How I learned to make an Appalachian Apple Stack Cake

marilynfl

Moderator
You know those times when an act of kindness turns you into a blithering pile of gratitude?

Oh.

Okay...so maybe you don't have that same reaction. But I did recently when a repair shop fixed a locked nut on my $160 leaf blower and refused payment since it was quick fix. So I offered to bake ANY DESSERT this kind person wanted in lieu of payment.

What actually transpired was a three-way conversation between Kind Person (KP), My Brain and Me.

Me: I'd like to repay your kindness by baking you a dessert. I'm a good...baker.
My Brain: Liar. You almost said you were a pastry chef.
Kind Person: That's not necessary.
Me: But I love to, so let's figure this out: do you like chocolate?
KP: Not really a fan.
My Brain: REALLY? Who doesn't like chocolate.
Me: Okay. I can make any type of cake...or cheesecake. Do you like cheesecake?
KP: No. I don't like those either.
My Brain: Oh boy.
Me: Okay. How about fruit?
Kind Person: Oh. I like fried apple pies.
My Brain: no no no...not fried!
Me: umm, fried desserts taste best when fresh. But I recently won a ribbon at the county fair for my apple pie?
Kind Person: I do like an apple cake.
Me: Apple...cake?
[cue My Brain racing through local newsletters and clicking on an article about traditional apple stack cakes.]
Me: You mean those multi-layer cakes with chunky apples between each layer?
Kind Person: Yes!
Me: Great! I'll bring you an apple cake in a day or so.
My Brain: WHAT ARE YOU DOING? You have no idea what this cake is!
Me to myself: Shut up!
So that's how I came to research Appalachian Apple Stack Cake. They're traditionally made during the year using dried apple chunks and sorghum syrup. The cake portion is described as a large thin biscuit, often baked in a cast iron skillet. Each layer is approx 1/4" to 1/2" thick, slathered with a paste made from dried apples that have been reconstituted with water & brown sugar. There are typically 5 or more layers. Since I had neither dried apples nor sorghum syrup, I improvised with 4 pounds of frozen sliced apples harvested in September as well as my own applesauce, apple butter and reduced apple cider. Dried apples would have nothing on me.

I reviewed a bunch of recipes for the cake portion but opted to go with the most traditional, using a recipe from the North Carolina state website.

The only difference was I used Grandma's unsulphured molasses tempered with agave syrup instead of sorghum syrup. That item in not available in stores, but can be found during fall apple festivals.

I chose this article because it stated quite clearly the cake should sit for a day or so to let the apple flavor soak into the dry cake layers and that seemed sensible. It's also been quite a while since I made a new dessert.

The repair man was out back working with another customer so I left the cake with the receptionist along with my thanks. I have no clue if it met with his expectations, but it looked pretty and smelled great and I feel both of us gained during this experience.

Apple Stack.jpg

Sidenote: I was texting with a friend while baking and sending her snapshots as I started with 2 layers, then 4 layers, then the final 6-layer cake.
She wrote back:

Two
Four
Six
Cake
Who do we appreciate?
Marilyn!!

[hahahaha. :giggle:]
 
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monj

Well-known member
You know those times when an act of kindness turns you into a blithering pile of gratitude?

Oh.

Okay...so maybe you don't have that same reaction. But I did recently when a repair shop fixed a locked nut on my $160 leaf blower and refused payment since it was quick fix. So I offered to bake ANY DESSERT this kind person wanted in lieu of payment.

What actually transpired was a three-way conversation between Kind Person (KP), My Brain and Me.

