The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Appalachian stack cake

Stack cakeWhen Mark and I got married, Mark's family kept saying that they wanted to bring a stack cake to our wedding.  We both looked at them in confusion since neither of us like apple butter, and we instead ended up with the most delicious and beautiful cake known to man (thanks, Sheila!)

Years later, Mark's mom sent me the following email, and suddenly the obsession with stack cakes made sense:

This is the old apple stack cake, also known as the Appalachian wedding cake.  Years ago, people would come to a wedding and it was a tradition, the guest would bring one layer of the cake, baked very thin, like with molasses, ginger, etc.  It would Rose Nell cutting the stack cakebe real dry, could travel without ruin.  Then the hostess would put them all together with apple butter, between each layer, so the more layers meant that the bride & groom were that well known.

This is Mom's favorite cake.  I was able to bake one this year, wanted to share with you how pretty it came out.  I am freezing part of it, so you and Mark can taste it.  Yum yum.  This one is 12 layers.

Now that the tradition has been explained to me, I almost wish we'd gone old-fashioned and had each of our guests bring a layer to our wedding.  Doesn't a stack cake sound like a fun center-piece for a potluck, but perhaps with chocolate cakes instead of apple?  Or maybe with any cake that goes well with chocolate frosting?

Thanks for the beautiful photos and for not minding our cluelessness, Rose Nell!  We're looking forward to tasting such a traditional cake.

Sometimes newer is better.  Our homemade chicken waterer takes the poop out of poultry-care.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Why not use e.g. apricot jam in between the layers? And top it off by pouring molten chocolate over it. :-)
Comment by Roland_Smith Sun Jan 2 11:06:34 2011
I tend to like my fruit pure as the driven snow (aka, fresh.) Plus, we're chocaholics. :-)
Comment by anna Sun Jan 2 11:17:56 2011

traditions were made to be changed, I had never given a thought to the chocolate update. now that would be a very good tradition, something old something new? when I was younger I never quite understood the adults loving this cake, Taste grows on you. I too would always go for the chocolate as well, if there was one to be found, now that I think of it ?, seems like the stack cake stayed around the longest, ? I always thought it was because it was so big.

Comment by roseanell Sun Jan 2 11:43:13 2011
Your analysis of why stack cakes always lasted the longest made me laugh. :-)
Comment by anna Sun Jan 2 15:50:23 2011

Thank you for posting this - I had never heard of "stack cakes," but I love trying out old-fashioned recipes, and my family likes cooked fruit. :) I think I will go with the more traditional spiced cooked dried apples filling, however, rather than apple butter.

Just out of curiousity, I poked around looking for a chocolate version of a stack cake. The closest I could find was this one: Sadly, the cake layers aren't actually chocolate, but you might use it as a jumping off point to create a true chocoholics stack cake! And then you'll have to post the recipe here for the rest of us to enjoy! :)

A random side note @ Roland: that sounds like a sandwich cookie that I used to bake with my mum when I was a kid. The cookie part was made from a spicy dough (less spicy than a ginger snap; think spice cake in cookie form). Then you spread melted chocolate chips on the bottom cookie. Once that dried, you spread apricot or raspberry preserves on top of the chocolate, then you pressed the top cookie in place and dusted the whole thing with confectioner's sugar. They were rather tedious to make, but soooo delicious! :)

Comment by Ikwig Sun Jan 2 16:03:14 2011
I suspect you could use just about any cake in the layers of a stack cake as long as you made them thin. I guess traditionally they would need to travel well, but in the era of the automobile, I think fluffy is the way to go! :-)
Comment by anna Sun Jan 2 19:05:12 2011

I think fluffy is just fine (and preferred, really :) ), if you just want to make a two or four layer cake. But I don't think fluffy would work very well for one of these 10 or 12 layer stack cakes; it seems likely that the more cakes you packed on top of the bottom layer, the mushier it would get, and you'd just end up with a big pile of chocolate pudding (between the weight of the layers and the fact that each layer would be soaking up moisture from the frosting/glaze). Of course, it would taste delicious, but I don't think it would look very pretty, heh!

I think you want something that's on the dense and dry side, probably closer to a cookie. Now that I think of it, my mum makes a chocolate cookie that's rather cake like; I think I'd try a batter like that and go from there. If I can remember, I'll ask for her recipe next time I talk to her, give it a try, and report back; it'll give me an excuse to make more chocolate stuff! ;)

Comment by Ikwig Sun Jan 2 23:03:40 2011
Very good point about the smoosh factors on the bottom layers. So, maybe pound cake type cakes? I'll be waiting with baited breath to hear how the cookie cake goes!
Comment by anna Mon Jan 3 08:21:57 2011

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