Capture the Flavors of Fall in an Appalachian Cake
Written by Emily Storrow | Photography by Jonathan Boncek
Apple stack cake is a modest, rustic confection most closely associated with the Appalachian communities in the mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee. Spiced and not too sweet, it’s a fine example of culinary resourcefulness—it’s traditionally made with fall supplies of sorghum molasses and preserved apples (either dried or processed into apple butter or preserves).
Appalachian lore asserts that apple stack cakes often replaced wedding cakes, with family and friends each contributing a baked layer. The bride’s family would stack the layers and spread apple preserves, apple butter, or a filling made from dried apples between them. The cake layers resemble giant soft cookies formed from rolled dough and baked individually in pans. Our recipe makes six layers, though the cake can be stacked as tall as desired, and uses apple butter.
When assembling the layers, liberally spread apple butter between each and on the top and sides of the cake. The toughest part about making a stack cake? You’ll want to wait twenty-four hours before serving to allow the apple butter to seep into the cake.
TLP’s Apple Stack Cake
1/2 cups butter, softened
1 3/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
5 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger
2/3 cup buttermilk
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
3-4 cups apple butter