Apple Stack Cake: A Classic American Wedding Cake

Bake up a delicious traditional American cake once used to celebrate a wedding.
Apple Stack Cake.jpg

Stiff dough and sweet apple filling tower ever-higher when building an apple stack cake.

Stiff dough and sweet apple filling tower ever-higher when building an apple stack cake.

Stiff dough and sweet apple filling tower ever-higher when building an apple stack cake.

Made by stacking layers of flat, cookie-like dough separated by a filling of reconstituted dried apples, apple stack cake has its roots in pioneer era Appalachia, where apples were plentiful and sorghum was a common crop for use as a sweetener when times were lean. Its ingredients were all easily stored and the cake was a homestead standard, served on holidays, special occasions, and became part of a charmingly social wedding tradition.

Money was often tight, and weddings were commonly potluck affairs. Instead of serving costly wedding cakes, the bride’s family would prepare a large batch of dried apple filling. As guests arrived, they would bring with them a layer of flat, skillet-baked, sorghum-sweetened cake to be added to the stack and slathered with filling. Depending on the gathering (and perhaps the popularity of the bride), these cakes could reach towering heights. Indeed, no one is poor who has friends.

This take on the classic Appalachian dessert adds a bit of sugar and replaces the once ever-present sorghum with more easily found molasses, but is otherwise much like what one found at those early weddings. Not too sweet, but moist, dense and best shared with friends.

Plan ahead. This tower of apple goodness is best after it has rested a couple of days to allow the flavor and moisture of the filling to soak into the somewhat dry cake.

Apple Stack Cake

  • 1 pound dried apples
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

Place dried apples in a heavy pot, cover with water and cook at medium heat until water is nearly gone and apples are plump and break apart easily.

Remove from heat, stir in sugar and cinnamon.

Transfer apples to food processor and puree.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ginger in a bowl and set aside.

Cream shortening and brown sugar together in a mixing bowl.

Add eggs one at a time and combine.

Add molasses, vanilla and buttermilk and combine.

Add dry ingredients and mix until stiff dough forms.

Divide dough into 7 equal pieces and roll into flat discs on a lightly floured surface.

Place discs of dough in cake pans and press flat to completely cover bottom of pans (work in batches with however many cake pans are available).

Bake cake layers in a 375 degree oven for 9-10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool.

Place a cake layer on a plate and spread a layer of apple filling on top to cover edge to edge.

Add another layer of cake and again top with filling.

Repeat until all seven layers are in place.

Store in an airtight container for at least a day before serving (2 days even is better— cake will become moister with time).

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