour then didn’t have all the preserveative in it as today

  • Reply
    George W Moore JR
    November 26, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    Going to try this cake sounds very good

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    November 26, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    And Jim,
    I can just taste your Momma’s Applesauce Cake. You have a way with words and I’m glad you are my friend. I imagine everybody remembers a family loved one that had Applesauce Cake, especially after the holidays. …Ken

  • Reply
    November 26, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    I love the story that Jim shares with us. Can’t wait to try this recipe. It really does sounds good. Thats one thing i love is recipes , cook books. Their all different. making memories and that lasts. Can never have too many memories. God Bless! Thank you all for all you do and share with us.

  • Reply
    November 26, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    So enjoyed reading every word . Can only imagine how good it did taste, and to share the recipe is so kind , a privilege to know it and make it, to experience the tasting.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    November 26, 2018 at 11:31 am

    I love black walnuts! I’ve got my fruitcakes made & aging. I use a recipe without citron and nearly everyone loves them. I think I’ll try the applesauce cake–I’ve got some walnuts in the freezer.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    November 26, 2018 at 11:17 am

    Enjoyed this post from Jim. I’ve never made an applesauce cake before (just applesauce stack cake, which I love), but this one sure sounds good. I didn’t know you aged applesauce cakes, guess I could put mine in the garage, it stays cold out there in the winter. I love black walnuts in anything and everything. The cocoa ingredient sounds interesting. Loved the story that went along with the recipe, too.

  • Reply
    November 26, 2018 at 11:04 am

    One of my many ‘jobs’ in late Fall and Winter was to sort through the apples in our basement and cull out the bad ones. I didn’t always get to them weekly so sometimes there were a lot to add to the hog feed. We wrapped them in newspaper to help them last longer. As I read Jim’s post I could almost smell the apple aromas again,
    I also roamed the hills and valleys to collect walnuts for cookies and cakes.

  • Reply
    Kenneth Ryan
    November 26, 2018 at 10:40 am

    That sounds like some fine eating by Jim’s family. It was a great story and is appreciated.

  • Reply
    November 26, 2018 at 9:56 am

    I enjoyed Mr. Casada’s story and I think I will try that Applesauce Cake recipe. I absolutely know what he means about holiday memories of Momma’s cooking. Mine was a fantastic cook too and made the most delicious moist cakes with special ones being only made right before Christmas and placed out in our cold enclosed porch. I’m sure glad his mother kept the recipe. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    November 26, 2018 at 9:54 am

    I, too, could almost taste that cake and hear the conversations as everyone worked together on the walnuts.
    Jim Casada does have a way with word pictures.
    Will give this a try this holiday season!
    Tipper, do you still have the stack cake recipe from the class you taught at John C. Campbell Folk School?
    Maybe share it with your readers since it was mentioned in one of the comments?
    Sure do enjoy your blog and everyone’s comments!

  • Reply
    November 26, 2018 at 9:49 am

    Thank you Jim Casada for your memories, as mine were similar. Mom and a neighbor used to make rows of applesauce cakes, and they shared with other neighbors and kinfolk. I never obtained the recipe, and Mom is no longer here to ask. My favorite was without the walnuts. Mom also made a wonderful applesauce pie that was so delicious that I was disappointed later in life when I tried apple pie that had chunks of apples. I recently found one of those community cookbooks at a thrift store that contained recipe for applesauce pie. I can’t wait to try it, and I hope my family likes it as well as I did. Thanks so much for the your mom’s treasured recipe!

    Folks used to cook some really great dishes with whatever grew near by. I still recall a teen neighbor painstakingly obtaining the kernels from hickory nuts to make fudge. Those were such great memories. I am grateful that you and Tipper paid so much attention to what your parents were doing, because we are enjoying your bounty of knowledge.

  • Reply
    November 26, 2018 at 9:27 am

    Jim’s memories and his Momma’s recipe stir up my own childhood memories this morning. Apples, raisens and black walnuts are all common denominators. Thanks to Jim for his writing and to Tipper for the medium . . . and my Mama for old-time kitchen memories and recipes.

  • Reply
    The Apple Doll Lady (Sallie Swor)
    November 26, 2018 at 9:07 am

    That sounds delicious but the story makes it more special. As I read the story I thought that if he didn’t have a recipe at the end I was going to be very unhappy! I enjoy Mr Casada’s writings and admire people who can express themselves the way he does. My mother made orange slice cake after finding that recipe along with two flavors of marshmallow cream fudge. We were like a bunch of pigs when those sweets were served. Thanks, Tipper,
    for bringing so much joy to so many and promoting our heritage.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    November 26, 2018 at 8:31 am

    I remember my Mother’s applesauce cake also but do not remember it lasting very long after it was baked. Maybe she was hiding them and I just didn’t know it. It does seem they lasted thru the holidays. I must have been too small to pay attention to where she kept them. For some reason I thought she just kept baking. I do know they were delicious and I plan to try Jim’s recipe.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 26, 2018 at 8:25 am

    Oh my, that is one rich cake. Reminds me of the apple stack cake using dried apples. I think there is a recipe in the Foxfire books for it. But Jim’s is different. Wish I had some of those Stayman apples. Closest I can come is Stayman X Winesaps, a cross. I found Staymans once, out in west KY in 1975 or so. Fella at the grocery store told me they were just not pretty enough for the commercial market.

  • Reply
    Sherry Whitaker
    November 26, 2018 at 8:13 am

    Thanks Tipper & Jim. This was so well written that I could almost taste that cake! What is so wonderful is the journey from Johnny Appleseed to the table! Truly enjoying the fruits of your labor as a family…the Applachian way. I would love the recipe book!

  • Reply
    Sheryl A Paul
    November 26, 2018 at 8:07 am

    The cake sounds wonderful

  • Reply
    Dwight Pearson
    November 26, 2018 at 8:00 am

    Thanks Tipper for this post from Jim Canada. I read everything, I can find, that Jim writes as he at the top of my list of gifted writers whose words flow magnificently. We appreciate your faithful diligence in producing blindpigandthe acorn.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 26, 2018 at 7:55 am

    Thank you, Jim, wonderful family story! I find the cocoa an interesting ingredient in the cake recipe. It’s not enough to make it a chocolate cake but enough to give it an interesting mysterious flavor.
    Thanks for sharing and thanks for all you do to support the Blind Pig!

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