Me: I'd like to repay your kindness by baking you a dessert. I'm a good...baker.
My Brain: Liar. You almost said you were a pastry chef.
Kind Person: That's not necessary.
Me: But I love to, so let's figure this out: do you like chocolate?
KP: Not really a fan.
My Brain: REALLY? Who doesn't like chocolate.
Me: Okay. I can make any type of cake...or cheesecake. Do you like cheesecake?
KP: No. I don't like those either.
My Brain: Oh boy.
Me: Okay. How about fruit?
Kind Person: Oh. I like fried apple pies.
My Brain: no no no...not fried!
Me: umm, fried desserts taste best when fresh. But I recently won a ribbon at the county fair for my apple pie?
Kind Person: I do like an apple cake.
Me: Apple...cake?
[cue My Brain racing through local newsletters and clicking on an article about traditional apple stack cakes.]
Me: You mean those multi-layer cakes with chunky apples between each layer?
Kind Person: Yes!
Me: Great! I'll bring you an apple cake in a day or so.
My Brain: WHAT ARE YOU DOING? You have no idea what this cake is!
Me to myself: Shut up!
So that's how I came to research Appalachian Apple Stack Cake. They're traditionally made during the year using dried apple chunks and sorghum syrup. The cake portion is described as a large thin biscuit, often baked in a cast iron skillet. Each layer is approx 1/4" to 1/2" thick, slathered with a paste made from dried apples that have been reconstituted with water & brown sugar. There are typically 5 or more layers. Since I had neither dried apples nor sorghum syrup, I improvised with 4 pounds of frozen sliced apples harvested in September as well as my own applesauce, apple butter and reduced apple cider. Dried apples would have nothing on me.

I reviewed a bunch of recipes for the cake portion but opted to go with the most traditional, using a recipe from the North Carolina state website.

The only difference was I used Grandma's unsulphured molasses tempered with agave syrup instead of sorghum syrup. That item in not available in stores, but can be found during fall apple festivals.

I chose this article because it stated quite clearly the cake should sit for a day or so to let the apple flavor soak into the dry cake layers and that seemed sensible. It's also been quite a while since I made a new dessert.

The repair man was out back working with another customer so I left the cake with the receptionist along with my thanks. I have no clue if it met with his expectations, but it looked pretty and smelled great and I feel both of us gained during this experience.

View attachment 2291

Sidenote: I was texting with a friend while baking and sending her snapshots as I started with 2 layers, then 4 layers, then the final 6-layer cake.
She wrote back:

Two
Four
Six
Cake
Who do we appreciate?
Marilyn!!

[hahahaha. :giggle:]
That looks amazingly good! I hope he liked it! What size baking pan did you use?
 

marilynfl

Moderator
monj, I didn't use a cake pan. I took a half-sheet parchment, traced out two 8" circles (one didn't quite fit), then laid that on a half-sheet pan with a clean parchment over that. I scooped out 250 grams of batter per circle (it was thick and dry-ish...like cookie dough) and patted that (with floured fingers) into an 8" circle. I was going to leave them baked as is, but anal retentiveness got the better of me--after the first two layers, I started trimming the baked biscuit back to 8". Articles said the apple filling should be about the same thickness as the cake layers. I just eyeballed that.

And since I can't shut my brain off once it goes down a path, I was still looking for sorghum yesterday and found it at Whole Foods in Asheville. This store promotes a lot of local ingredients and stocks sorghum from a company in Monterey, Tennessee. It is thinner than molasses and has a distinct citrusy taste. Reminded me of Lyle's Golden Syrup. I'm glad I thinned out my molasses with agave. I bet if I'd added a touch of lemon oil, I would have been very close.

Sorghum.jpg

Oh...and this guy just walked by on my retaining wall
turkey.jpg

...and then the whole crew showed up...
turkey gang.jpg
 

mariadnoca

Moderator
Wow! Now that’s taking a thank you to the next level. Looks gorgeous!

I’ve had similar conversations in my head. Once on Nextdoor someone asked if someone could make gluten free cupcakes for a kid party because omg I can’t bake at all. She had a sob story so I thought why not, cupcakes are dead easy. Then when I replied she turned into I’m not sure they will be good enough, I’ll buy some. At the grocery store. To which my brain thought how dare you, do you know how good of a baker I am?! Do you know mine will look better than what you can buy?!
Lol.
 
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marilynfl

Moderator
Wow! Now that’s taking a thank you to the next level. Looks gorgeous!

I’ve had similar conversations in my head. Once on Nextdoor someone asked if someone could make gluten free cupcakes for a kid party because omg I can’t bake at all. She had a sob story so I thought why not, cupcakes are dead easy. Then when I replied she turned into I’m not sure they will be good enough, I’ll buy some. At the grocery store. To which my brain thought how dare you, do you know how good of a baker I am?! Do you know mine will look better than what you can buy?!
Lol.
If it's any consolation, I'm betting SHE was lumping YOU into her own fear of baking. Definitely her loss!!
 
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