Appalachian Stack Cake

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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Appalachian stack cake is a traditional autumn harvest dessert unique to the Appalachian mountain region in the southern United States; it is made from sun-dried apples and sorghum syrup. This inexpensive cake was especially valued during hard times; cut thinly, a dried apple stack cake can yield upwards of 50 slices.

Although the cake’s precise origins are murky, the thinness and number of its layers, as well as its use of a fruit filling, clearly relate it to German tortes, and the large German immigrant population of Appalachia supports this theory. A typical dried apple stack cake consists of seven thin layers, each about half an inch thick. In between each layer is a filling of dried apples that have been reconstituted by boiling in water for several hours, then puréed. The preferred apple is the Winesap, prized for its tartness that counterbalances the sweetness of the cake. Spicing can be nonexistent or any combination of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg added to the cake batter, to the apples, or both. Apple butter and applesauce are commonly used if no dried apples are on hand.